June 12, 2012
Alvarez gets bombed — againJays starter tagged three times
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Henderson Alvarez appears to be auditioning for a pitching slot at the MLB All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby.
There isn’t a sweet spot of the bat that he seemingly can’t find.
Home runs are hardly a pitcher’s best friend but they have certainly shadowed the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander this season.
For the 11th time in 13 starts this season, Alvarez was pounded for the long ball and once again it cost him.
It also cost the Jays as they dropped a second consecutive decision to the Washington Nationals Tuesday, this one 4-2, to fall to 31-31 on the season. It was their fifth loss in their past six games.
To avoid the sweep, Toronto will have to beat Stephen Strasburg Wednesday afternoon, so good luck to that.
Alvarez gave up three shots this game — his second three-homer game of the campaign — and on the season he has surrendered 16 homers, putting him in a tie for the second-highest total in the league. This from a sinkerball pitcher.
Alvarez, 3-6, gave up a solo bomb to Bryce Harper in the third inning, a two-run shot to Danny Espinosa in the fourth and a solo job by Jhonatan Solano in the seventh. The final one may have hurt the most as Solano is the No. 9 hitter in the lineup and his homer came with two out on a 0-2 count. It was also the first home run of his career.
What’s going on with Alvarez?
“He’s missed in the middle of the plate,” Jays manager John Farrell offered. “Tonight, the slider to Solano, the changeup to Harper and first-pitch fastball to Espinosa. When he’s missed on plate he hasn’t gotten away with a mistake and for a ground ball pitcher it’s a high number of home runs at this point.”
The Jays have now lost 10 of the 13 games in which Alvarez has made a start.
Offensively, the Jays wasted opportunities. In the third, they had the bases loaded and two out but came up empty, while in the fourth they couldn’t score with two on and two out.
The Jays finally broke through in the fifth on a home run of their own, a two-run shot by Jose Bautista — his 18th of the season.
“We’re scuffling a little bit right now with men in scoring position,” Farrell said. “Big opportunities in the third and fourth we were unable to cash in. A credit to their pitching.”
Prior to Monday’s game, Farrell said that he was looking forward to seeing Bryce Harper play.
We’re not sure, but it’s likely that Farrell has seen enough.
Monday, Harper, Washington’s prized rookie, went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, one stolen base and one RBI in the Nationals' 6-3 victory.
Tuesday, Harper flashed his power when in the third inning he ripped the first pitch from Alvarez and sent it crashing against the ‘BlackBerry’ sign in the second deck in centre field, hitting the middle of the letter ‘c’ like some modern day Robin Hood.
It was the seventh home run that Harper has hit in 40 games.
This night Harper put up another 3-for-4 including a drag-bunt single in the eighth.
He is the real deal and then some.
“Harper has hit every pitch we’ve thrown at him whether it’s been left-handed fastballs, breaking balls, right-handed breaking balls, changeups, fastballs,” Farrell said. “He’s an impressive hitter, an impressive player.”
TEST FOR TEAM
The Jays will be without right-hander Brandon Morrow for an undetermined amount of time due to his left oblique strain. No matter who they call up, that individual will not be able to replace what Morrow has done and the quality of his starts. Of late, other than the misfire against Texas, Morrow has been the guy that provided what Roy Halladay once did — a rest for the bullpen.
Manager John Farrell has used the adjective ‘resilient’ on many occasions to describe his team and without Morrow’s services that resiliency will be put to a test.
“Any time you lose any player, whether it’s an everyday player or a guy in the rotation, you have to make adjustments but it doesn’t change our overall expectations,” Farrell said. “We have to hold steadfast on that and that’s not to build in an excuse because someone has been injured as a reason why we should accept playing to any less level of performance. So, yeah, this will test us.
“But the overall goal is still the same that we set out in spring training. Injuries are part of what every team goes through.”