New-look Lawrie delivers big blow

April 23, 2014, 8:00 AM

TORONTO – In case you missed it Tuesday night, Brett Lawrie is rocking a new moustache.

And after the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman hit the go-ahead three-run homer in the eighth inning of a 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles, “it’s going to be staying,” he says.

“I don’t figure it should go anywhere,” he adds. “It looks pretty good, too.”

What looked better was his swing on home run No. 4 of the season, which put the Blue Jays up 6-3. Even more impressive was the way he shook off the obvious frustration after popping out with runners on the corners to end the fourth – he slapped his hands together was muttering to himself – to deliver the big blow.

In the past, he might have carried those feelings into subsequent at-bats, but that’s an area he feels he’s improved in.

“I think so,” he says. “In that situation (in the fourth), I’m in a 1-0 count and I missed a ball that I should have crushed. For me, recognizing pitches I should be hitting and ones that I should not and ones I should be leaving is part of the game, it’s what we do. We analyze what we do, so yeah, it did frustrate me at the time because we had runners in scoring position with two outs and I couldn’t get a knock. My next AB I got hit with the pitch and then it’s always move on to the next at-bat, keep grinding and there’s always going to be another opportunity. Just have a short (memory), play some defence and get back in the dugout.”

Through five innings, R.A. Dickey was brilliant, holding the Orioles to two hits. Then the sixth inning opened with a miscommunication between Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera on a catchable ball in short left that went for a Steve Lombardozzi double, and a strong night nearly fell apart.

Nick Markakis walked before Nelson Cruz cleared the bases with a home run that put the Orioles up 3-0, and they loaded the bases again in the inning before Jonathan Schoop struck out to end the threat.

The next inning Lombardozzi singled and Markakis doubled to lead things off and end Dickey’s night, and only some Houdini-like relief work by Neil Wagner and Brett Cecil kept the score tied.

Still, more important is the trend of Dickey starting strong and fading later in outings. Coming into Tuesday’s play, the OPS of opponents against him was .536 his first time through the lineup, .740 the second time through, 1.213 the third time through. All the damage against him Tuesday was in the third time through the order.

“A consistent pattern is emerging where I’ll feel like an all-star for the first four or five innings of a ballgame and then I’ll get to pitches 75-100 and it’s like a different human being out there, I’m trying to figure out what that’s about physically,” Dickey says. “But a lot of positives. I’ve felt ever since the Yankee game, I’ve been very close to being consistent, I just haven’t been able to put a full game together yet. I’ll have that one hiccup inning and usually it’s been in a tight ball game and next thing you know we’re down 3-0, 4-0 because I’ve walked a few guys, lost the feel for a minute, and left a pitch up. But a lot of really good things, and traditionally I’m a slow starter, so I have a lot of hope that it’s going to turn.”

Asked if the troubles were related to hitters becoming more accustomed to the knuckleball with each look, he replied: “I’m not as sharp with it, and I don’t think it’s them being exposed, because the pitch does something different in all their at-bats leading up to that third and fourth time through the lineup.”
“It’s much more of a stuff thing for me, rather than a lack of what the pitch is capable of doing multiple times through the lineup,” he continues. “I lose some sharpness in those later innings, those middle innings, those fifth, sixth, seventh innings, but I feel like I’m a good enough pitcher to be able to survive them and give us a chance to win. I haven’t executed a couple of pitches when I needed to lately. But gosh, take away three innings and it’s a whole different stat line. That’s encouraging, I know that I’m very close.”

Maybe Edwin Encarnacion’s first home run will start helping Jose Bautista get some pitches to hit. The extent to which teams are pitching around Bautista is rather staggering.

In the middle of the fifth inning, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons approached home plate umpire Seth Buckminster and asked him to check Miguel Gonzalez’s glove. He did and nothing came of it.

What did the Blue Jays see?

“We saw on the video it looked like he was going into his glove and rubbing his fingers going directly to the ball,” explained Gibbons. “I know guys use stuff to get a better grip, but if you go directly to the ball … we thought we’d take a look. Apparently we were wrong, but no love lost. Worth a look anyway.”

Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out afterwards to see what the fuss was all about.

“He has that right,” Showalter said of Gibbons. “And it usually happens when somebody from your team is complaining and you get tired of listening to it. They’re welcome to any of them. We’ll file it.”

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