This is going to be a quick one because I moved home from Kingston yesterday and really haven’t gotten settled in or anything yet. Thus, I’m on a junk computer for the time being. Additionally, I’m still unpacking and exhausted from alcohol, and I’m a little too excited for the Raptors game tonight to think about anything else.
Now, that’s a whole lot of excuses for something that’s really not a big deal, so I’ll get into it shortly, but I wanted to make everyone aware: The Raptors can still win this series. Sure, 3-1 is a big hole and at times they’ve looked awful, but I still contend that when the right lineup is on the floor, the Raps are a better team than the Magic. We’ll see tonight, I guess. Speaking of the right lineup…
Big kudos to John Gibbons for being willing to shake the order up. This is actually a benefit of losing Frank Thomas, who can only hit 4th or 5th, because now everyone in our top-7 has the flexibility to hit just about anywhere in the order. I’ve been upset with Gibbons in the past for too many small lineup tweaks (and this is still the case, to a degree), but a wholesale change to try and shake the offense out of a slump is commendable. It worked out, too. More on that in a second.
Friday April 25 – Kansas City 8, Toronto 4
This was a tough one to swallow, both because the Jays blew an entirely winnable game and because watching this one cost me a few percentages on my Consumer Behavior exam mark the following morning, I’m sure. The Jays seemed to have it wrapped up until A.J. Burnett started throwing cut fastballs. Seriously. Burnett has never thrown cut fastballs, and threw a half dozen or so in that disastrous 8th inning. Why? Who knows, it’s A.J. Burnett. (Note: Burnett has a cutter in MLB 2K8, too, which is just bizarre. He doesn’t throw these!) That wasn’t even the most frustrating part, as Scotty Snake Face did his job, getting a double play grounder that Gritty Pluckstein bobbled. Yes, he makes that play 99.99% of the time, but the reason the team has Johnny Mac is for a late inning defensive replacement. The logic that if the Jays blew the lead they would need Eckstein’s bat in the 9th is ludicrous, since you’re increasing the chances of needing that bat and…gahh, frustrating sentence. Regardless, the Jays only put up four runs, falling victim to uber-rising star Zach Greinke (1 earned over 7). Oh, and Scott Rolen returned to go 1-for-3 with 2 RBI, immediately making him the most productive Jay over the past week.
Saturday April 26 – Kansas City 2, Toronto 1
This one was frustrating because I watched while waiting to drink following my final exam (perhaps ever). Marcum looked freakin’ awesome yet again and has me very excited for his potential this year, something I wasn’t super high on from the season’s outset. Who is Luke Hochevar, you ask? Well, he’s the next pitcher in the long list of “young mediocre pitchers that stifle the Jays.” 11 left on base this game, ughhh. At least Soria’s save had some fantasy value for me.
Sunday April 27 – Toronto 5, Kansas City 2
I felt like Adam Banks at the end of the Iceland game in D2 after this one, yelling “Hey, we got one!” (I was not slashed in the wrist immediately after.) The Jays broke the 6-game slide with some luck and some excellent bullpen work, and the new look lineup debuted to fair results. Rios leading off is a great call if he has the green light, and it allows the 3-6 part of the order to be broken up with an extra lefty. Eckstein hitting 2nd…meh, but the rest looks good and it’s nice to see that nobody (openly) had an ego about the shake up. Rolen looked great again going 2-for-5 with a home run and Rios buoyed the offense with two great base running plays. Litsch looked good for the first time all year, and then the strange bullpen move went down – BJ in the 8th, Carlson in the 9th. Let me explain. Ryan hadn’t worked in a few days and with an off day Monday, the Jays risked him facing the Sox this week without having pitched in a week. If the Jays blew the lead in the 8th, Ryan couldn’t have pitched the 9th, so they had to get him into the game in the 8th. It’s depressing to look at it that way, but the team had lost 6 straight so, y’kno, not a bad idea. It’s also a nice reward for Carlson, who has been insane so far.
No ‘quick hits,’ ‘short hops,’ ‘bunt singles,’ or ‘Josh Towers meatballs’ or whatever I call those point form notes. The Jays take on the struggling Red Sox from Tuesday to Thursday before returning home for a 4-set with the other color of stocking, the Chicago White Sox. The Jays need to take advantage of the Red Sox at their worst right now, and the pitching match-ups suggest they can. It’s Halladay against Lester to start it off, and they also see Wakefield (not in the Dome, thankfully). The Jays pitching situation is somewhat unclear with the off-day Monday as the pitchers are currently out of rotation. Halladay is a certainty, but the team may jump Burnett to Tuesday to re-align the rotation as they want it, pushing McGowan to Thursday. Can you expect a sweep in this series? It’s possible, but 2-of-3 is more realistic and probable. Hopefully Rolen can continue his hot return and the new lineup clicks. Oh yeah, hopefully Lind manages to score that first hit soon, too, because that’s something that can really weigh on a young player mentally.