April 25, 2012
Orioles blank Jays, 3-0
By Mike Rutsey, QMI AGENCY
BALTIMORE - You can stop hiding the sharp objects from Eric Thames.
It’s the rest of the Blue Jays you have to worry about instead.
Following Tuesday night’s game, one in which he had a ball deflect out of his glove and bounce into the seats for what proved to be the game-winning run, Thames was inconsolable as accepted the blame for the loss.
On Wednesday prior to the second game of the series against Baltimore, Thames was a changed man, the smile back on his face, the laughter coming easily.
“It came down to the point last night where I felt like it’s almost like there’s periods of time as a ball player where you try to do too much, you press, you try to be that guy and it was to the point last night where I kind of reflected on the fact that right now I’m not happy,” Thames said. “I’m miserable and it’s kind of filling into my personal life, too. It’s like I’m not doing what I do best and that’s just relax, just go play the game hard, have fun and let everything take care of itself.
“It’s one of those things where today is a new day and all that in the past is in the past now. It’s just have fun, have a good time, compete and let things take care of itself.”
It’s a message that Thames should have given to the rest of his teammates as offensively the Jays look like they’ve hit the collective wall.
After dropping a 2-1 decision on Tuesday, the Blue Jays managed all of six hits Wednesday in being blanked 3-0. For those counting at home, that’s four losses in five games to the O’s this season.
This is a team that boasted about having a deep lineup, dangerous bats lurking up and down the order.
For the past two games, though, they have all been in hiding.
The Jays, though, said after the shutout that this one wasn’t so much on them as it was the good stuff of Baltimore starter Jason Hammel.
“Hammel just had it,” said Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. “Sometimes you don’t know what that is but it was coming out of his hand well. He was obviously very confident and feeling good. I think I can say it was his night.”
“That was a tough travel,” Johnson said of the Jays arriving in the early hours after flying from Kansas City. “I’m not going to make that excuse all the time but it felt like that a little bit.
“Shoot, we won four games in Kansas City and played really well. We haven’t been blown out here, just haven’t scored any runs or gotten any hits, but offences do that. I think it’s just as important to look at positives. I think Kyle (Drabek) threw the ball great and last night our pitching was phenomenal. I think that’s going to have to be consistent the whole year for us to compete and even when we’re not scoring runs, it’s been there.”
The Orioles, meanwhile, are hitting the long ball. On Wednesday they stroked two solo shots off Drabek, 2-1, and have now counted 10 dingers in the five games against the Jays.
They added a third run in the ninth against Jason Frasor.
The Jays, meanwhile, had few chances and when they arrived they came up empty.
In the fourth trailing 1-0, they had the bases loaded with two out thanks to a gift infield hit credited to Brett Lawrie. Replays showed the throw from short beat him to the bag.
The Jays, however, couldn’t take advantage of the break as Colby Rasmus struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
Their only other uprising was in the ninth when Adam Lind and Thames opened with singles.
However, Edwin Encarnacion popped out to centre and Lawrie ended it by grounding into a double play.
Manager John Farrell, like Johnson, gave the credit to Hammel.
“Hammel was outstanding tonight,” Farrell said. “He had three pitches for strikes. He was powerful with his fastball. He located well.
“We had one opportunity in the fourth inning and it seems like now when we’ve been able to cash in on some opportunities it’s been the two-out hit. Tonight in the fourth and again in the ninth we’re missing some opportunities but we’re not creating a whole lot either.”
Getting back to Thames, he was speaking for himself but he may have well been talking for the group as he has been crushed down by self imposed pressure which is a common occurrence among young players.
To help him get through this period in his development, Thames has spent a lot of time with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy.
“Talking to him has helped me out a lot,” Thames said. “He’s doing double duty as a hitting coach and as a mentor. It really clicked for me last night — just go have fun, it’s just a game, stop trying to control everything. That’s what I’ve been doing the last month.”
The problem for the Jays is he hasn’t been alone.
Right now the Jays have too many players in the same rut.