May 16, 2012
Long ball cures what ails Jays
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
TORONTO - The on-field ailments have been piling up for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Lately, if they aren’t giving up walks, they’re kicking the ball all over the park or hitting another weak ground ball to second base.
On the heels of a particularly frustrating two-game sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Jays got a house call on Wednesday from an old friend, Dr. Longball, to stop the bleeding in an 8-1 thumping of the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre
The Jays belted four home runs, one each by J.P. Arencibia, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Kelly Johnson, to account for all but one of their eight runs. It was plenty more than enough to make a winner out of starting pitcher Kyle Drabek.
After a promising start to the season, Drabek had struggled with his command the last couple starts, allowing nine walks and eight earned runs in 9.1 innings. Wednesday, he was once again the guy who was so effective in April, working seven strong innings allowing just three hits and a solitary run.
“For me, Kyle was the best thing about today’s game,” Arencibia said. “He’s been struggling with his command recently. When he goes out there and controls the (strike) zone like that it’s pretty special. It shows what kind of stuff he has.
“This team is resilient. You can see how much energy is in here. Nobody gets down on this team.” Drabek’s two-seam was the key to his game. In his last start in Minnesota, he had difficulty getting it out of the dirt. Wednesday, he was pouring it into the bottom of the strike zone.
“That was the key. You mix in that sinker and you throw in that cutter, then you’ve got the ball going both ways on the same side of the plate.”
After hitting 257 homers two years ago, the Jays hit 186 in 2011 and went into Wednesday’s game on pace for about that same number this year. The aim has been to diversify the offence so as not to rely on the big knock. When times are tough, however, there’s no elixir quite like a three-run homer to get healthy in a hurry.
“It was great,” Drabek said of the Jays' offence. “And not only did they score all those runs, they were placed perfectly in the infield and outfield for me which could have saved some hits too, which was nice.”
The victory put the brakes on a three-game losing streak for the Jays and levels their record at home this year at 9-9. It was also their first win of this crucial run of games the club is currently on against some of the best teams in baseball.
The Jays were also able to ignore the distraction of Brett Lawrie's suspension after Tuesday night's antics. The Jays are appealing the ban.
“This team has shown on repeated occasions that no matter what has taken place the day before, they can separate themselves from it,” Jays manager John Farrell said. “They came out very focused with a lot of energy and a lot of good at-bats.”
In the second inning, with Lawrie on second base and two out, Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda buzzed Arencibia up and in with a 1-2 pitch that put the catcher on his behind. Two pitches later, Arencibia got the best kind of payback when he belted a full-count fastball into the seats for his fourth homer and a 2-0 lead.
In the third inning, once again with two out, Eric Thames doubled to right and Bautista walked. Encarnacion stepped in and ripped his 13th homer (and RBI 32, 33 and 34) to break the game wide open at 5-0.
An inning later, Arencibia scored from second on Johnson’s two-out single to left field, barely beating the throw from Raul Ibanez to the plate.
Bautista’s homer to lead off the fifth left the ballpark in a heartbeat, a line shot into the second deck.
Meanwhile, Drabek was cruising against a Yankees team that had pretty much tattooed him in four previous career appearances. Coming into this game, Drabek had pitched 15.2 innings against New York, allowing 18 hits, 10 walks and 12 earned runs.
Through five innings on Wednesday, Drabek gave up just one hit, a fourth-inning single to Ibanez. In the sixth, New York's Robinson Cano ripped a one-out double down the right field line. Another out later, Mark Teixeira hit a routine grounder that caught the seam around the first-base cutout and bounced high over Encarnacion’s glove for Teixeira’s 1,500th career hit and New York’s first and only run of the game.
In the seventh, with one out, Drabek lost the strikezone, allowing back-to-back walks to Rusell Martin and Jayson Nix. Curtis Granderson then hit a slow roller to shortstop Omar Vizquel, whose throw to Johnson at second did not beat Nix, but umpire C.B. Buckner called him out nevertheless. Instead of having bases loaded with one out, the Yanks had runners at the corners and two out. Drabek fanned Nick Swisher, his last batter of the night, to end the threat.
Johnson led off the bottom of the inning with his eighth homer to end the scoring.