SEATTLE, Wash. — Here I am in the Emerald City for the very first time and looking forward to going out and exploring before the Blue Jays open up the final series of this three-city road trip Monday night with R.A. Dickey going for his ninth win. I couldn’t leave you without some Monday morning reading, though, could I?
In the wake of the 3-4 start to this West Coast swing, I thought I would point out three things that have stood out to me about the entire road trip so far:
The Blue Jays finally got a taste of their own medicine on Sunday afternoon, and it was delicious indeed. The Angels looked as though they forgot how to play baseball for a while there — messing up a pair of rundowns on which they had Jays runners picked off, firing a double play ball into right field, giving up rather huge two-out hits, not being able to shut down rallies and showing an inability to add runs once they’d taken the lead. Seriously, it was like looking in a mirror.
The major difference between the way the Angels played Sunday and the way the Blue Jays played in the three games prior was that most of the Halos' breakdowns happened late in the game, after their starting pitcher had taken things into the eighth inning with a lead.
The Blue Jays, by contrast, have yet to have a starter throw a pitch in the eighth inning on this road trip. More on that later.
Back to the sloppiness, though. Over the course of the last week, we've seen the Blue Jays make the same mistakes outlined above, and we've also seen a near complete unwillingness to even try to hit a cut-off man, an inability to make an accurate throw from the outfield (which doesn't include a couple of balls airmailed into the seats), a propensity to throw to the wrong base, players tripping over each other on infield pop-ups, ill-timed stolen base attempts, meltdowns from starting pitchers and some poorly thought out attempts to try to "make something happen" with aggressive, but very, very risky, plays.
Heck, even in winning two out of three in Oakland to begin this trip, the Blue Jays made six errors -- four of them in their victory in the rubber match.
The Jays' actual play on the field has been excessively ugly this past week, and that can be a sign of a team that has checked out of a lost season. I see it as the opposite, though. Watching the mistakes, it seems as though most are made by players who are trying to be the hero, trying to be the one who makes the great play that finally gets the team on track and moving in a positive direction. They're trying too hard, which in baseball, isn't a good thing.
Mark Buehrle did a spectacular job in Oakland, throwing seven shutout innings in pitching the Blue Jays to their first win of the trip. Dickey went six innings without allowing an earned run the next day. Nobody else has thrown more than five innings in a start on this western swing.
Over the course of the seven games, Blue Jays starters have pitched a total of 34.1 innings -- an average of just under five per game. The Jays bullpen has been called upon to pitch 25.2 frames. In case you're wondering, that's a really poor ratio. Starters should be outpitching relievers at least two to one on a regular basis as far as inning pitched goes, unless there are some serious extra-inning affairs,
It got especially bad when the rotation played "Can you top this?" in the Angels series, with each starter going deeper into the game than the one before, but with the "winner" only going six innings. It started with Josh Johnson failing to make it out of the third inning in the opener, then Todd Redmond couldn't get out of the fourth. Esmil Rogers did get through five, but only after giving up four runs in that fifth inning (including Howie Kendrick's three-run "Little League homer"). Buehrle went six in the finale, but gave up five runs.
The starting pitching that was supposed to be such a great strength of the ballclub instead ranks dead last in the big leagues with an ugly 5.18 ERA.
BRETT LAWRIE AWAKENS
The good news part of this trip -- and hey, they're 3-4, so it hasn't been all bad -- has been the re-emergence of the bat of Brett Lawrie.
The 23-year-old's defence was never a concern, and he's had a seamless transition back to full-time work at third base, continuing his eye-popping brilliance with the glove. His bat was something else entirely, though.
Lawrie never really got going early in the season and struggled mightily in returning from his second stint on the disabled list, starting out 3 for 22 to drop his season line to .199/.260/.360, which is pretty embarrassing to have to look at in late July.
He got two hits the next night to get his average back over .200, where it has stayed, but Lawrie really kicked things into gear when the Blue Jays headed west.
Lawrie has a hit in every game of the road trip, including a leadoff single in the ninth inning on Sunday, kicking off the eventual game-winning rally. Over the course of the seven-game hit streak, Lawrie is batting .360/.385/.640, and now he's home for three days -- or at least as close to home as a B.C. native can get in the big leagues, and that should only help him even more.