Thursday, it was Alvarez making his ninth start. Calm, cool and collected as usual, he took a no-decision in seven innings of work in a game that didn’t end until Edwin Encarnacion smashed his 17th home run to lead off the bottom of the 12th inning, giving Toronto a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
The victory gave the Jays a perfect 11-0 record in extra-innings games at the Rogers Centre. No team in MLB history has ever won more than nine extra-innings games.
“This is a young team, a hungry team,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “They like to compete and they play with a lot of energy. It will be an exciting offseason. I can’t speak for what Alex (Anthopoulos, Jays GM) has in store. That will take care of itself.
“But the place we’re in as an organization, the young guys, the core, we’re healthy and in a very good spot right now.”
The loss was a tough one for the Angels to swallow as they try to stay in the race for the AL wildcard, chasing the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox.
Alvarez was again impressive, allowing seven hits and three runs without issuing a walk. There’s no question he continues to score points toward his 2012 assignment, wherever that may be.
Because of his youth and the need for growth, especially as it pertains to his repertoire, Alvarez would be an easy choice to send back to the minors for more work.
Alvarez’s fate, as much as any of the 2012 rotation candidates, depends upon what the Jays decide to do during the off-season. There is reason to believe they will go searching for a veteran arm or two this winter in an attempt to build some immediate depth behind Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.
But there’s no question he’ll get a fair hearing in Dunedin next spring.
“Depending on what additions or changes are made here this winter ... absolutely,” said Jays manager John Farrell who has been impressed with what he has seen.
“With each successive start he feels more comfortable. He’s had games where he was very consistent, start to finish, overpowering at times.
“But I go back to the one start where he pitched three innings, three runs scored, six hits allowed and yet he didn’t fear contact going forward.
“As situations arise, he’s learning to make the necessary adjustments but he doesn’t adjust off of where his strengths lie. That’s kind of the beauty of how Henderson has pitched: He knows what his strengths are and he doesn’t go away from them.”
That said, Alvarez is essentially a two-pitch pitcher, fastball and changeup. He is working on a slider that has not yet grown effective. He will get one more start next week in Chicago and then he’ll get an ‘attaboy’ from the manager as he goes into the off-season.
“One part of the message will be consistent with everyone else. That is, the off-season is a critical time to continue to build a foundation moving forward,” said Farrell.
“Hopefully he has the opportunity to reflect back on his experience here, the challenges he faced, what he did well and the areas still needing improvement, particularly his slider.
“Most importantly, we want him to go away with the belief that he is not only a talented pitcher but one that can contribute and win here.”
Alberto Callaspo touched up Alvarez for his sixth homer of the year in the second.
The Jays tied it at 1-1 on a Jose Bautista RBI single in the fifth.
The Angels scored a pair in the sixth on an Erick Aybar single, a Howie Kendrick triple and a ground ball out by Torii Hunter.
The Jays rallied to get Alvarez off the hook for the loss with two runs in the seventh. Eric Thames drilled his 12th homer and later Jose Bautista scored from third base on a wild pitch.
That’s the way it stayed until Encarnacion worked the count full against reliever Garrett Richards and drilled the next pitch on a line into the left field seats to win it and send their home fans into the off-season with a victory.