One thing that sticks out to me about the Toronto Blue Jays’ 7-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday is why John Farrell didn’t pinch-hit with David Ortiz during the pivotal seventh inning.
The Red Sox trailed 2-1 with one out when a Xander Bogaerts double put men at second and third and knocked R.A. Dickey from the game. John Gibbons had Brett Cecil warming, but went with righty Steve Delabar to face the left-handed hitting Jackie Bradley Jr., with the right-handed hitting David Ross and Dustin Pedroia to follow.
Farrell could easily have gone to Ortiz for Bradley to face Delabar – he would have avoided Cecil that way – but instead he let Bradley pop out to third for the second out and then the light-hitting Ross flew out to centre to end the frame.
The Blue Jays opened it up from there to settle things, but prior to that, their entire bullpen strategy revolved around ensuring Cecil was available to face Ortiz.
“Any time Ortiz doesn’t start so you know he’s sitting in there somewhere, and they might have three guys on the team you know there’s no chance they’re pinch-hitting for, so that’s always in the back of your mind,” said Gibbons. “If you spend Cecil (on Bradley), Pedroia’s three hitters away and you probably want a right-hander on Pedroia, so if you use him for those two hitters now he’s gone and Ortiz can be sitting there for Sizemore or one guy after that guy. They’ve got such a balanced team, it’s really tough to match up against them. All their right-handed hitters hit lefties good, and all their left-handed hitters hit righties good. They’ve got that four-man bench so they can counter you any way they want. It was a battle in there trying to figure out how we were going to do this, especially when the primary right-hander was Delabar, and you wanted to save (Sergio) Santos for a save situation. But there was a chance he could have come in in the eighth, too, if we had to have it. So it was a battle.”
Farrell’s hands were somewhat tied with Ross because A.J. Pierzynski was in the game at DH, and moving him into the field in place of Ross would have meant their pitcher would hit. It’s also possible that with first base open the Blue Jays would have walked Ortiz and taken their chances elsewhere.
Either way, Gibbons made the right call to escape the seventh as Delabar did the job, allowing him to keep Cecil for Ortiz if needed.
“If he showed up somewhere along the way, you wanted him, because he’s got the kind of stuff that can be tough on Ortiz,” said Gibbons. “Loup is more of a sinkerballer, they run a little bit softer right into Ortiz’s happy zone.”
Manager John Gibbons spoke to the Blue Jays after their loss Saturday and the way they responded Sunday with one of their more complete victories of the year was exactly what they needed.
Closer Casey Janssen threw his first bullpen session since his rehab assignment was cut short a couple of weeks ago and felt no issues with his oblique, saying everything was “way better than last time.”
He’ll need another side before starting another rehab assignment, but the timeline is still being worked out. As for how he threw the ball Sunday, Janssen said: “I was happy with the way the bullpen went, but not the command.”
The Blue Jays set a big-league record by putting six players from the Dominican Republic in the starting lineup Sunday, per Elias. A seventh, Jonathan Diaz, has a Dominican dad but was born in Miami, while Esmil Rogers closed out the contest with a perfect ninth.
Afterwards, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Moises Sierra, Juan Francisco, Diaz and Rogers all signed the lineup card, which Bautista said would be sent to the Dominican Museum of Baseball.
As for manager John Gibbons’ part in it, he quipped that filling out the lineup “might get me a job in Winter Ball this winter. I’ll be in the next WBC.”
Random thought: after watching how the Raptors win over the Nets was officiated last night, I'm not sure I can be critical of umpires again. Props to the Raptors for fighting through that nonsense - were they waiting for Nets to murder someone before calling a foul? - and tying the series.
Later today at sportsnet.ca, check out Mike Cormack’s look at Juan Francisco and my weekly notes pack, leading off with a look at how much showmanship on the field is too much.