* Six outs to go, a two run lead and the Houston Astros took the lead in Aaron Loup's first 10 pitches to win the opener of the four-game series at Minute Maid Park. ....
By Booob Elliott
HOUSTON _ Your 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are a lot like Roseanne Roseannadanna’s catch phrase on Saturday Night Live.
When guest commentator Roseannadanna would go off on a tangent, anchor Jane Curtain would butt in ending the rant. Roseanne, played by Gilda Radner, would always answer: “It goes to show you, it’s always something — if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”
With the Blue Jays one night it’s a starter going four innings.
The next it’s a three-hit offence.
And on this night, this Thursday night in Texas, it was a leaky bullpen.
If it isn’t one thing ... it’s another.
It took only 10 pitches for the Jays 4-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh to vanish. The Astros scored four times for a 6-4 win before 15,777 fans.
When a club like the Jays has this many warts it is the sign of a young team or an inconsistent team fighting to stay above sea level.
The loss dropped the Jays two games below .500.
How leaky was the Jays bullpen? When the Astros opened their new yard it was called Enron Field. The Jays bullpen resembled the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
On came Aaron Loup to protect the two-run lead and the Astros had took over quicker than the rhythmic hand clapping in during the “Deep in the Heart of Texas” played in the seventh inning stretch.
They went single, walk, double, double to take the lead.
Loup allowed a lead-off single to Jason Castro and walked Chris Carter. Preston Tucker doubled home a run and No. 9 hitter Joanthan Villar doubled home two more. Houston scored one more unearned run on a Josh Thole throwing error.
“S--t happens,” said starter Drew Hutchison who saw his expected W turn into a ND (no-decision) rather quickly. “We believe in Aaron. He’ll be out there again next time the situation presents itself.”
Easy on the legs: Before the game former Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus said it was much easier on his body playing on the natural grass of Minute Maid Park compared to the old turf at the Rogers Centre.
There wasn’t any wear on his legs in the top of the first when Jose Bautista stepped to the plate. Bautista hit the first pitch from Roberto Hernandez 395 feet off the first ‘T’ in ASTROS COMMUNITY LEADERS which spread out across the left centre facade.
Rasmus didn’t move as the ball clanked off the tin sign.
Five pitches later Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-1, 89 MPH fastball from Hernandez over the National Oilwell Varco sign in left.
Rasmus didn’t move.
The back-to-back homers by the Jays were the first since Sept. 13, 2014 when Adam Lind and Encarnacion went deep against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Enough: Can we end this talk about Bautista and how he should be placed on the disabled list?
And how he can’t fully extend on his swing.
He turned quicker on the Hernandez pitch than a policeman’s head noticing a cab driving the wrong way down a one-way street with the blinkers on and the back doors open. Later he pulled a liner at third baseman Luis Valbuena.
True the ideal lineup is Bautsita in right field. And true Justin Smoak lost playing time by Bautista’s move to DH.
But who would you rather have up with two out and a man on second? Bautista or Smoak?
Since re-aggravating his right shoulder with what he admits was an ill-advised throw to first base in attempt to throw out Delmon Young, Bautista is hitting .286 (16-for-56) with six doubles, a triple, two homers and nine RBIs. He has an OPS of .881.
Smoak is hitting .191 with a .671 OPS.
Good outing: Four batters into the game Hutchison had retired one man. Out went pitching coach Pete Walker for a mound visit. Now, years ago we recall a writer tracking the result of such at-bats following a visit and asking pitching coach Galen Cisco “did you realize that hitters are 9-for-15 with 12 RBIs after you left the mound?”
Replied Cisco: “how am I supposed to answer that?”
Walker would have a different answer as Hutchison regrouped to strike out Rasmus swinging and Castro looking.
Chicken winging it: While the Jays have not had success in Houston, Encarnacion has. His solo homer in the fifth was his fifth against Astros pitching. He’s batting .366 (15-41) with three doubles and 13 RBIs in his last 14 games ... Third baseman Josh Donaldson is a .356 career hitter against Houston in 38 games, reaching base safely in 32 consecutive contests while hitting safely in 27 of those affairs (he’s hitting .391, with 13 doubles, seven homers, 23 RBIs and 24 walks. Donaldson’s streak of reaching base safely against the Astros tied Bautista 32 straight against the Seattle Mariners.
In Game: Hutchison had maybe his second best start of the season allowing two runs in six innings, He threw 98 pitches 58 for strikes and fanned nine, including his former teammate at class-A Lansing Jake Marisnick three times. He also struck out Carter and Rasmus twice each ... His outing was impressive considering his one-run, 27-pitch first inning. “He was really sticking that heater down in the zone,” said pitching coach Pete Walker, after Hutchison’s season high nine whiffs. Said Hutchison “they swing a lot, I had no idea how many pitches I threw in the first, I was just trying to get out of there with as little damage as possible.” ... Shortstop Ryan Goins ranged far to the second base side -- cutting in front of Devon Travis -- to throw out Castro in the fifth.
Partner Joe to the rescue: The best hands on the field belong to Ryan Goins.
The best set of mitts along press row belong the Joe Siddall.
The Blue Jays broadcaster caught foul balls on back-to-back nights in Baltimore earlier this week. On Tuesday he snagged a foul ball off the bat of Baltimore Orioles Steve Pearce, while his partner who shall remain nameless pulled a C-C (cowering below the counter).
(OK, it was Jerry Howarth).
Siddall was about to give the ball to a fan at Camden Yards when Howarth said since it was the first foul the former catcher had caught in this his second year he should write the date on the ball and make it out to his wife Tamara. Siddall did that.
The next night they were discussing Siddall’s play and shortly thereafter Russell Martin fouled a ball back. Howarth ducked and looked up to see Siddall holding another ball.
“Never have I seen two balls go into the same booth in the same year much less two being caught by the same person on back-to-back nights,” said Howarth.
Howarth’s first game was the triple-A Tacoma Twins in 1974 and in the bottom of the first he hit a soft pop back into the broadcast booth at Cheney Stadium, which he grabbed.
Carl Yastrzemski fouled a ball back at Fenway Park it hit the stick mike and rolled down the counter to Howarth.
Lining up: Manager John Gibbons gave Martin the night off with Josh Thole starting behind the plate ... Jose Bautista was in his 15th game as the DH after aggravating his right shoulder on trying to throw out Delmon Young at first base. Bautista has played 14 games in right.
Numbers: The Astros were the 29th and final team that the Jays played in inter-league play. Maybe it was a good thing for the Jays, who had lost 12 of 20 against Houston and eight of 10 at Minute Maid as Toronto has been outscored 56-26.
Getting drafty: Jays scouts are having pre-draft meetings in Florida. The first Perfect Game USA mock draft has the Jays selecting Cornelius Randolph with their first pick. The infielder, high schooler from Griffin Ga., has above average power. Currently a shortstop he projects as a third baseman or second baseman. None of the three Canadians projected to go in the first 100 picks -- Mississauga’s Josh Naylor, Demi Orimoloye of Orleans, Ont. or Calgary’s Mike Soroka are not lined up with any of the first 42 choices.
Lots of interest: Besides the San Francisco Giants, who signed free-agent lefty Ricky Romero, both the Atlanta Braves and the Kansas City Royals were interested in giving Romero, the former Toronto all-star and opening day starter a chance. “He’ll pass the medical and go out on rehab plus it’s free,” said one scout. “I’m sure more teams that three were in on him.” The Jays will pay $7.75 million US this year and a $600,000 buyout on 2016.
Happy, Happy: And happy wedding anniversary to Margaret and Ron Sandelli, who were wed 50 years ago Friday. Sandelli is the Jays director of security for all areas -- excluding tunnels where the Fenway Fracas took place which led to hitting coach Brook Jacoby being suspended for 14 games for an altercation with third base ump Doug Eddings.
How 'bout them BearKats: There were Blue Jays and at Minute Maid Field Thursday night.
And BearKats too.
Members of the Sam Houston State University BearKats were there to see former BearKat Ryan Tepera of Lake Jackson, Tex. (pop: 27,028) south of Houston.
Tepera guessed about 20-to-30 friends and family were coming to see him in his home state for the first time since his college days, adding “we don’t want to leave the whole town empty.”
His best game in Texas? He remembers pitching 8 2/3 innings allowing one run in a win over the Texas State Bobcats.
Did he ever face the Texas Longhorns?
“Ah, don’t want to talk about the Longhorns,” Tepera said. “I didn’t do too well against them.”
Tepera brought his friends and family to the Rice University campus to see his BearKats face the Hook ‘Em Horns in the NCAA regionals.
He left after 1 1/3 innings allowing six runs on seven hits and one walk in a 13-3 loss.
“Wasn’t too much fun walking off the mound after that one,” he said.
Drafted in the 19th round in 2009, the reliever has worked three scoreless innings since being recalled from triple-A Buffalo.