THE BRONX, NY – For the first time this season, the Blue Jays have lost three games in a row. They haven’t been swept in a series yet, though, and they’ll send a hurting R.A. Dickey to the mound at Yankee Stadium Sunday in an effort to keep that streak alive.
Here are three things that stood out to me about Saturday evening’s one-run loss:
J.A. Happ went out and delivered a quality start at a time when the Blue Jays were desperate to have a starter go out and suck up some innings.
The lefty allowed three runs on eight hits over six innings of work and walked only two, but those two walks turned out to be the difference in a one-run game.
The walks came back-to-back, on only nine pitches, to the first two hitters of the bottom of the fourth - right after the Blue Jays had scored twice in the top of the inning to extend their lead to 3-0 - and were followed by a three-run home run by Travis Hafner that tied the game and set the Yankees up for their eventual win.
Happ didn’t lose the plate for long, although he wasn’t exactly command personified - throwing 20 pitches or more in four of his six innings - but the timing was absolutely terrible and, as it seems to always have happened to the Blue Jays this month, every time a door opens even a crack for the opposition, they drive a Mack truck right through it.
The winning run scored with two out in the seventh when Travis Hafner tripled to deep-right centrefield. It was a long drive and Rajai Davis almost caught up to it on the warning track, the ball glancing off the fingertips of his glove and falling to the ground.
Davis took a circuitous route to the ball, though it must be said clearly that it was by no means an easy play to make. It was a ball that could have been caught and would have ended the inning with the game still tied.
Colby Rasmus, a far superior defensive outfielder, sat on the bench and watched as the ball fell in, unused because the Blue Jays bench is short thanks to Adam Lind being gone on paternity leave and the team having been forced to call up Justin Germano, as opposed to a bat, with Aaron Laffey’s eight-out start having drained the bullpen Friday night.
Rasmus could have been inserted into the game for defensive purposes, but that would have left only Henry Blanco and Munenori Kawasaki on the bench as potential pinch-hit bats in the ninth against Mariano Rivera (though he didn’t wind up pitching).
With Davis having hit in the top of the seventh, though, the odds that he would have faced CC Sabathia again were minimal. But then, with Rasmus occupying his spot, Yankee manager Joe Girardi could have gone to his LOOGY, Boone Logan, with impunity should Rasmus have come up in a tight spot late.
It’s a tough call, and at the time I didn’t think it was obvious that Rasmus should have come in for defence in the seventh, so I can’t rip John Gibbons for not making the move.
NOT THIS TIME
In the sixth inning, Ichiro Suzuki hit a foul ball off to the left side, beyond the Blue Jays’ dugout, that drifted into the stands.
Brett Lawrie gave chase, but slowed up as he approached the third-base camera bay - the same one he fell 50 or so feet into last July chasing a foul ball, knocking him out of action for the better part of six weeks.
The ball fell harmlessly into the seats, and Lawrie had a big smile on his face as he jogged back to his position, saying "nope" to his teammates in the dugout. Not this time.
Lawrie also mimed a throat-slash once he got back to third, as if to say that they would have killed him if he’d gone flying into the camera bay again. Happy times, indeed. Of course, that was when the Blue Jays were in the lead.