The good ship Blue Jay was listing pretty badly when the ballclub got back home from Texas Sunday night, but things appear to be moving in the right direction with back-to-back wins over the first-place Baltimore Orioles to open their current homestand.
Ricky Romero had a tough act to follow, given Drew Hutchison’s fantastic performance in the opener, and the Blue Jays’ ace didn’t quite measure up to his 21 year-old teammate, but he still took a big step forward in allaying any concerns that had arisen over his last five outings, which had seen him issue 24 walks.
Romero came out throwing strikes, and through three innings had given up naught but a solo homer to Adam Jones and had thrown only 40 pitches. No walks, and three strikeouts, and while he did have a hit batsman on his line, it really was an inside pitch that just barely nicked Matt Wieters on the jersey.
The Blue Jays staked Romero to an 8-1 lead through five innings thanks mostly to the fine work of the bottom third of the lineup. None of Brett Lawrie, David Cooper and Rajai Davis actually got out over the first three trips through the order – Lawrie had a double and two singles, scoring twice and driving in three, Davis had three singles and a pair of RBIs and Cooper had two singles, scored a run, drove one in, and reached as Adam Jones dropped his dying quail for an error.
That the bottom of the order came through was huge, because the Blue Jays’ top four hitters managed all of one hit on the evening – a sixth-inning double by Jose Bautista.
Romero took a three-hitter into the sixth, having issued only one walk, but in that frame he allowed a couple of ground ball hits and then a two-out home run to Chris Davis. He didn’t come out for the seventh, but a walk and seven strikeouts over six innings, leaving with a four-run lead, looks very good on him, given how the last four starts have gone.
The bullpen did a solid job holding the lead, though things did get dicey at the end. In the eighth inning, Darren Oliver allowed a couple of hits to bring the tying run into the on-deck circle and Francisco Cordero came on to get pinch-hitter Andy Chavez to ground to second, then struck out Robert Andino on three pitches to end the threat. Cordero did get roughed up in Monday night’s series opener, turning a 6-0 lead into a 6-2 lead, but he has really done a terrific job since losing the closer’s role on May 10. In his 10 appearances since then, Cordero has allowed just two runs on seven hits through 8.1 innings, walking two and striking out eight. That’s very good work.
Casey Janssen came on to work the ninth innning, and behaved like a true capital "C" closer – when you bring them in and it’s not a save situation, they tend not to pitch very well. Janssen didn’t, coughing up a two-run homer to Jones and then putting the tying run on base with a one-out walk before Brett Lawrie made a sensational sliding grab of a foul pop-up by Davis for the second out. Janssen got Wilson Betemit to ground out on the next pitch to end the game. He still hasn’t allowed a baserunner when pitching in a save situation since being named the closer, but having worked Monday night and thrown 28 pitches in this game, he’s likely not to be available should the Blue Jays find themselves needing a closer in the series finale.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure.
Before the game, the Blue Jays made yet another roster move, shipping Eric Thames out to Las Vegas and recalling the well-traveled Mike McCoy. The move was made for two reasons – firstly, the Jays sort of got caught with their pants down Sunday afternoon in Texas, when an injury to Yunel Escobar while Kelly Johnson was already on the shelf forced them to bring Bautista in to the infield and move Lawrie over to shortstop for a few innings. With Escobar nursing a tender groin and Johnson playing through a hamstring injury, they needed more depth in the infield. Thames was the one to go because he hadn’t hit for a month and wasn’t helping the team defensively in the absence of his offensive production. On April 28, Thames was hitting .321/.361/.464. In the month since then, an ugly .196/.242/.304 with 30 strikeouts against only six walks. John Farrell said that Thames needed a breather and that he expects his stay in Las Vegas to be a short one.
The Blue Jays will bring their brooms to the ol’ ball yard Wednesday evening in an effort to sweep away the Orioles, and they’ll be hoping Brandon Morrow can rebound from the worst start of his career to get them their third straight win. Jason Hammel will be on the mound for the O’s. We’ll be on the air at 7:00PM Eastern to bring you all the action – join us, won’t you?
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