On Friday, the Toronto Blue Jays were winning a game. This is big news to fans, especially lately as the Jays have endured a terrible stretch aside from the trip to New York and Boston.
They were winning this game versus Detroit, who after the trade deadline has vaulted into the likelihood of Favourite 1 (or Favourite 1-A) to win the World Series. Regardless, they are a powerhouse team… a first place team so they’re good. Toronto beating any team is big lately, but a real good one? This is big news.
They were winning, too, into the ninth inning, which usually means game over since that is Casey Janssen time… and Janssen time typically means shut’r down time. The seven-year veteran (all with the Blue Jays) has 83 career saves, 18 this season, and has been great the previous three campaigns – his ERA is a mere 2.45 combined.
But lately, he hasn’t looked liked Casey Janssen. He has looked shaky at best. And not shaky in the sense that he’s walking batters, but shaky in the sense that he’s getting hit… badly.
Prior to Friday, his last 10 appearances have been underwhelming at best. He’s given up almost a run per outing – more runs than innings pitched. That will not do for your closer… or any pitcher.
Lately, Janssen isn’t so much a hurler as in a pitcher, but a hurler in the sense of the numbers he’s vomiting out. His record was still 3-0, which looks great, but let’s be honest, the wins are mostly, if not all, when Janssen blows the save and the Jays’ bats bail him out and he is the lucky recipient of the W and no one sees the BS stat – blown save, not the other BS – which him getting the win really is. Or the games that the Jays were winning by so much that the games weren’t even save situations, but because of runs he gave up, the save situation is created, which again, is another pretty much BS stat. However, to be fair, Janssen only has two BS stats this season.
Back to Friday, the Jays had worked hard all game and hit pitcher Anibal Sanchez hard. The Tigers had won seven of the last ten Sanchez had started, but the Jays got four off him and looked like they would reward R.A. Dickey with his third victory in his past four starts, a reward for his quality starts as of late (which he has less to show than he has earned).
Janssen entered in the ninth, as is customary, replacing Brett Cecil, who went three-up, three-down in the heart of the Tigers’ order. Also as customary, Jays’ announcers Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler put the curse on Janssen by announcing his last saves against the Tigers and his prior success against the Tigers (Buck and Pat seem not to have knowledge of the word “jinx” as they do this often).
Janssen, with the precursor provided, faced the first batter, J.D. Martinez, who crushed the ball deep to centre field for a double. Alex Avila hit Martinez to third. Then, fireworks erupted from Rogers Centre. The eighth batter in the Tigers’ batting order, the largely feared eight spot (right…), Nick Castellanos, smashed a homer to left field. Bye-bye Dickey’s hard-earned W.
But the fireworks would get worse for the Jays. First pitch, ninth hitter, Eugenio Suarez, crushes a fly ball to centre field off the bleacher. Suddenly, a save situation is converted into a loss situation. Janssen wasn’t done just yet. Ex-Jay Rajai Davis hit a ball hard to centre, but Colby Rasmus got to it. Then, on another first pitch, Ian Kinsler smoked a double.
John Gibbons, a lame duck in that situation, finally pulled the plug on Janssen. Aaron Loup took over to face the reigning triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera and struck him out swinging… just as easy as that.
The Jays had an answer in the bottom of the ninth. Jose Bautista got a hit, and the Jays eventually loaded the bases on Tigers’ closer Joe Nathan. But Josh Thole, Dickey’s catcher weakly popped out, giving Janssen (sorry to say) the loss he deserved, a crushing loss to the Jays’ 2014 season (continue below).
Saturday, the Jays got to host the reigning Cy Young award winner (and maybe the only man to say no to $166 million), Max Scherzer. Scherzer is leading the league in wins. The Jays countered with Marcus Stroman,who may be Toronto’s best pitcher. But he is coming off a stint where he lasted just three-innings, giving up five runs to the lowly Astros. Is Toronto’s phenom hitting the rookie wall?
No, he answered loudly and clearly, in the gladiator fashion of the movie 300. It was a pitchers’ duel as neither team scored until the sixth, where Detroit took the lead. And the Tigers did everything after Stroman quickly put away the first two batters.
The Jays had a two-out rally of their own in the sixth.
After two strikeouts, Jose Reyes hit a single and Melky Cabrera sent a double off the wall in left centre. The ball somehow didn’t bounce over the wall for a ground-rule double. Instead, it hit the top of the wall, allowing Reyes to score easily. Were the tides turning for the bad luck Jays?
Meanwhile, Stroman went three-up, three-down through the ninth inning. This is amazing… and it all came down to the Jays in the bottom of the ninth, yet again. While he was still throwing 97 m.p.h. in the eighth, Scherzer’s pitch count was north of 100. Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus elected to go to his closer, Nathan, despite his shaky outing the day before. The Jays and their fans were thanking God, Allah, and everybody they could think of to see Scherzer go away.
Nathan was a welcomed sight, yesterday’s outing the main reason.
First batter, the leadoff batter, Sportnet’s acclaimed leader of the Jays, Reyes, hit a single, providing the Jays a spark. Then, to steal second base, provided the Jays some real hope (the real hope maybe being that the heart of the order was due up for the Jays). Melky Cabrera advanced Reyes one base closer with a fly ball. Detroit then opted to walk Bautista and face Dioner Navarro. That was fine with him, as he hit a base knock to right field! Reyes scored, and we had a tied game. With runners on and nobody out, the Jays looked destined to walk-off for the victory (when Tip of the Tower editor William Wilson sent an email to his staff asking them to cover the Jays “Assuming they pull this one [off]“).
They couldn’t do it though, despite Nathan loading the bases. Joakim Soria came on for Detroit and shut the door on the Jays (and Munenori Kawasaki‘s impressive 5/9 career total with the bases juiced). Nice work Wilson… if it’s not Buck and Pat placing a curse on the team, thanks for taking their place…
Stroman became the first Blue Jays rookie since 2004 to pitch a full nine innings. He wouldn’t get the win if pulled now – which he was – but his masterful performance will not be forgotten. Aaron Loup entered the fray and despite walking leadoff batter Ezequiel Carrera, Loup stranded him at third base.
Soria curiously suffered some kind of injury between innings, and had to be pulled from the game. The tide of fortune for the Jays smiled on them again. Cold reliever Joba Chamberlain was called into the game (a sight for sore eyes). Danny Valencia was due up for the Jays, and this at-bat had to go better than his first, which he went up and was struck out in three pitches by Scherzer. It did go better, as Valencia reached first on an infield single.
Next up was Nolan Reimold, who, like Valencia, was struck out by Scherzer in just three pitches last at-bat. This at-bat as well, went much better. Reimold delivered a spite shot to left field over the head of Rajai Davis!
Valencia easily scored (bottom), and the Jays did walk it off in the end! The Jays get the big win (and William Wilson’s soul is spared). The man who has to be the most mad in this case is Scherzer, who easily could’ve stayed in the game. I mean, 97 m.p.h. in the eighth!? Are you kidding me! Brad Ausmus – you won’t forget this one.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Jays as they face newly acquired (for… very little) David Price. The Jays send Mark Buehrle to the hill… whose last win I can’t even remember. For more info on today’s matchup, click here.