August 19, 2012
Jays battered by Rangers
By Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Just three weeks ago, the Toronto Blue Jays had the most prolific offence in baseball.
After 100 games, Toronto was 51-49 and had scored 501 runs, more than any other MLB team.
Sunday, on the way to their 16th loss in the last 21 games to fall nine games below .500, the mighty Jays offence, now riddled with injuries, was reduced to manufacturing what was, predictably, a meaningless second-inning run against the Texas Rangers, the team that is now the major-league leader in offence.
That second-inning “rally” featured one ball that left the infield, as well as a sacrifice bunt by the designated hitter with two runners on and nobody out. It was like spitting into the wind as the Rangers rolled to an 11-2 laugher, pounding out 18 hits against Henderson Alvarez and friends.
Help is on the way, with both Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie on rehab assignments designed to get them back in the lineup later this week. It can’t come soon enough.
Alvarez looked solid for two innings, facing the minimum six batters, getting inning-ending double plays in each inning. In the next two-plus innings, he would face 17 more hitters, allowing eight runs on 11 hits and two walks.
“On a day when we needed a starter to work deep into the game, that didn’t happen,” said manager John Farrell. “The Rangers came out and swung the bats aggressively, swinging at those first-pitch fastballs and then there were some hitters counts where there were some poorly located fastballs.
There may have been an underlying reason for Alvarez’s poor performance. After the game, he declined to speak with the media because he was dealing with a death in his family.
“I’ll say a little prayer for his family and him tonight,” said winning pitcher Matt Harrison, who allowed just two hits over eight innings. “That’s pretty tough. To have that on your mind when you go out and pitch, your focus is definitely not on pitching. I hope the best for him, hopefully he can get past this and come back strong.”
Reliever Brad Lincoln was dinged for four hits and two runs in 1.2 innings but by that time the proceedings were all academic.
The Blue Jays played some small ball to get their first run in the second inning. Yunel Escobar led off with a single into right field and moved up to second on Moises Sierra’s walk. Jeff Mathis sacrificed both runners along and Mike McCoy drove in Escobar with a chopper off the plate. That pitiful, little one-run lead then got trampled.
“We scratched out an early lead but those third-through fifth innings, things got away from Henderson and given our offensive struggles, it was too much to come back from.”
The Rangers got to Alvarez for four consecutive hits and two runs to start the third inning. David Murphy led off with a double, then scored on a close play at the plate on Geovany Soto’s single. Mitch Moreland’s single moved Soto into scoring position and he scored on Ian Kinsler’s double down the left field line. With runners at second and third and nobody out, Alvarez was able to stop the bleeding there, getting Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton on strikeouts before Adrian Beltre’s ground ball to third base ended the threat.
Texas scored another run in the fourth, then dismissed Alvarez from the game with five more in the fifth, an inning that included the first of Nelson Cruz’s two two-run doubles and Michael Young’s first home run in 88 games.
Mike McCoy’s first home run of the season cut the lead to 8-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Cruz’s second two-run double made it 10-2 in the sixth and David Murphy capped the rout with his 11th homer in the ninth.
Over the course of this 21-game slide into oblivion, the Jays have hit just .214 as a team while scoring 59 runs, an average of less than three per game, while allowing 107. In their first 100 games, they averaged just over five runs per game. Also in this 21-game stretch, they have struck out 185 times, an average of about nine per game.
Alvarez had pitched a strong seven innings in his last outing against Chicago, allowing seven hits and just two earned runs.
“I didn’t think (Alvarez) used his secondary stuff enough, particularly when the Rangers started to get aggressive in the counts,” said Farrell. “He stayed with a first-pitch fastball approach and they took advantage.”