August 24, 2012
Jays get little lift from Bautista's return
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
BALTIMORE, MD. - Like stragglers arriving late to a party that’s lost its steam, the walking wounded are trickling back into a Blue Jay lineup with not much to look forward to but next year.
Jose Bautista got his first taste of action in five weeks Friday and No. 19 didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately for Toronto, it was No. 19, Chris Davis the Baltimore DH, who put on the show, crashing three homeruns and driving in four runs in a 6-4 Oriole victory.
Bautista settled for 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in his first game in five weeks. Brandon Morrow will be back on the mound Saturday, after nine weeks on the sidelines.
They were both welcomed back warmly by their teammates but their presence couldn’t prevent Toronto’s sixth consecutive loss and 20th in the last 25 games in the opener of this three-game series.
“Jose, losing him created a hole in our lineup,” said manager John Farrell. “Losing Brandon in our rotation created another one. He was really pitching very well, efficiently. He had thrown three shutouts for the time he was here, and really started to come into his own. We thought that was going to be the case at spring training and that was playing out this year. Having missed him for the last two-and-a-half months has been a huge hole in our rotation.”
When Morrow injured his oblique muscle back in June, he was pitching better than at any time in his career. Friday he arrived in Baltimore to rejoin his teammates and hopes to pick up right where he left off when he makes his first start Saturday.
“I hope to be close to it,” he said. “I felt good, command-wise, with all of my pitches and I’ve stayed in the zone, I haven’t been walking guys."
"(I've been) getting quick outs and staying economical with my pitches. That actually hurt me a little bit through the process, going too quick through my innings. But I’ve been feeling really good," he added. “That’s the good thing with not being an arm injury: I was able to at least keep the feel of the baseball even if I was throwing gingerly, at least having the ball in my hand and doing that. Getting the feel back didn’t really take long at all it was just getting to that point where I felt like I could really push myself.”
Through June 12 when he went on the disabled list, Morrow was 7-4 with a 3.01 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .194, having allowed just 54 hits in 77.2 innings.
As he watched from Florida for most of his injury rehab, Morrow found the losing hard to take, especially as he saw Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Jason Frasor, Bautista, J.P. Arencibia, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie follow him to the sidelines
“It was pretty tough,” he said. “Not being around that’s what wears on you the most, watching the team struggling and more guys going down. It was tough being out. I probably didn’t watch as much as most people would think, it’s hard to sit and watch the games when you’re not there and do all of that but I was pulling for the guys.”
On his first day back, he got to share this latest loss with his teammates.
Carlos Villanueva, who had been Toronto’s best starter in Morrow’s absence, was victimized for Davis’s first two home runs, among the five hits he allowed over 5.2 innings. Davis hit his third of the night and 23rd of the season off reliever Steve Delabar, to become the first Oriole to hit three home runs in a game in six seasons.
Kelly Johnson drove in Edwin Encarnacion with Toronto’s first run in the second. Rajai Davis doubled home Mike McCoy with the second run in th seventh after Baltimore had built a 5-1 cushion.
The two clubs exchanged runs in the seventh and then Jeff Mathis threw a scare into the Orioles with a two-run ninth-inning home run, his eighth of the year. Jim Johnson, Baltimore’s lights-out closer came on at that point to get the final three outs and his 39th save.
Bautista’s return was a quiet one, a not entirely unexpected result.
“He swung the bat the way we’ve seen in the past in terms of aggressiveness and batspeed but we temper our expectations after the amount of time he has missed,” said Farrell. “The fact that’s back is the most important thing.”
The result aside, Bautista’s presence changes the way opponents attack the the middle of the order. Farrell marvelled that Edwin Encarnacion got so many pitches to hit in Bautista’s absence.
“Clearly when you are able to add a middle-of-the-order bat back into the lineup, it gives us a chance to make it a little deeper,” said Farrell. “We’re still missing a couple guys and it’s been evident. We’ve had our struggles offensively over the last three to four weeks. Just his mere presence will have a positive impact.”