I watched the game on TV, listened to the game on the Radio, and tweeted throughout the game with other great Jays fans, and it was all time well spent. The Jays didn’t win this one with a well thought out plan and had to depend on some luck to go with their motto: Hustle and Heart!!
Yes, the entire club definitely showed its Hustle and Heart….well, all of them aside from Juan Rivera, but I’ll get to that later.
Here’s a recap of what I – and others – observed during the 7-6 win over the A’s.
Jays Starter – Jo-Jo Reyes (0-0, 13.50 ERA): To be completely honest, Jo-Jo Reyes didn’t impress me at all. Just to put it on a “how bad was he” scale, I’d rather they bring back Dana Eveland. After seeing him go through the lineup the first time, I pointed out how straight his pitches were and that I believed he would get hit hard the 2nd time through the lineup. Unfortunately, I was right. There was absolutely no movement to about 90% of his pitches, and each time he did throw an offspeed pitch, it was over the plate and hit hard by the A’s. Knowing how “great” the A’s lineup is, how badly do you think he’ll get hit if he gets a start against the Rangers, Yankees, Red Sox or Rays? All-in-all, Reyes gave up 9 hits and walked 1 over 3.1 innings and gave up 5 ER. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if his first start with the Jays was also his last.
Jesse Litsch should have no problem doing a better job tonight, and Scott Richmond may once again come into play if he does well in AAA this spring. Another option, after watching him be dominant last night, would be Carlos Villanueva who has really impressed me with his location of pitches and movement on them. He could get a shot to return to the starting role if it’s deemed necessary and is quickly earning the trust of the Jays.
Jays Bullpen: Thankfully, we saw the first sign of great instincts from John Farrell, as he saw the writing on the wall and pulled Reyes before things got much worse. That, to me, was the TSN turning point in the game, because it allowed the Jays to catch up and tie the game while getting stellar RP outings. Carlos Villanueva was on fire last night, making the A’s look foolish on numerous occasions. He did walk 2 over his 2.2 IP, but he struck out 3 and didn’t allow a hit. He seems poised to grab the long-relief role vacated by Brian Tallet and is yet another great addition to the 2011 squad. David Purcey joined in for his first outing of the spring and was simply lights out. Shawn Camp and Jon Rauch were a little less stellar, but still got through their respective inning of work, allowing only 1 hit a piece. It was Jason Frasor, however, who allowed the A’s to take the lead on a Josh Willingham HR in the 10th inning. Still, he struck out 3 hitters that inning after settling down, and earned the win after the Yunel Escobar walk-off HR. He should be fine his next outing, as he seemed a little rusty to start the inning.
A’s Pitching – Brandon McCarthy (0-0, 4.50 ERA): If the A’s get this kind of performance from McCarthy all year long, they could have the best rotation in the entire AL. He pitched very well, stayed down in the zone for the most part, and the Jays had a hard time squaring the ball up on him. If it wasn’t for some shotty D, he would have earned the win after 8 innings of hard work, while allowing 8 hits and 4 ER. Instead, an error – Kounzmanoff’s on a throw – allowed the Jays to score the tieing run and took things into extras.
A’s Bullpen: When I asked Joseph Lopez of Swingin’ A’s a few questions in the series preview, I concentrated on defensive skills of the players and the bullpen, because I knew that they were 2 areas that may not be as strong as people think on the A’s. Well, both proved right on Tuesday night, as the D and a 2-run HR allowed by Grant Balfour to Yunel Escobar sealed the deal. Not exactly the way Balfour wanted to make an impression on his new team. Of note is the fact that the A’s also had Brian Fuentes warmed up in the 10th but chose to go with Balfour. With a 1 run lead, you would have to believe that if they trusted Brian Fuentes, they would have thrown him out there. I wonder why they didnt….? Just a thought.
Jays Hitting: Yunel Escobar gained a nice fan following last season due mostly to his flashy defensive play at SS. Well, this season he’s doing the same thing defensively (completing 2 DP last night and preventing a run on a nice dive to stop the ball from going into CF), but has added hitting punch that can only be described as absolutely delicious. He was 3 for 5 with a walkoff 2-run HR in this game and was the offensive catalyst for the Jays the entire game. He now has a ridiculous 1.109 OPS on the season through 16 ABs. Rajai Davis also showed his spark plug abilities as he hit a double and used his speed thereafter to get a big inning going in the 6th. Edwin Encarnacion hit his first extra-base hit, a double also in the 6th inning.
The worse night for Jays hitters went to Juan Rivera who left 3 runners on base and only managed 1 walk. However, it wasn’t as much his lack of hits as his lack of Hustle and Heart that dismayed fans. He looked half asleep out there and definitely needs a shot of adrenaline if he’s going to stay with the Jays for any length of time. Anothe hitter who struggled was Travis Snider, who did show some real Hustle and Heart running to 1B, but went 0 for 4 in the game and was a fairly easy out each time up.
A’s Hitting: Josh Willingham did what he is supposed to in the A’s lineup and hit the go ahead HR, but it was the remainder of the lineup that surprised me with their power as they accumulated 6 doubles in the game. Mind you, 5 of those doubles came against Jo-Jo Reyes, so we have to discount them slightly. They did have a chance to add more runs as Kurt Suzuki left 4 runners on base, so the damage could have been worse if had a better night at the plate.
OTHER GAME NOTES
The attendance was simply abysmal at 11,077. I realize that it was a game vs the A’s and that Jo-Jo Reyes vs Brandon McCarthy isn’t a particularly big draw, but that’s a horrible showing by Jays fans. As J. P. Arencibia tweeted after the game, the fans are what the team feeds off in order to gain energy during the game, so hopefully there are many more fans out tonight and from here on out, particularly after hearing or watching Yunel Escobar hit his walkoff HR.
I am sure that if Eric Thames does well this spring, the Jays will not hesistate to call him up. But, until then, my prediction is that if Corey Patterson or Scott Podsednik are healthy enough for the Jays to deal Juan Rivera – or release him – the Jays will look to do so ASAP. In my opinion, adding Brett Lawrie and Eric Thames to the current lineup would complete the energetic vibe that the Jays need to compete day in, day out. Rivera simply looks lost out there and is a stick in the spokes of the wheels the Jays want to use to win games. Besides, once Jose Bautista returns to the lineup – after the birth of his baby girl, CONGRATS JOSE!! – there’s really no room for him out there. I, for one, am a much bigger fan of having Jayson Nix play 3B and Edwin Encarnacion manning DH than having Juan Rivera in the game at all. It’s harsh, but it’s how I feel. If you can’t or won’t hustle out there, move on.
OTHER JAYS NOTES
The last of the assignments were made for HiA-AAA and it seems that the Jays are ready to push both Deck McGuire and Asher Wojciechowski along as they received assignments to HiA Dunedin. If both do well, they could reach AA by the end of the season and be “in-play” at some point (most likely late) in 2012 for a rotation spot. With Zach Stewart and Henderson Alvarez leading the charge ahead of them, however, they have plenty of time to gain experience. Still, it’s nice to see the Jays being more aggressive with the initial placement of their high picks. I love it!
I got word on Twitter from Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (the LoA Lansing announcer) that the Drew Hutchison and Carlos Perez combo was horrible last night in containing the running game. He added that Carlos Perez didn’t call a good game at all, so it’s a rough start for the Lugnuts who looked bad against the Michigan State baseball team. You can read the entire game recap here.
The Red Sox and Yankees both lost yesterday, and the Red Sox did so to the Indians, which is particularly embarrasing and worrisome since it is their 4th loss in a row. Meanwhile, Rafael Soriano walked 3 hitters in an inning yesterday for the first time in his career, showing some rust early on in the season and that the Yankees still have some issues to iron out.