Jays hot in Cleveland

Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (R) high-fives pitcher Jason Frasor after the Blue Jays...

Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (R) high-fives pitcher Jason Frasor after the Blue Jays beat the Cleveland Indians 7-1 in Cleveland, Ohio, July 10, 2011. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:56 PM ET

CLEVELAND — The Blue Jays enter the all-star break on a decidedly upbeat note having won three in a row from the Indians on their home field.

With their 7-1 victory over Cleveland on Sunday, the Jays won the season series 4-3 for the first time since 2003 and enter the break with a 45-47 record.

Leading the charge in the matinee contest was left-hander Brett Cecil, who no doubt goes to bed each night dreaming of hooking up against the Indians every day.

Against the Tribe, Cecil has been like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson combined as in five starts he has gone 2-0 with three no-decisions. In those five starts, though, Cecil has never allowed more than one earned run in any of the games and has held them scoreless twice. Over the five starts and 33 innings, he has allowed just three earned runs for a 0.70 ERA.

The run the Tribe scored against him Sunday was unearned.

It was his second solid outing as he followed up on his complete game against Boston.

“My confidence is back up but I think it really shows when any pitcher walks two guys an inning (the first) gives up a couple of hits and has runners in scoring position (the fourth and sixth) and somehow you work out of it. I think that’s where the confidence comes in,” Cecil said.

At the plate the Jays received another good performance from rookie Eric Thames who went 3-for-5 including a two-run home run in their five-run third. It was his fourth homer of the season and since being recalled two weeks ago he has hit .323 (20-for-62) with nine extra-base hits and four home runs. So, good for him.

Jose Bautista also did his thing and tuned up for Tuesday’s all-star game by going 2-for-4 including a two-run double in the sixth that upped his RBI total to 65.

“I thought we played very well this series,” manager John Farrell said. “It was two-out hitting and the solid work on the mound today.”

AT THE BREAK

After the opening 92 games, Farrell was asked what he likes about his team and what areas he feels need improvement in the second half.

It took him no time to respond.

“Offensively I think we’ve done an outstanding job,” he said. “We’ve exceeded expectations that we had coming out of spring training — with the amount of runs we’ve scored (they are fourth highest with 426 runs), with the individual performances. Now with the addition of Eric (Thames) and with (Travis) Snider being back here, we’ve got a greater balance through our lineup top to bottom, right-handed and left-handed, so that lends to more stability and a more consistent lineup.”

So much for the good.

If the hitting has been the best part of their opening 92 games, it’s the pitching that needs the most amount of work.

“We still have some work to do from the pitching side,” Farrell conceded. “The last month, as a group, the starters have worked more consistently deeper into the games and yet the biggest area of settling in is the one guy to close it out. That creates almost a daily selection of who’s the best fit in a given moment. But the guys that are here, that’s who we’re going to turn to.”

Aw, the Jays closer.

It’s a spot where many have been called but no one has been chosen. The Jays have gone back and forth handing the job to Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch like it’s a hot potato.

Farrell would prefer to have some flame throwing stud handle the job but that player isn’t on this club.

So over their remaining 70 games the Jays will likely go back to the closer by committee route with Octavio Dotel and perhaps even Casey Janssen being tossed into the mix in a mix-and-match situation.

I mean, if you don’t have the guy, you don’t have the guy and after 92 games that fact has been well established.

“There are going to be times where Dotel will close out a game if there’s a matchup where you’ve got three or four right-handers coming,” Farrell said. “He’s going to be in that mix. Hopefully we’ll get Janssen back, who was very good against left-handers. That is an area we’ll continue to work at and continue to find the right answer.

LOOKING FORWARD

So what’s in store for the Jays over the final 70 games? What is there for the fans to look forward to?

To begin, there’s Brett Lawrie, the flashy Canadian third baseman who was supposed to arrive at the end of May but has been sidelined after suffering a non-displaced fracture in a bone in the back of his left hand when hit by a pitch.

Lawrie will make it to the bigs no later than August and he is the type of player that the fans will fall in love with.

He brings a high energy level to the game, can hit, hit for power and simply busts his ass going down the line to first which will force infielders to hustle their throws if they want to throw him out on routine grounders.

That will allow the Jays to move Jose Bautista back to right field where he belongs and that makes the outfield defence that much better.

Kyle Drabek will also return, but likely not until September, as the Jays want him to work on his fastball command and get away from over-reliance on his cutter, a pitch they’ve taken away while he works down at triple-A.


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