TORONTO - They haven’t started building a statue of Brett Lawrie outside the Rogers Centre just yet, but give it a day or two.
The Golden Brett was at it again Sunday afternoon. In the ninth inning, both on the field and at the plate, Lawrie helped the Toronto Blue Jays Jays come back to take a 5-4 extra-innings victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
Steady Eddie Encarnacion was the hitting hero for the Jays in the 10th as he singled home Yunel Escobar from second with two out, much to the delight of the remnants of the crowd of 23,355.
Lawrie, though, was the hero in the top of the ninth as he was instrumental in pulling off a double play. First, he tagged out Bobby Abreu in a rundown between third base and home. Lawrie then alertly looked to first and noticed the lumbering Mark Trumbo had made a wide turn. Lawrie raced across the diamond to trap him off the bag and threw behind him, ensuring Trumbo would be caught in a second rundown for the unusual double play.
“I just had to basically slow the game down at that point. I realized he was going on contact,” Lawrie said of his play in the field. “We had the infield in so he (Abreu) was our priority so I had to make sure we got him out. After we got him out we were fortunate enough that he (Trumbo) was trying to take second and we jammed him up, got him caught in a rundown and were lucky enough to get two.”
Naturally enough, Lawrie would then come to the plate in a clutch situation in the bottom of the inning with the Jays trailing 4-3.
With one out, Jays batter Colby Rasmus ripped a double off the wall in right-centre. Lawrie, on a 3-2 pitch, followed with a line drive to the gap in left-centre that scored the tying run.
Lawrie would later race to third for his first stolen base of his career.
“I’m not going out there to try and do too much, not play for myself. I’m going out there to play for these guys,” Lawrie said. “If I go out there and play the game hard, the right way, play for these guys, play for the fans and don’t worry about the numbers, success is going to come back my way eventually.”
Success this day was pretty immediate. After he slid into second with his RBI double he slapped his hands together a couple of times in celebration.
“I’m sure everybody wants to be that guy in here,” Lawrie said of coming through in the clutch. “Fortunately it was my turn. I was lucky enough to help the team out and that’s why I was so fired up.
“It wasn’t about the hit. It was more that I could help the team and get us back in the game. That’s what kind of fired me up.”
Now you see him ...
For the second day in a row, Aaron Hill was not at his customary spot at second base. For the second day in a row, John McDonald manned the post.
Is it a big deal given that Hill is hitting .226 with five homers and 41 RBIs in 98 games (372 a-bats) with reduced range defensively?
No way, replied both Jays manager John Farrell and general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
“First and foremost, he’s our second baseman,” Farrell said of the struggling Hill. “Mac has done a great job in the role he’s had and when he’s either played on a semi-regular basis, or when he’s called into action, a day game after a night game. This gives Aaron another day to work with Murph (hitting coach Dwayne Murphy) as he has been doing early.
“And another day, maybe a little mental breather as well. But first and foremost he is our second baseman.”
For the past two seasons Hill has not shown enough plate discipline and has expanded his strike zone. He’s working on laying off pitches and tightening up some mechanical issues.
For whatever the reason, Hill is not the player he once was. For this reason, the Jays decided to opt out of guaranteeing the final three years of his contract prior to the start of the season.
Following this season, the Jays can exercise the remaining options — $8 million in 2012 and $8 million in 2013 — or grant him free agency. The Jays will probably decline those options and try to work out a new deal.
Still, Anthopoulos remains a believer.
“Aaron’s still our everyday second baseman,” he said. “We’ve tried multiple things to try to get him going and this is just another route. We don’t know what the answer is but at any point you can get hot and I always go back to Jose Bautista getting hot that September (2009). To me he’s still young, he’s still got a world of ability and it’s going to come back.
“I haven’t closed the book on Aaron at all. If he was 38 years old at the end of his career that’s one thing. But it’s still in there. He’s flashed it at times. It just hasn’t come out on a regular basis. I would not rule it out. People thought Edwin Encarnacion was not going to come back. We’re always open-minded for Aaron still being a long-term part of this team.”