April 8, 2012
Tribe starters stump Jays batters
By Bob Elliott, QMI AGENCY
CLEVELAND - Stumped.
How does one write about the Blue Jays losing when you haven’t personally written about them losing since Sept. 25 against Tampa Bay?
The Jays could be playing their homer opener at the Rogers Centre Monday night undefeated.
Or they could have been 0-3, as they needed 30 innings to win the first two games in Cleveland.
Will you settle for some opening weekend observations after three games at Progressive Field?
We did notice:
— You can’t expect to sweep a series with Joel Carreno, who allowed four runs in six innings, making his major-league debut as the third man out of the chute to start the season. Carreno was inserted when the Jays decided they could not open the season with Brett Cecil.
— That re-built bullpen is impressive: Sergio Santos allowed a homer in the ninth and Francisco Cordero allowed a run with a four-run lead on Saturday. The rest of the time? Sixteen zeros ... two runs in 18 innings (1.00 ERA). With Carreno demoted to triple-A Vegas immediately after Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Indians, the Jays recalled lefty reliever Aaron Laffey due to the heavy workload of the extra-inning games.
— The Jays offence has a long way to go unless the pitchers are ahead of the hitters. Combined they batted .110 8-for-73) against Indians starters: .077 (2-for-26) against Justin Masterson, .045 facing Ubaldo Jimenez (1-for-22) and .200 (5-for-25) facing Sunday’s starter Derek Lowe. Jays hitters struck out 14 times and managed a grand total of five runs — three earned.
— Second baseman Kelly Johnson is a fit for the No. 2 hole, hitting .357 (5-for-14) with a .526 on-base mark, including his nine-pitch walk against closer Chris Perez to load the bases Sunday for Jose Bautista, who popped out to end the game.
— Despite stranding nine Sunday — Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie struck out to end the eighth with two aboard and Bautista popped up to end the game — the Jays hit .321 (9-for-28) with men in scoring position.
First impressions: Jeff Mathis made his first start behind the plate and doubled to right off Lowe.
“As a group these guys battle,” Mathis said. “Watching Johnson battle his butt off, fouling off pitch after pitch gave the whole dugout a lift.”
For the third straight game the Jays put the tying or winning run aboard in the ninth: Eric Thames singled and pinch hitter Ben Francisco reached on an error.
Mathis said plate ump Mike Everitt had a low strike zone, with a lot of pitches which “could have gone either way.”
Bautista stepped out to complain on strike calls in both the eighth and ninth.
“That’s a big difference starting off 1-0, rather than 0-1,” said one player.
Perez started Bautista with a low strike, then after two balls, popped Bautista up.
Indians manager Manny Acta argued with Everitt that Carlos Santana had applied the tag after taking Shin-Cho Choo’s throw on a sliding Adam Lind in the fourth. Acta lost that one.
Four innings later it looked as if he had a better case when Johnson came in standing a la Jeremy Giambi and Santana made a swipe tag.
What are you wearing?: In one locker hung a green suit, with shirt and shoes to match.
“I call it teal,” said the flashy dresser, J.P. Arencibia.
In another locker hung a bright, Canada flag-red suit belonging to Lawrie.
Standing ovation: Shortly before 7 p.m., Monday night at the Rogers Centre — with the back-ups and pitchers already lining the third base line — the No. 3 hitter for the Jays will be introduced.
Bautista, the two-time defending home run champion and all-time leading all-star vote getter with seven million votes, should receive the largest applause amongst pre-game introductions.
Think about it
John McDonald has left town and is living in the Arizona desert.
Bombs away: Have never seen a starter give up five home runs as Boston Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett did against the Mo-Town Mashers on Saturday. We saw Chris Carpenter give up four opening day 2002 at Fenway Park.
Jason Varitek, Jose Offerman, Tony Clark and Trot Nixon all homered as Carpenter managed to get seven outs. Carpenter made one more start before going on the disabled list. He made 13 starts in all before having shoulder surgery.
Beckett, who will not pitch when the Red Sox face the Jays, allowed two homers each to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and one to Alex Avila in 4 2/3 innings.
Play of the game: One play of the game Rajai Davis pointed out, and we forgot to mention from Saturday’s 12-inning win came in the bottom of the seventh. The Jays had the shift on Travis Hafner. Third baseman Lawrie was stationed in shallow right. Carlos Santana was on first when Hafner lined a sure double down the left-field line. Third base ump Tim Welke judged the ball foul.
Brandon Morrow eventually struck out Hafner and the game remained tied 2-2.
“We could have been in trouble there,” said Davis who doubled in two runs in the four-run fourth.
A scout’s lot: Bob Johnson was at Sunday’s game wearing a surgical boot. The Atlanta Braves pro scout was on crutches until Thursday in Sarasota, Fla., when he was given clearance to return to work. But rather than 9-to-5 work in an office, he flew to Cleveland for the final two games of the series and sat through 12 innings Saturday.
Hometown sluggers: Brampton’s Sean Bignall of the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans and Toronto’s Trevor Edwards, of the UNC Greensboro Spartans, went into the weekend with 11 homers apiece, second amongst NCAA Division I hitters. The two Team Ontario grads are behind Trenton Moses of Southeast Missouri State and Tennessee Tech’s Zach Stepens.