By: Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Four wins, three losses.
Good homestand or bad?
“Good homestand,” said Jose Bautista, “we’re playing good baseball. Playing well does not always translate to winning baseball.”
The Blue Jays headed for gate F-55 at Pearson International and a San Francisco-bound charter Sunday eve after losing a winnable game to the Los Angeles Dodgers by a 4-2 score. The Jays went 4-3 against the Texas Rangers and the Dodgers now hit the road to face the Giants and the Rangers, but as the buses pulled out it didn’t have the feel of a successful, ‘good job baby’ homestand, mainly because the Jays fell a game below .500.
As for the one that got away ...
Marco Estrada’s solid outing (one run in seven innings)?
That 2-1, eighth-inning, lead thanks to an error by Dodgers right fielder Trayce Thompson as Justin Smoak broke from second with a GO-STOP-GO route home?
Shelved quicker than all the pink bats, armbands, undershirts and plate ump Chad Fairchild’s mask will be come Monday.
With the loss pinned on Drew Storen the Jays bullpen has an American League high of 10 losses.
Yet, the most troubling aspect for the Jays to consider on their six-hour flight west is that besides the bullpen where problems abound -- and zero solutions appear on the horizon -- the top four spots in the batting order were a problem this weekend against Dodgers pitching, two regular, human-like starters, and Clayton Kershaw, who is seeking his fourth Cy Young award in six seasons.
Michael Saunders, Josh Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion were a combined 2-for-13 in Friday’s win as Bautista went deep and Encarnacion doubled.
Kevin Pillar, Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion were 3-for-16 in Saturday’s loss. Pillar and Bautista doubled, while Donaldson singled.
And on Sunday Saunders, Donaldson, Bautista and Encarnacion combined to go 1-for-16, a Saunders single.
That all adds up to 6-for-45 (.133) from the top four hitters in the lineup.
“We’re not going to win anything hitting like that,” said Encarnacion.
Yet, there the Jays were with the narrowest of leads with six outs remaining when manager John Gibbons went to Storen.
Chase Utley walked on a 3-2 pitch to open the eighth and Corey Seager pulled a 1-2 pitch which hopped the right field fence for a ground-rule double.
Gibbons went to his strikeout machine Roberto Osuna in the eighth. As Storen left the mound replays showed him saying something. Was he talking to Gibbons or umpire Fairchild?
“I asked Russell Martin why (Fairchild) didn’t call the previous pitch a strike,” said Storen. “It’s not my job to decide (on the change to Osuna).
“But I trust myself. I’ve been in that situation before and that’s not a knock on Roberto or anyone else. Anyone that wants to come out of a game should not be pitching.”
Osuna was entering the ‘hang-with-em’ zone the kind of situation Montreal Expos reliever Jeff Reardon used to hate: second and third, none out. “Let me get this straight,” Reardon would ask, “I do my job I get a fly ball outs and I get a blown save? I give up another fly ball and they out hang a loss on me.”
Osuna fanned Justin Turner, who didn’t like Fairchild’s Mother’s Day strike zone either, and then what used to happen to Reardon happened to Osuna. Yasmani Grandal hit a fly ball tying the score as Osuna was charged with his first blown save in seven opportunities.
Howie Kendrick singled in a run.
Looking back at the carnage Gibbons told reporters: “We do need (Storen), that’s just a fact. What hurt him today, the lead off walk, same thing as Friday, but he got out of it the save.” Storen saved Friday’s win with a scoreless but cluttered inning.
Gibbons turned to lefty Chad Girodo over Brett Cecil in the ninth as the Dodgers sent 14 men to the plate in the final two innings against the Jays relievers Storen, Osuna, Jesse Chavez, Girodo and Gavin Floyd.
It was a messy finish after Estrada allowed five base runners in the first seven innings.
Who are the most reliable relievers right now to get to Osuna? Chavez, Floyd and Rule V pick Joe Biagini?
“We’ve got a bunch of veterans out there, they know what they’re doing,” said Estrada about his bullpen. “These things happen. There’s times where starting pitchers are struggling and there are times when relievers are struggling and there’s times when your offence is struggling.”
Right now under Estrada’s power-point presentation only the starting pitcher group isn’t scuffling.
“These things happen, hopefully it doesn’t last very long with anybody,” Estrada said, “and hopefully we can all turn things around and play as a group, play together. This team’s way too good not to. once we get things rolling and we all play our game, we’re going to be really successful.”
I remember a few certainties my late mother told me, but I don’t ever recall her saying she was sure that the Blue Jays would be successful.
We know, we know ... it’s early.
With the Jays on the coast we remember what Yogi Berra once said on the coast “It gets late early out here.”