Jays Thump Wildcard Leading Yankees
By Mat Germain
What a way to begin the post all-star break period, with a thumping of the evil empire! Remember this, each and every time the Jays beat the Yankees, they get 1 game closer to being in the Wildcard chase. Still, Jays fans should celebrate this win with caution, because making up 9 games on a team as talented as the Yankees is very close to the baseball version of climbin Mount Everest. Is it achievable? Of course it’s possible, stranger things have happened. However, a whole lot of things would have to happen, and it’s going to take more than an Alex Rodriguez injury to make it happen. The Jays are now 9 games behind the Yankees in the standings, could get closer if they can win – or sweep – the series from the Bombers, but they still have a ton of work to do to get that done.
Jays fans should be more worried about Jose Bautista‘s ankle injury at this point than climbing back into the Wildcard race. Without Joey Bats in the 3-hole, the lineup just isn’t the same. Although I must point out that of the 20 hits the Jays had last night, 19 came from other hitters. Eric Thames, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind, and Travis Snider each lit up the Yankees with 3 hits a piece. Snider added a stolen base which also drew an error from the Yankees, and Thames had 2 impressive doubles while playing some “questionable” right-field. I say questionable because he almost let a line drive get over him, and then let one bounce right over him as he couldn’t decide whether he should charge to catch in on the hop or back up to play it safe. It’s a learning point for Thames who needs to get used to bounces on the turf in Rogers Center.
Travis Snider has to be providing Jays fans with some comfort, particularly when Joey Bats goes day-to-day with ankle issues. He now has 3 games with 3 hits among the 8 games he has played since returning from AAA, something that has allowed him to hit .400 over that 8 game stretch. That’s not just a tinkering of his batting approach when you base it on the results, that’s a complete overhaul! Over that stretch, his average has gone from .181 to .246, his OBP from .276 to .302, had half of his hits (7 of 14) being for extra bases, and I’m positive that his confidence has gone from below zero right to where it should be. Another interesting point with Snider is that he is hitting .264/.350/.407 against RHP and only .115/.115/.231 against LHP (in limited ABs). So, we need to watch how he does vs LHP from here on out. Interestingly, Eric Thames is hitting .286/.375/.714 against LHP, so some sort of platoon seems to make some sense if need be. Snider also isn’t walking at all, but at least he’s getting the job done overall. Great stuff from Lunchbox45, and hopefully he keeps up the great turnaround.
Speaking of turnarounds, Edwin Encarnacion has hit .326 over his last 10 games and really seems to be seeing the ball well of late. I, like many others, point to the fact that he is finally doing what he was supposed to be doing in 2011 – not playing the field – and thus is able to concentrate on pounding the ball. He only has 1 HR over that stretch, but there’s no doubt that they’ll come if he keeps hitting this well. The question now becomes this: will the Jays hang onto Edwin through the trade deadline, or will he be moved as a very affordable ($2.5 million in 2011, $3.5 million in 2012 with $0.5 million buyout) power bat? I’m still leaning towards the latter simply because I believe that if he were in the long-term plans of the Jays, Alex Anthopoulos would have signed him to a longer term deal.
As for Jo-Jo Reyes, he showed us exactly what he has done thus far this season. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. Notice that 2 of the 3 are negatives? When you have a 9 run lead and your team can’t enjoy it because you wind up giving up 7 runs thereafter, you know you have a lot of issues to work through. Reyes was up in the zone, couldn’t paint a corner for the majority of the night, and certainly didn’t earn the win yesterday. I sincerely hope he is moved to the pen before his next start and that we get to see what Brad Mills or Joel Carreno can do in that role.
How are we going to have any room for Reyes in the pen, you may ask? Well, the Jays are seemingly offering other teams, such as the Diamondbacks, some of their veteran relievers in trade. With possible targets such as highly touted pitching prospect Tyler Skaggs among others out there for the taking (no easy task by any means, but achievable), there’s no doubt that if a deal makes sense for the Jays, Alex will pull the trigger. I predict that one, if not two, of the current Jays relievers will be gone before August and that Reyes will either be let go or moved to the pen. If moved to the pen, he’ll be joined by a returning Casey Janssen who is very close to returning from injury.
Looking forward, the Jays match up very well against the Yankees with Brandon Morrow facing off against Freddy Garcia, and Ricky Romero facing off against C.C. Sabathia. It’s #2 vs #2, and #1 vs #1. After that, it’s a wild card of sorts with Carlos Villanueva matching up against Phil Hughes. It’s not going to be an easy task to take this series from the Yankees, but hopefully the Jays can at least earn a split tonight and see how things go after that.
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