June 23, 2012
Jays keep good times rollingRasmus smacks grand slam as Toronto bombs Miami in ninth
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
MIAMI - Sustainability isn’t on the table for discussion. There isn’t anyone in the Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse, aside from, perhaps, the manager, worrying about how they can keep this train on the rails with a badly-damaged pitching staff.
They’re living in the moment and, right now, the moments are more good than bad. That attitude has carried them to six wins in eight games since they lost 60% of their starting rotation, including Saturday’s 7-1 shelling of the Miami Marlins in a game that was mostly dead up until the ninth inning.
That was when Edwin Encarnacion cracked things open with a leadoff home run, his 21st, to give Toronto a 2-1 lead. That turned out to be just the opening salvo in a six-run uprising that was capped by Colby Rasmus’ third career grand slam.
“I don’t think it’s about me, it’s about the win,” said Rasmus. “Like our manager says, if we try to go out there and play for the team, score runs for the team and do things that are going to help the team win, our numbers are going to take care of themselves.”
In his second game back in the majors after learning some hard lessons in the minors, Jays left-hander Brett Cecil persisted through six-plus innings locked in a pitcher’s duel with Josh Johnson. Cecil bent but didn’t break, and even though he was touched for the game-tying run before he handed things off to the bullpen trio of Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver and Casey Janssen, he more than did his job.
“Brett did an outstanding job today,” said Jays manager John Farrell. “Offensively, against Johnson, we weren’t getting much going. Brett did a solid job for us.”
The Jays have now ensured themselves a series win and will go for the three-game sweep Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park. It was also Toronto’s ninth interleague win of the season, ensuring them of at least a .500 record in their 18-games against National League competition, which ends Sunday.
Encarnacion’s go-ahead homer came on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Steve Cishek and made a winner of Oliver, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. The Jays added an insurance run after Encarnacion's go-ahead marker on a squeeze bunt by catcher Jeff Mathis that was mishandled by Cishek, allowing Kelly Johnson to score from third base. Three batters later, Rasmus came to the plate with the bases full and launched his 13th homer off reliever Edward Mujica to blow the game wide open.
Janssen came on in a non-save situation and struck out two to mop things up in the ninth.
What separates the Johnson of 2012 from the elite pitcher he was earlier in his career are some inexplicable lapses in command. In the second inning, he experienced one such incident and it cost him a run. He walked Encarnacion and Johnson in succession with nobody out. Yunel Escobar sacrificed both runners along and then Rajai Davis delivered the game’s first run with a safety squeeze that scored Encarnacion on a close play at the plate.
From there, Cecil nursed a 1-0 advantage through six innings, flirting with danger a couple of times but always able to make the right pitch at the right time. In the seventh, the Marlins struck quickly on a single by Justin Ruggiano and an RBI-double by Omar Infante on one of the few pitches Cecil would like to have back.
“It was a changeup, middle-in,” said Cecil. “After the fact, a better pitch would have been a fastball inside or even a fastball away. But I’ve learned that you’re always going to regret some pitches. You just hope that it’s a one-run regret, not a three-run homer.
“Last year, I was trying to make adjustments to combat the (lack of) velocity. Now I’m trying to make adjustments to combat the location. I’m not trying to throw harder because it just makes things worse. Now I’m just trying to stay smooth through my delivery and not give it too much effort.”
After Cecil departed in the seventh with the game tied, a runner on second and nobody out, Jason Frasor worked out of the jam with a ground out and two big strikeouts. He handed the ball to Darren Oliver, who worked an efficient, clean bottom of the eighth to set up the ninth-inning explosion.
The Toronto bullpen, overworked in Milwaukee earlier this week, benefited from a day off Thursday and a seven-inning outing by Ricky Romero Friday and it showed.
“They came in fresh, they came in rested and they put up quality work,” said Farrell.
Farrell has acknowledged his team must live day-to-day. Sometimes even inning-to-inning. It’ll be like that for a while and not always in a good way.
That’s just reality and the Jays are more than prepared to accept it.