How Munenori Kawasaki became the most popular athlete in Toronto in just 2 short months

It all began with the Jays’ newly acquired all-star shortstop, Jose Reyes turning his ankle on a poorly executed late slide on a steal attempt of 2nd base that put him on the DL for 60 days. The result was the Blue Jays needed a person to fill the void at Reyes’ position, short stop, cue Munenori Kawasaki, a 32 year old professional baseball player out of Japan. When fans first received the news that he would be the call up from AAA affiliate, Buffalo Bisons to momentarily fill in for Reyes, I’d bet dollars to donuts that more than 66% of them did not know who he was.
If you were one of those fans, you then typed his name into google, and the first thing you would likely find was a video or gif of him dancing in the Mariners dugout. And most likely one of two things came to your mind, 1. This guy is a clown, what is he doing here? Or 2. This is hilarious, this guy seems to have a great personality. I would think Blue Jays fans are more optimistic than pessimistic, so I assume the latter. The dancing was fun and all, but it did not show in anyway whether or not he was a good baseball player.

A brief history on the man they call ‘Mune’, before his arrival to the MLB, he was a 2-time gold glover in Japan where he played shortstop for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks from 2000-2011, during that time he also won a batting title, had 8 all-star appearances. In addition, if you were a viewer of the World Baseball Classic, you may have recognized him from Japan’s gold medal winning team in both 2006 and 2009.

In 2012, he got a minor league contract offer from a major league baseball club, the Seattle Mariners, to potentially play along side his idol and fellow Japanese player, Ichiro Suzuki. Although his time with Seattle was short lived, Kawasaki gave the world a glimpse of his hilarious antics (including the dance in the dugout and his now famous ‘running in one spot to fake a steal’ move), which later on made him such a fan favourite.

Blue Jays signed him in 2013 to another minor league contract, and had him start the season in AAA Buffalo with the Bisons.

With the injury to Reyes on April 12th, Blue Jays gave the now sophomore major leaguer a call up, all while GM Alex Anthopoulos was still busy on the phones looking to acquire a temporary replacement at shortstop via trade. Many had no idea what to expect from Kawasaki, having only played 61 games in his 1st major league season with the M’s and batting .192 with a .459 OPS. The Blue Jays and everyone watching would soon see what kind of player he is.

With his debut on April 13th, Munenori Kawasaki became the first Japanese born position player to play for the Toronto Blue Jays. None of his numbers are eye popping by any means, but one thing you know you will get from Kawasaki are consistent at-bats where he will battle the pitcher, work the count, and find a way to get on base, as evident by his current .337 on-base percentage. This along with his solid defensive abilities at shortstop made Alex rethink the need to acquire another short stop to fill the void. With his underdog-like stature (being 5’10”, 165lbs), along with his apparent love of the game (you will always see him being one of the first players on the field on game day performing his stretching routine which consists of him doing handstands against the wall), and his respectful bowing after every out made, all in combination slowly made him become a fan favourite in Toronto.

 

But Munenori didn’t really get noticed by the rest of the league until one afternoon day game in Toronto, where he went viral. May 26th against the Baltimore Orioles, the Jays were down 5-2 to begin the 9th and had rallied back to within 2 runs, and with two runners on base, up came the #9 hitter in the batting order, Munenori Kawasaki. What came next was a sight to see. He proceeded to deliver the game winning walk off 2 run double to complete the comeback, like Rudy when he was carried off the field after making the tackle, Kawasaki was carried in the air by teammates after reaching 3rd base. However it was what followed that got him noticed all throughout the baseball world. Barely having a grasp of the English language, he was encouraged by his teammate, Mark DeRosa to do the post-game interview with Arash Madani on Sportsnet (with assistance of his small book). And what ensued was pure enjoyment and happiness:

Added to his growing popularity already to the city of Toronto, this is what put him over the top and arguably the most popular athlete in the city of Toronto. In the days and weeks that followed, he would be cheered throughout the Rogers Centre when his name was announced during the starting lineups (always as the #9 hitter), and his name chanted when he came up to bat in any sort of key situation in the game.

Fast forward to June 25th, the Blue Jays all-star shortstop Jose Reyes has returned from his long rehab stint, and is ready to rejoin the team in Tampa. Now comes the decision of who to send down back to AAA to allow Reyes to rejoin the 25 man roster. Options include arms out of the bullpen (with options): Neil Wagner, Aaron Loup. (without options): Juan Perez, Dustin McGowan. As well as 2nd baseman and utility player, Emilio Bonifacio, who in this short season has worse numbers than Kawasaki.

Blue Jays ultimately made their decision to send down Kawasaki, as John Gibbons gathered the entire team after the game to announce that Munenori has been optioned to AAA Buffalo. But rest assured Blue Jays fans, this will not be the last you see of him. If he still in the organization by September, barring any injuries, he will become a September call-up when rosters expand to 40 man.

It is an incredible story how a relatively unknown Japanese baseball player became the most popular athlete in Toronto in a short span of 2 months.

His parting words to the fans:

His name is Munenori Kawasaki, and he is Japanese.

And if you’re not sick of him already, here are some more of his entertaining antics that occurred in the past 3 months.

Kawasaki on Intentional Talk:

Kawasaki’s 1st major league home run (and the curtain call that followed):

And the victory dance after the Blue Jays won their franchise tying 11th straight game:

Yunel Escobar’s Eye Black (My Opinion)

“Tu Ere Maricon”, three words in the Spanish language that seemed to be harmless, that is until translated into the English language which means “You’re a F*ggot”. These same 3 words are what were written and worn on Blue Jays shortstop, Yunel Escobar’s eye black during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Boston Red Sox. These same 3 words, 3 days later are what cost Yunel Escobar 3 games of suspension and ordered to do some community service, including an outreach initiative. In a nice gesture, the salary from those 3 games will be donated to “You Can Play” and GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) organizations (a total amount of $92,592, of his $5 million salary).

Photo posted by James_In_TO on flickr, a day after the game, and was then noticed by national media outlets and went viral that evening.

My opinion on this: A gesture that went unnoticed by thousands in attendance and millions watching on TV with high-def cameras on Yunel, until a picture was posted by a single person, it is being blown out of proportion. I have come to the conclusion that, this whole situation was caused by a difference of cultures and a ‘lost in translation’ type of incident. In Latin culture, that word is meant in a joking manner and does carry the same significance it does in North American culture. It is not a slur in Spanish or Latin as it is in English. Yunel did not mean for it to be used in a derogatory way such as currently perceived by all the media. Take into consideration that Yunel has been in the league and thus lived in North America since 2005 after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves (7 full years, including 1 year in the minor leagues), and he is still not very fluent in the English language as displayed by his needed assistance of a translator during the press conference. Put two and two together, and there is a valid reason as to why he was not aware of the ramifications that were about to occur Tuesday afternoon. This actually may speak more about the immaturity and lack of education about the American culture displayed by Yunel, to not know after 7 years living within the culture that it would offend the masses.

In no way am I saying this is excusable, as it is still a derogatory remark towards a specific group of people but I do think everyone should cut Yunel some slack and give him the benefit of the doubt. He made a mistake, he got his slap on the wrist in the form of a 3 game suspension, give him a second chance, and like GM Alex Anthopoulos said, use this as an educational tool to teach Yunel. And hope to move on from this incident in the future.

Let’s take a look at an example of when words are perceived differently in different cultures, the word “Playboy”.
In Brazilian culture, it is meant to be an insult and a slur: Playboy in Brazil means a rich boy who has a family backing him up and giving money. Its someone who uses money only to entertainment and doesn’t have any concerns with anything but women, cars and sex, etc.

But in North American culture, the definition of a playboy is meant as a compliment: A wealthy man who spends his time enjoying himself, esp. one who behaves irresponsibly or is sexually promiscuous

Same word, different interpretation. Much similar to the situation going on here with Yunel Escobar.

Yunel apologized for his actions on Tuesday and stated it will never happen again, adding he did not mean to offend anyone and that he made a mistake. He went on to say that he has no discrimination towards gay people, mentioning that his interior decorator, his hair dresser, and some of his friends are gay.

When asked why none of the coaches or teammates noticed or said anything to Escobar about the message, manager John Farrell stated that it is frequent occurrence by Escobar to write messages on his eye black, often funny messages to teammates. Therefore, they did not think too much of it.

The always reliable, Carlos Villanueva fills the hole left in Blue Jays rotation

When starters went down last season, it was Carlos Villanueva who was called upon to fill in as the 5th starter in the Blue Jays rotation. And fill in he did, performing at a high level in 13 starts he totaled: 73.1 IP, 5-3 with a 5.15 ERA and 1.377 WHIP. The ERA is definitely not representative of the way he performed, which was much better.
However, eventually he would have to be shut down early due to fatigue issues in his arm, as the then 27 year old, was not used to making that many starts in his career (13 being the career high). The performance the Blue Jays saw in Villanueva in his first year was enough for them to resign him to a one year contract for the 2012 season.

Again this season, he became the Blue Jays 5th starter in the rotation after Drew Hutchison went down, and now it’s funny to think that he wasn’t even their first choice to make that 5th start. Blue Jays went with Jesse Chavez for 2 starts until they decided to make the switch over to Villanueva.
Carlos made his 2nd start tonight, and as he has been in the past, he continues to be a reliable option whether it be out of the bullpen or in the rotation. He pitched a phenomenal 2nd game, coming off a 5 inning 3 earned run in his 1st start of the season, he bested that tonight and pitched even better than the Blue Jays expected. Against the Royals tonight, Villanueva pitched 6 shutout innings only allowing 4 hits, did not walk a batter and struck out 7. Needing only 85 total pitches to do so.

Carlos Villanueva as a reliever this season (in 22 appearances):

  • 33.1 IP, 26 hits, 12 earned runs, 21 walks, 36 strikeouts, 3.24 ERA, 1.41 WHIP.

And as a starter (2 starts):

  • 11.0 IP, 11 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP.

Given that Drabek is out for the year and Hutchison will likely be out until early September, as long as Villanueva can continue to post consistent starts like his previous 2 and keep his team in the game, he will have solidified that starting spot for the rest of the season.

Blue Jays were given a complete offense contribution tonight as they have been doing as of late, with the team combining for 12 hits and 4 runs, with each player in the batting order getting at least 1 hit. All 3 of the first Blue Jays runs came by way of the sac fly, using smart situational hitting being able to cash the runner from 3rd. RBI sacrifice flies came from Johnson, Escobar, and Davis. The Blue Jays would eventually get an earned run in the 7th, in the form of a RBI single by Yunel Escobar, this after Colby Rasmus tagged from 1st to 2nd to 3rd on 2 flyball outs.

While the Royals only run of the game came in the 7th with 2 outs, when Rajai Davis took a gamble on a shallow flyball to left by Francoeur. Charging and diving in an attempt to make the catch, but instead coming up short and letting the ball go past him all the way to the wall for a triple. And allowing the runner on 1st to score easily.

Casey Janssen is also another Mr. Reliable in the Blue Jays bullpen, he along with Oliver have been the two most reliable relievers this first half. Casey picked up his 11th save in as many attempts since taking over for the injured Sergio Santos. And in those 11 saves, Janssen has been absolutely untouchable, only surrendering a grand total of 2 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 11.

What’s wrong with Ricky Romero?

This time last season, Blue Jays’ ace Ricky Romero sported a record of 7-8 with a 3.09 WHIP and was on his way to the MLB All-Star game representing the American League. Fast forward to a year later, when his team needs him the most with 3/5ths of their starting rotation down due to injury, the ace that the Blue Jays have been accustomed to the first 3 years is currently no where to be found.

Coming off three straight seasons of straight linear progression to start his major league career, it is not unusual for a pitcher to struggle or digress at least one season early on in their career, given that it is still just his 4th big league season. And that’s what we are seeing right now with Ricky Romero.

Through his first 3 seasons in the bigs his stats and his pitching improved exponentially each season:
2009: 13-9, 4.30 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, opp batting average .284
2010: 14-9, 3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, opp batting average .242
2011: 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, opp batting average .216

But halfway through the 2012 season the stats along with the pitching show a definite drop off from prior years: 8-3, 5.35 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and opponent’s batting average of .253. The wins are improved, but that is due to the huge run support he has gotten from his offense, which makes it a meaningless statistic. This is the first time the Blue Jays have seen Romero actually struggle and over a long period of time. So, what’s different about this season that has him digressing from previous seasons. Two possible reasons for his struggle include mechanical issues and mental issues.

Mechanical issues
In his recent start against Boston in which he only lasted all of 3 innings while giving up 8 earned runs and issuing 6 walks, he clearly had trouble with his pitching. Unable to locate the strike zone and when he did, leaving the pitches over the plate for the opposition to crush. Ricky has also had these location issues earlier on in the season, where in a span of 4 games he issued 21 total walks. Just when it seemed like he had gotten over those command issues–issuing a mere 5 walks in his next 4 starts–those issues have plagued him again in his recent 3 outings (13 walks).

A possibility could be that he is battling through an injury, but keeping quiet about it, which could explain the cause of his mechanical issues. And seeing that his team is already suffering from injury, they cannot afford to lose another pitcher to injury. But at this point, it is all speculation and no actual proof.

Throughout this 2012 season, the former all-star has had many struggles around a very few brilliant starts, despite having a 8-3 record, his ERA has ballooned up to 5.35 in addition to a WHIP of 1.49. And is currently 3rd in the major league (behind Volquez (60) and Jimenez (57)) in walks, issuing a total of 55 on the season.

Mental issues
After his lost last night to the Royals, he was a man that sounded like the confidence that he had built up from his first 3 spectacular years in the big leagues, had all but disappeared. His comments including a metaphor referring to himself being in quicksand tells you all you need to know about what is going through his mind right now. There is a high possibility that his stuff is still there, but his mentality has him not trusting his great stuff and trying to do divert and too do much each start on the mound.

A progression that we have seen in Romero’s mental game is his maturity and composure on the mound and in the dugout. In his prior years, after having a bad inning or bad outing he would be yelling into his glove angrily as he walked off the field and slamming his glove in the dugout. However so far in this season, that behaviour has noticeably been reduced, especially considering how many poor outings he has had up to this point. Take for example last night’s start against the Royals, after he was pulled in the 7th, Ricky sat in the dugout with a towel draped over his head, not talking to anyone or throwing and temper tantrums. Just sitting there quietly with his thoughts to himself, although he may be boiling inside he didn’t show it.

I have all the confidence in Ricky that he will bounce back in the 2nd half of the season, he has shown over the years that he has good enough stuff to be an ace on the Blue Jays staff. Maybe all it takes is a few days off and away from the game for him to relax and take his mind off baseball. Romero has one more scheduled start remaining before the all-star break, Saturday against the White Sox in Chicago. A good performance on Saturday would be beneficial for him going into the break and allowing him to gain back some lost confidence heading into the 2nd half. The Blue Jays are hopeful he can put the 1st half of the season behind him and look to start brand new in the 2nd half continuing to lead this Blue Jays squad as he has done so time after time in the past.

Blue Jays fall to 11-23 on Canada Day with a loss to the Angels

Canada Day at the Blue Jays game, a yearly tradition enjoyed by fans and the people of Toronto as they attend the game on the national holiday. Usually an easy sellout for the Rogers Centre, but today conflicted with the Euro 2012 finals resulted in a less than packed dome in attendance. Historically, Blue Jays have not performed well on Canada Day, coming into the day with a 11-22 record on July 1st.

As customary on Canada Day, the Blue Jays donned their custom red Canada Day jerseys with Canada on the back

Angels struck first against Laffey, when Rajai Davis playing right field on this day, caught a flyball and then dropped it attempting to throw to 3rd with the runner on 2nd tagging. A heads up play by Mike Trout allowed him to score from 2nd on the error.

After that, Laffey would begin to cruise retiring 10 of the next 11 batters and keeping it a close 1-0 game through 4. But he would give make his 1st big mistake in 2 starts, a pitch left up to Alberto Callaspo who completely destroyed it, a rocket into left field for a 2 run shot.
Aaron Laffey would however finish his outing with another impressive pitching line: 6 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs / 2 earned runs, 0 walks, 4 strikeouts. Stepping up big for the Jays in absence of their starting pitching and easily securing his spot in the thin rotation.

Angels’ starter C.J. Wilson had faced the Jays earlier this season, and pitched a great performance, holding to 2 earned runs over 8 innings. Through 5 innings, it looked as if Wilson was on his way to a repeat performance, he had great stuff early on holding the Jays to a 2-hit shutout. However his command would get away from him in the 6th and got himself into trouble as a result. He would walk 3 batters in the inning and fall behind all 4 of the Jays hitters faced. With the bases loaded is when the Jays would first get on the board, an error on a double play ball by Howie Kendrick allowed 2 runs to score. The 2nd of which, was Brett Lawrie steam rolling catcher John Hester which resulted in a controversial play with Hester holding on to the ball and a questionable call as to whether or not Lawrie had touched the plate. The home plate umpire ruled a safe call in favour of Lawrie, and that sent manager Mike Scioscia storming out of the dugout and into the umpire’s face leading to his eventual ejection.

Brett Lawrie ran over catcher John Hester in an attempt to break up the play at home

All this mess lead to C.J. Wilson’s exit after issuing his 3rd walk of the inning to load the bases with none out. In came LaTroy Hawkins to the rescue for the Angels. Hawkins got Yunel to flyout and doubled up Rasmus trying to score at home. Blue Jays ended the inning unable to score another run, trailing 3-2.

Angels’ Manager Mike Scioscia had a case to argue but the home plate umpire was not changing his call

Just when everyone thought it would be brand new ball game after J.P. Arencibia tied it with a solo shot in the 7th, the Angels answered right back in the 8th against Francisco Cordero. Cordero proceeded to give up 2 crushing home runs, a solo shot to Mike Trout and a 2 run shot to Mark Trumbo. John Farrell will be questioned as to why he brought in Cordero in a tie game situation when other relievers may have been available.

With half of the fans in attendance already headed for the gates, Jays’ reliever Jesse Chavez loaded the bases in the 9th with an error and 2 walks and none out, the Angels blew the game wide open. Scoring 4 runs in a bat around inning to give themselves a blowout 10-3 lead.

Angels’ offense emerged late, scoring 7 runs in the last 2 innings giving them a comfortable cushion

It was only fitting that the Jays let the only Canadian pitcher on the team pitch on this Canadian holiday, so Scott Richmond came in out of the pen in the 9th to get the last 2 outs. Scott joins Paul Quantrill and Paul Spoljaric as the only Canadian to have pitched for the Jays on Canada Day.

Colby Rasmus made it a respectable score by hitting a 2-out, 3 run home run in the 9th to raise Jordan Walden’s ERA and make it a 10-6 loss for the Blue Jays. Angels late offensive explosion against the Jays’ bullpen gave them the series split 2-2. And the Blue Jays record on Canada Day falls to 11-24.

On a brighter note, with 2 back to back terrific starts from their starting pitching and their offense continuing to pick up the slack (scoring 31 runs in this 4 game series), the Blue Jays don’t look in too bad of shape to battle for the wild card spot.

Notables:
Jose Bautista announced as an outfield starter for the 83rd MLB All-Star game
Edwin Encarnacion despite his .289 avg, 22 home runs, 55 RBIs, .935 OPS was snubbed as an All-Star and not even on the final vote-in ballot

Jose Bautista’s incredible month of June

With the month of June concluding, Jose Bautista took his final at-bat in the 4th inning of this afternoon’s blowout game against the Angels before being lifted for a pinch hitter, ending his day early. He finished the day driving in his 62nd RBI, and 30th this month. Thus putting a cap on a spectacular month of June for the Blue Jays right fielder with totals of: .270 average, 14 home runs, 30 RBIs, 1.157 OPS.

An incredible month for Jose that saw him break the Blue Jays record for home runs in June with 14. And coming 1 home run shy of tying the all-time American League record of 15 in June, held by Babe Ruth, Bob Johnson and Roger Maris.
While also joining a very exclusive club that features the likes of Babe Ruth, Jackie Jensen, Roger Maris, and Reggie Jackson, all finishing the month of June with 14+ Home Runs and 30+ RBIs. Being the first to do it since 1969. (via @ESPNStatsInfo)

Given his early struggles in the month of April to begin the season, there were doubts as to whether or not he would be able to repeat his previous two Hank Aaron Award winning seasons. But all doubts were put to rest after his dominant performance in June putting him right back on pace for a 2010-like season.
A month in which he went on a run that included 7 home runs in 11 games to start the month, and 7 in 10 games to conclude June to go along with a 9 game hitting streak and a streak of reaching base in 22 straight games.

Nearly halfway through the 2012 season (78 games), Jose Bautista has racked up a stat line of: .238 avg, 26 home runs, 61 RBIs, .359 OBP, .908 OPS

He is currently projected to finish the season with: 54 home runs and 129 RBIs. Numbers nearly identical to his 2010 breakout season in which he hit 54 home runs and drove in 124, batting .260.

Blue Jays saw signs of Bautista’s resurgence in May, when he began to regain his form and start to heat up, hitting 9 home runs and 22 RBIs in the month after just a dismal 3 HRs in April, where he batted only .181 and frustrated popping up pitch after pitch. But some of his run production in May was hindered because of the batters ahead of him and their inability to get on base, mainly Yunel.

The 30 runs batted in nearly doubled his total from the first 2 months of the season, from 32 to 62 in just 1 month. The biggest noticeable difference seems to be the switch in the top of the order from Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar to Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus on June 5th. Manager John Farrell seems to have found a perfect 1-2 combination for the time being, with both players being able to reach base on a consistent basis, allowing the Jays 3 and 4 hitters to drive in early runs.

Bautista along with Lawrie, Rasmus, and Encarnacion are the main reason as to why the Blue Jays are still in the wild card race despite losing 3 of their 5 starting pitchers. The offense has really come alive since the injuries, and has carried the team through the month in which Blue Jays finished with a record of 13-14.

The announcement for the rosters of the 83rd MLB All-Star game will happen tomorrow afternoon, and one hopes that Jose Bautista will be one of the 3 starting outfielders for the American League. And will be participating in his 3rd consecutive all-star game and potentially his 2nd home run derby.

Aaron Laffey’s 6 shutout innings go unrewarded, bullpen allows Red Sox to come back

With the Blue Jays losing their 4th starting pitcher in 2 weeks last night, the only thing they were hoping for was for a starting pitcher to finish an outing healthy and unharmed. Aaron Laffey’s number was called upon in game 2 to make his 1st start of the season for the Jays. And Laffey would give the Jays a pleasant surprise, pitching a terrific game through 6 innings, inducing groundball after groundball by the Red Sox. After a giving up a leadoff single to Mike Aviles, Laffey proceeded to retire the next 12 batters in a row to begin his outing. Laffey finished after throwing just 82 pitches because he had not been stretched out previous to this start, so manager John Farrell playing on the safe side decided to take him out after pitching 6 shutout innings. He definitely did well enough to earn himself another start with a line of: 6 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts. 82 pitches / 48 strikes.

Laffey’s first start in 2 years was as good as the Blue Jays could have asked for

Since the offense has emerged and exploded, fulfilling the huge hole left by the injuries to the starting pitching, the Blue Jays have been able to maintain a record above .500 and been successful thus far on this 9 game road trip.
Tonight the offense pulled a disappearing act against the Red Sox and starter Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Blue Jays jumped off to a great start and struck first in the game with a leadoff double by Lawrie that ended up scoring on a RBI single by Encarnacion. But the Jays could have had much more run production had not been for a nice play on a comebacker by Dice-K to end the 1st. Jays got two more hits in the 2nd but failed to score a run.
With the slim 1-0 lead, the Jays offense were shut down by Dice-K and the Red Sox bullpen for the rest of the game, only scoring 1 run on 7 hits this game. The top 4 of the Jays batting order, who has provided the majority of the offense this road trip, went just 2 for 19 tonight but did drive in the lone run. Dice-K pitched great in his 4th start back from injury, going 5 2/3, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits and striking out 5.

With the slim 1-0 Blue Jays lead, it was only a matter of time before the high powered Red Sox offense would strike. And they struck in the 7th against the Jays bullpen. Jason Frasor was charged with the blown save after giving up a 2 out solo home run to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, tying the game.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia tied it up with the Red Sox first run of the game in the 7th

Some questionable managing by John Farrell would then allow the Red Sox to put the game out of reach. First pulling Frasor and bringing in Luis Perez to face just one batter Ryan Kalish, whom he gave up a 2 out double to. Then replacing him with David Pauley, who then hit a batter and walked the next to load the bases, leading to Dustin Pedroia hitting a 2 run single to give the Red Sox a 3-1 lead in the 7th.

Dustin Pedroia got clutch 2 out go-ahead hit to give the Red Sox the lead

Farrell left Pauley in the game to start the 8th, and he continued to allow Red Sox batters to reach, 3 straight hits leading to another run (RBI single by Gonzalez). And finally Farrell had seen enough from David Pauley, who allowed 6 straight Red Sox to reach base without getting an out by himself—lone out came from a run down to end the 7th—Scott Richmond just called up yesterday, came on to make his season debut for the Jays.
Red Sox added one more run to push their lead to 5-1, and Scott Atchison finished it in the 9th to even up the series at 1. Red Sox bullpen retired the last 9 batters to close out the game. Forcing a rubber match tomorrow afternoon between left-handed aces, Ricky Romero and Jon Lester.

Brewers put an end to Blue Jays comebacks winning the series’ rubber game

The Brewers must have felt left out last night when the Jays belted 6 home runs, including a sequence of back to back to back, and another back-to-back to win the game in the 9th. Because today, they got to the Jays pitching by launching 3 long balls of their own. So far in this series the Blue Jays were able to battle back down 6-1 and 4-2 in the previous 2 games to make things close in the 9th. But not today, starter Yovani Gallardo was able put an end to any of the Blue Jays potential rallies in this one.

Blue Jays got on the scoreboard first, with Edwin Encarnacion hammering his 20th home run to center to lead off the 2nd inning. This made it, 3 straight games Encarnacion has homered in this series and good news for the Jays because when they score first, they are 19-9 on the season.

Blue Jays kept it a secret as to who they were starting today, not announcing the starter until hours before the game. Turns out that the Jays called up Joel Carreno from Las Vegas to make his 2nd career major league start. Unfortunately for the Jays, it would be a Joel Carreno on very little sleep flying in from Vegas overnight to join the Jays in Milwaukee.

Joel Carreno turned out to be the 2nd TBD of the series for the Blue Jays, but did not last long in his 2nd career start

Joel Carreno had just 1 good 1st inning in his very short outing, giving up a total of 3 home runs to the Brewers in the 2nd for 5 runs. Corey Hart started it off with a solo shot to right. And a key 3rd out not gotten by Carreno against Cody Ransum, lead to 4 more runs with 2 outs by the Brewers, on 2 run shots by Martin Maldonado and Carlos Gomez.

Corey Hart started things off hitting the 1st of 4 Brewers’ home runs on the day

Carreno would leave after 3 innings, struggling in the 3rd but not giving up a run. John Farrell handing the duties over to the bullpen, asking them for 5 or 6 more innings of relief, after 6.1 and 4 innings in the previous 2 nights. Carreno could not get the job done for the Jays in his 2nd start: 3 IP, 5 hits, 5 ER, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, 3 home runs.

Laffey did a good job eating up 3 innings of relief, only giving up 1 run on 3 hits but the Blue Jays would still be trailing 6-1 to the Brewers in the 7th.

Jays were able to generate scoring chances with 2 on and 1 out for 4 consecutive innings in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. But after coming with nothing the first 2 times, they were able to only score in the 7th on a 2-out double by Colby Rasmus, forcing Gallardo to leave the game.

Tim Dillard came on to walk Bautista, and with the bases loaded hit Encarnacion to bring in the Jays 3rd run. That was as close as the Jays would get, down 6-3 in the 7th. Because Ryan Braun got those 2 runs right back for the Brewers in the bottom 7th, hitting his 20th, a 2 run home run off Perez. Making it 4 home runs on the day for the Brewers, with a 8-3 lead.

Gallardo finished his day with a line of: 6.2 IP, 7 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts. Retiring 9 in a row from 2nd to 4th innings and preventing the Blue Jays from rallying in the 5th and 6th, were key to him earning his 6th win of the season.

Yovani Gallardo pitched the best of the 6 starters in this series and was the only one to record a win

Brewers held on to win the rubber game and the series by a score of 8-3. But what a series it was, the injury riddled Blue Jays were able to battle with their offense to make things entertaining in the first 2 games. Jays fall to 7-8 in interleague with 1 more series left to play. With the bullpen being used heavily in this series (15.1 innings in 3 games), the Jays will be glad to have an off day tomorrow before continuing on their road trip to Miami.

Notables:

  • Blue Jays have the most home runs by any duo in the major leagues, 42 by Bautista (22) and Encarnacion (20)
  • Blue Jays hit a total of 10 home runs this series in Miller Park, and both teams combined for a total of 16
  • Brett Lawrie had to be pinch hit for in the 8th after hurting his hamstring sliding into 3rd in the previous inning

Valiant comeback effort by Blue Jays but fall 1 home run short to the Brewers

Valiant effort by the Blue Jays tonight to battle back into the game tonight, at one point down 6-1 early in the 2nd, the Blue Jays were able to tie it up in the 7th thanks to a couple of monster home runs by Encarnacion and Bautista. But it would be the Brewers coming out on top after a disputable go-ahead home run by Aramis Ramirez off the foul pole in left lead to the Brewers going ahead and taking game 1 from the Jays.

Both starting pitchers desperately wanted a win in game 1, Henderson Alvarez who has not won in his last 6 starts, and Randy Wolf winless in his last 9 starts. Neither would accomplish that tonight, as both were torched by the opposing offenses, Alvarez early on and Wolf over a longer stretch of the game.

Henderson Alvarez could not keep his fastball down, failing to sink it early on, which lead to the Brewers generating huge offensive production in the 1st 2 innings. Brewers were able to load the bases in both innings leading to 6 total runs on 7 hits given up by Alvarez. Brewers capitalized both times with the bases juiced, in the 1st, Rickie Weeks with a 2 RBI single up the middle. And 4 runs in the 2nd, a RBI bunt single by Aoki, a RBI fielders’ choice by Braun and then a 2 out, 2 RBI by Ramirez.

Alvarez continued to give up hits in the 3rd and 4th, up to a total of 11 hits given up, but this time Brewers were not able to cash in those runs, giving the Jays a chance to still stay in the game. Alvarez would be pinch hit for in the top of the 5th, ending his night early after just 4 innings. Pitching Line: 4 IP, 11 hits, 6 earned runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout. 81 pitches / 51 strikes. Making this now 7 consecutive starts without a win.

Alvarez’s inability to sink his fastball lead to the Brewers getting hit after hit to the outfield

The main positive take away from this game is that the Blue Jays offense continues to hit, and look like they have broken out of their slump from last week. Their bats carried over from the Phillies series which saw them break out in the final 2 games for 6 runs each. They would record 6 runs once again tonight.

The game started off perfectly in a storybook kind of way, with the player that the Brewers traded last season, Brett Lawrie hitting a lead off home run to dead center off of Randy Wolf to start the game! In a way, showing the Brewers’ fans and management what they missed out on.

The Jays down but not out, were able to battle back midway through the game against Wolf. Blue Jays too were able to load the bases in the 3rd with none out, but Brewers gladly traded a run for 2 outs as Encarnacion grounded into a double play. Edwin Encarnacion would get that RBI back, hitting his 18th home run off of the huge slide in Miller Park, and cutting the Brewers lead in half.

Randy Wolf left after 6 1/3 innings with a runner on, and he too would be unable to record the win as reliever Kameron Loe came on and gave up the game tying 3 run home run, a towering shot by Jose Bautista to tie the game at 6.

Blue Jays made incredible comeback to tie it up in the 6th on Jose Bautista’s 20th home run

The comeback would not be completed, as Aramis Ramirez gave the Brewers the lead right back in the bottom of the 7th against Robert Coello. A controversial home run off the padding on the wall of the left field foul pole, which the painted yellow line on the wall appeared to be off line with the yellow foul pole but the call reviewed using instant replay and was later reversed and ruled a home run.

Aramis Ramirez put the Brewers back on top after the Blue Jays came back to tie it, with his 8th home run of the season

That would be the eventual winning run for the Brewers, who took the 7-6 lead to victory in game 1. And ironically, Kameron Loe, the man that gave up the 3 run home run would be the pitcher of record for the win.

Former Blue Jay and the man Lawrie was traded for, Shaun Marcum was suppose to get the start tomorrow but will now miss it due to injury, Brewers’ starter is now To Be Determined. While the Jays recalled Jesse Chavez from AAA to make his 1st career major league start tomorrow in his 5th year in the major
leagues.

Notables:
Kyle Drabek will have to have his 2nd Tommy John surgery tomorrow after seeking the advice of Dr. James Andrews for his torn UCL. He will likely miss at least 12-18 months to rehab and recover, and won’t be back until late into the 2013 season at the earliest.

Blue Jays show perseverance in sweep of Phillies, Rasmus does his dad proud

With 13 of the Blue Jays players and coaches’ dads flown in to take in today’s game on Father’s Day to watch their sons play, none would be more proud than Colby’s dad, Tony Rasmus on this day. His son Colby would impress in his father’s presence coming through with a huge game offensively with the bat and defensively with the glove! Along with a proud dad himself, Brett Cecil making his 1st start of the season in place of the injured Brandon Morrow, filling in nicely for the Jays. But Ricky Romero may have been the proudest of them all as he caught the ceremonial first pitch that he often does, thrown by a special person today, his dad Ricardo Romero. Romero was grinning from ear to ear after watching his dad deliver a perfect strike from the pitcher’s mound.

Blue Jays were looking to complete the 3 game sweep this afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies, with Brett Cecil on the mound looking to regain his spot in the Blue Jays rotation, after not making the club out of spring training. He refined his pitching mechanics in AA this season as well as losing over 30 pounds to get in better shape. His improvements showed early on, with his fastball back up to 89-90 MPH, from the drop last year to around 86-87 MPH, as well as showing good control with his pitches. He struck out 2 early on to start, a 1-2-3 1st inning.

Blue Jays would score 1st for the 2nd time in 3 games, after not doing so in the previous 7, when Lawrie and Rasmus combined for back to back doubles. Rasmus’ RBI double drove in the Jays 1st run, on his way to a big 3 RBI game.

Cecil would begin to show signs of his old habits, leaving his fastball up in the zone leading to two lead off home runs in the 2nd and 3rd innings by Jim Thome and John Mayberry Jr. Thome’s home run, the 100th in a Phillies uniform for the future hall of famer, making him the 4th player to hit 100 home runs with 3 different clubs (joining Alex Rodriguez, Darrell Evans, and Reggie Jackson). And Mayberry’s 2nd home run in as many games tied the game at 2.

Jim Thome continues to hit at 41 years old, hitting his 608th home run and joining a very exclusive group

But that would be all the Phillies would get this afternoon against Cecil and the Jays bullpen. Although Cecil did allow a leadoff hit in 4 of his 5 innings pitched, only the two home runs ended up costing him. Brett did what the Jays asked of him, which was to keep his team in the ball game and be able to go at least 5 innings. He finished with a line of: 5 IP, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts. 87 pitches / 55 strikes. Earning himself his 1st win and moving in the right direction towards regaining his Jays rotation spot.

Brett Cecil made his return to the Jays rotation after 10 starts in the minors to begin his season

The game would not stay tied for long, just as it seemed like Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick had been settling down in the 2nd and 3rd, retiring 7 Jays’ batters in a row. But Jays would regain the lead in the 4th, with yesterday’s walk off hero Rajai Davis coming through with a clutch 2 out, RBI single, putting the Jays back up 3-2. The Jays wouldn’t stop there, as the combination of Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus would hook up again, with Rasmus destroying a pitch to 2nd deck in right for his 10th home run on the season, a 2 run shot giving the Jays a more comfortable 5-2 lead.

The leadoff duo of Lawrie and Rasmus combined to score 4 of the Jays’ 6 runs on the day

Rasmus would add one more in the 7th off of Phillies’ reliever Diekman, singling to right for the Jays 6th run, but would not be credited with the RBI because Hunter Pence would be charged with a fielding error, allowing the run to score. Colby Rasmus finished his day going 3 for 4, 1 home run and 3 RBIs, finishing a triple shy of the cycle.

All 6 runs would be charged to Kyle Kendrick, who continues to be the Phillies’ worst starter, falling to 2-7 on the season with an ERA over 5. Giving up 6 runs (5 earned) on 8 hits, walking 2 and striking out 4.

On came the Blue Jays bullpen in the 6th to hold the lead and preserve the win for Cecil and the chance to sweep the Phillies. Luis Perez was fantastic, pitching 3 innings of 1-hit shutout, retiring 9 of his 10 batters faced. And Jason Frasor in the 9th to finish it off, with his dad watching on. Frasor did give up 2, 2-out hits as the Phillies had a last ditch effort to come back in the game, but they would not be able to score any runs, as Frasor stranded the runners and kept it a 6-2 Blue Jays victory. Jays bullpen was dominant, allowing a combined 3 hits over 4 shutout innings!

Blue Jays sweep the Phillies, earning their 1st interleague sweep at home since 2007 (Rockies). A great  way for the Jays to bounce back from adversity by salvaging their home stand, finishing at 3-3 after being swept by the Nationals to begin. Jays are now 2 games over .500 (34-32) and .500 in interleague play at 6-6, heading on the road to finish interleague with a series in Milwaukee against the Brewers and a series in Miami against the Marlins.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers