CHICAGO, Ill. – It was a messy, foggy night at the ballpark on the South Side and another frustrating loss by the Blue Jays was made even more frustrating by the fact that I couldn’t say a word about it.
I’ve had some throat issues before, but can’t remember a time where I had to sit out an entire broadcast because I was essentially unable to speak. I had some semblance of a voice most of the day — enough, in fact, to do a pre-game interview with Blue Jays’ catching co-ordinator Sal Fasano (which was really good, you should give it a listen). When I turned on the mic for Blue Jays Pre-Game Extra, though, nothing came out. Certainly not enough to be able to continue, and Jerry Howarth and Jack Morris did a great job picking up my slack — especially during that fog delay.
And how crazy was that? Waiting out a 70-minute delay as fog rolled in and out of The Cell. The game was delayed because the White Sox had loaded the bases with two out in the bottom of the third and were threatening to blow open a one-run game as the fog got as thick as it had all night. It wouldn’t have been fair to continue at that point, since a routine pop-up could easily have turned into two or three runs. But since they stopped play, they had to make sure that when they resumed, they wouldn’t be in that situation again and there was no way to know how long the fog would stay lifted.
They did restart, and the fog got bad enough again in the bottom of the fifth inning that both Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista lost fly balls in it, but the three unearned runs the White Sox scored in the bottom of the eighth to put the game away had nothing to do with the playing conditions.
It seems that for every two steps the Blue Jays take forward, they take at least step and a half back, and this past week illustrates that perfectly. Last Tuesday in San Francisco Josh Johnson came off the disabled list and threw seven terrific innings, and even though the Jays lost that game because of an unearned run, that was a good sign. The next day, R.A. Dickey was utterly dominant, nearly perfect, in an easy victory that set the team off on a three-game win streak.
It could have been four, though, had they not blown a four-run lead in Sunday's series finale against Texas (with Johnson giving up three-quarters of that lead), preventing what could have been the Blue Jays' first three-game sweep of the season. Then they went out and laid an egg in Chicago.
There has been progress, and there are great, hopeful signs abounding -- like Jose Bautista exploding out of his 4-for-45 slump by reaching base seven times in the last two games, with two home runs and a career-high-tying five RBIs Monday night. Like Jose Reyes and Brandon Morrow heading off to Florida to begin rehab assignments mid-week, like the phenomenal work of the bullpen and the blossoming of Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus.
But then they kick a game away like they did in the opener in Chicago, with Dickey getting lit up for seven runs on 10 hits in just five innings of work (though the conditions were pretty awful, they were awful for both sides) and, again, that ugly eighth inning that turned a one-run game into one the Blue Jays would need a miracle to pull out.
The Blue Jays are better than they were. They're playing winning baseball since hitting rock bottom on May 4, albeit only at 17-15. The long, slow climb back to .500 is becoming a torturous one, though, because although progress has been made, it appears as though we're a long way from consistency.
Hopefully Chien-Ming Wang's Blue Jays debut goes well Tuesday night, and hopefully I'll be able to talk to you about it.