June 5, 2012
New Jays order rocks SoxFarrell works his magic in Chicago
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
CHICAGO - When the Toronto Blue Jays lineup was posted on the bulletin board in the visitors clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field late Tuesday afternoon, there were a lot of double-takes.
At first glance it appeared manager John Farrell had run amok with a Ouija board.
At leadoff, Brett Lawrie. Second, Colby Rasmus. Third, Jose Bautista. Fourth, Kelly Johnson. Fifth, Yunel Escobar. Sixth, David Cooper. Seventh, J.P. Arencibia. Eighth, Omar Vizquel. Ninth, Rajai Davis.
By the time the evening was over and the Jays had dumped Phil Humber and the Chicago White Sox 9-5, Toronto’s renovated batting order was looking not too shabby. That especially goes for the top of the order, as Lawrie and Rasmus combined for eight hits and seven runs.
Lawrie went 3-for-5 and scored three times. Rasmus had his first career five-hit game (homer, double and three singles) and scored four times.
"I didn't try to do anything different," said Rasmus. "Tonight the hits fell in for me. I felt comfortable at the plate. I like hitting in the two hole and I think it's a good place for the type of hitter I am. The at-bats come real fast, which is good."
Cooper also chipped in with a homer and drove in three runs.
Farrell’s lineup shuffle isn’t just a one-game whim. The manager wants to see this new lineup over a stretch of ground. He may tinker with it, maybe even more than a little bit against a left-handed starter, but for now he wants to see if it has an effect.
"The way Brett and Colby swung the bats tonight was outstanding," said Farrell. "To see those two guys at the top of the order get on base as much as they did was gratifying. They give us a completely different look with their athleticism and their abilities."
Since he tossed a perfect game in his second start of the season, Chicago's Phil Humber has been putrid. In the eight starts after his historic gem, including Tuesday’s game, Humber has pitched 42.1 innings, allowed 48 hits, 24 walks and has an earned-run average of 7.44. In this one, he lasted just five innings, allowed seven hits, four walks and five earned runs.
He set the tone in the first inning by walking three Jays, including Cooper with the bases loaded to account for Toronto’s first run. He survived into the fifth when Rasmus and Cooper each unloaded two-run homers to break the game open, giving Toronto starter Ricky Romero a 5-1 cushion to work with.
The Jays added two more runs in the sixth against reliever and ex-Jay Zach Stewart, combining four consecutive two-out singles by Lawrie, Rasmus, Bautista and Johnson. They got two more in the eighth, as well.
Meanwhile, Romero cruised into the seventh before running into trouble. Through six innings, he allowed just three singles and didn’t walk a man. In the seventh, Alex Rios singled and A.J. Pierzynski tagged Romero for his 10th homer of the year. Romero later issued his only walk that came around to score as an unearned run. Adam Dunn put the capper on Romero’s night with an eighth-inning leadoff homer.
"It's the best I've felt pretty well all year," said Romero. "I had good stuff. I pounded the zone and the hitters put the ball in play. That's who I am. Two mistakes to two pretty good hitters."
Part of Farrell’s lineup juggling has to do with Edwin Encarnacion’s absence while he tries to get his bruised right hand back into game condition. Even when Encarnacion is back hitting fourth, however, both Johnson and Escobar are going to be in RBI positions.
“Yunel has the ability to put the ball in play and is not susceptible to striking out,” said Farrell. “He’s got the ability to be an RBI-type of guy because he’s a high-contact hitter. Hopefully we’ll give him some opportunities to do that.”
Farrell hasn’t been satisfied with the way his team has responded offensively early in games. Going into Tuesday matchup, the Jays had scored 260 runs but just 18 of them in the first inning and 14 in the second.
Hence the shakeup.
“When you look at the number of runs we’ve scored, they’ve been in the middle or latter part of the game and maybe this is a different look for us to get on the board first,” said Farrell. “We haven’t been an early-game scoring team and this look hopefully gives us a chance to do just that.”
If this is to be a success, Lawrie's play will be key, though he’s unlikely to change his approach. Indeed, the last thing Farrell wants is for Lawrie to re-invent himself in the leadoff spot.
“The one thing we don’t want,” said Farrell, “is to put a guy in a spot and then he thinks he has to become a different type of hitter.”
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been put in the leadoff spot that I can remember,” said Lawrie. “I’m not built as a leadoff hitter, I’m built as a 3-4-5 hitter, and I’m going to continue to do that. I don’t feel I have to change much, I’m not going to let pitches go by just for the sake of letting them go by, I’ve got to hit fastballs and continue what I’ve been doing.”
To curb Lawrie’s over-aggressiveness that has run the Jays out of some innings this year, the coaching staff is going to have a tighter rein on Lawrie once he’s on the basepaths.
“Not a blanket red light,” said Farrell. “But it’s on us to make sure we’re clear in our communication. We’ll not let anything go unattended.”
After the game, the Jays optioned pitcher Jesse Chavez to triple-A Las Vegas and recalled utility man Jan Gomes. Farrell said he thought Gomes would step right into the lineup Wednesday night against lefty Jose Quintana.