TORONTO - One of the hardest things Alex Anthopoulos had to learn as general manager of a Major League Baseball team is patience.
One day this spring, in Dunedin, Fla., Anthopoulos talked about how difficult it had been to become more or less immune to the ebbs and flows of a long season.
“Things are never as bad as they seem and seldom as good as they seem,” Anthopoulos said. “You can’t let yourself be moved by the emotions of the moment. I used to get wrapped up in statistics and performance.”
Which brings us to the Rogers Centre Monday afternoon as the Toronto Blue Jays came home to soothe the wounds of a one-win road trip to Tampa and Texas, wearing a five-game losing streak that featured some distinctly dismal pitching.
“I don’t look at this and say there are issues all over the place,” said Anthopoulos as he sat in the Jays dugout just past 4 p.m.
“We had some bad starts. That happens. When you have a run of good starts, you know that’s not going to continue forever. It has to balance out and it’s going to happen like that over the course of a season. We’ve hit a bit of a rut. It’s very rare to go six months where (the pitchers) have a quality start each time out.”
Monday night, Drew Hutchison provided a calming sedative for Jays fans, pitching his best game as a big-leaguer six days after pitching his worst as the Jays bounced the Baltimore Orioles 6-2. The 21-year-old tossed seven shutout innings, allowing three singles, three walks and a hit batsman.
“Just an outstanding job on a night when we really needed a starter to work deep into the game,” said Jays manager John Farrell.
“I think he made a conscious effort to throw the ball with a little bit more power tonight, even making a comment to (pitching coach Bruce Walton). I don’t think I’ve ever seen 95 out of him which is where he was often tonight. When he’s at that velocity, he’s almost a different type of pitcher.”
The Toronto bats provided some early and sustained support, pounding out a dozen hits including two-run home runs by Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson. Johnson added a pair of doubles and drove in three in his first game back after resting a sore hamstring this past weekend.
“When we got humbled as we did in Texas, you want to get home and get back on track,” said Johnson. “With Drew pitching like he did, our offence scoring runs, it was a good way to start a homestand.”
As far as the sore hamstring goes, Johnson is ready to suck up a little pain.
“If it’s going to hurt when I run the bases then I hope it hurts all night long,” he said. “I hope it’s completely manageable and I hope it goes away but even if I have to deal with it, you do what you have to do.”
Coming off an outing in which he gave up six runs over four innings, Hutchison may have been at a crossroads Monday, but not according to Farrell.
“You don’t weigh a given outing any more than the others,” said the manager. “In his progression to get established and learn at this level, you anticipate that there is going to be challenges along the way. He’s learning along the way. When he’s pitched well, as with any of our starters, it’s when he has commanded the count.”
“I was pretty upset with my performance last time out and was looking forward to coming out to compete,” said Hutchison.
On a night when he was trying to protect his barking hamstring, the first thing Johnson did leading off the bottom of the first inning was drill a ball into the right-centre field gap, forcing him to sprint hard, or at least as hard as his leg would allow, to second base. He hardly had a chance to catch his breath when Colby Rasmus singled into right field, forcing Johnson to turn it on a bit as he scored from second.
David Cooper and Jeff Mathis started the second inning with back-to-back singles and Omar Vizquel moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt. Johnson’s ground ball to second base scored Cooper to make it 2-0, but Mathis was stranded at third.
Hutchison was solid though his first two innings but lost the strike zone in the third, allowing his first hit, a single to Chris Davis, and walking three men. Fortunately, Mathis caught caught Davis drifting off second and he was out in a rundown. Hutchison got out of the inning with a bases-loaded comebacker to keep the Orioles off the board.
Encarnacion and Johnson each belted a two-run home run off starter and loser Tommy Hunter in the third and fourth innings, respectively, to put Hutchison on cruise control with a 6-0 lead.
Baltimore did not score until Francisco Cordero was touched for four hits and two runs in the ninth, forcing Farrell to go to closer Casey Janssen, who got the final two outs for his fourth save.
Anthopoulos certainly liked what he saw in this game but he’s unlikely to be doing back-flips. He knows better.
“Streaks can go either way,” Anthopoulos said. “If we have a good homestand, I’m not going to over-weigh that, either.”
Jays starter Brett Cecil is making progress at double-A New Hampshire as he bids to rekindle his fastball.
“Last start he was up to 88-92, averaged 90,” said Anthopoulos. “I was just talking to (pitching coach) Dane Johnson who is very excited. He says Brett is starting to look like he did in the past. He’s in a great place and in a great frame of mind.”