It’s uncanny how quickly fortunes can turn in baseball, no? Just over a week removed from what had been the low point of the Blue Jays in ’11, the team now sits at 2nd in the American League East, thanks to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the opener of a 3-game set at Comerica Park.
For once, we get to stop having to talk about Jose Bautista too! The offense today was supplied mostly by the less-heralded 5-6-7 group of Aaron Hill, Juan Rivera and JP Arencibia, all of whom recorded an RBI in the 8th inning against reliever Joaquin Benoit to break open what was previously a 1-1 tie. Tigers starter Max Scherzer gave the Blue Jays bats all they could handle through his 7 innings of work, scattering 7 hits and allowing just one walk and one unearned run.
It wasn’t until the Jays got Scherzer out of the ball game that they were able to get down to work, started by a Jose Bautista single, followed by a couple of consecutive hits from Encarnacion and Aaron Hill (who is swinging the bat a little better these days), before a pair of sacrifice flies made the game 4-1. It certainly wasn’t quite as flashy as the home runs we’ve had the privilege to see from Bautista over the last few days, but hey, they all count the same on the scoreboard.
The runs would put in line for victory the young Kyle Drabek, who you could say had a patchy performance today. The righty threw 7 innings allowing just a earned run on 3 hits while striking out 2 – which would be a fantastic looking line, had it not been the case that he also allowed a career-high 6 walks. So yeah, it was pretty ugly at times, and Drabek only threw about 50% of his pitches for strikes, but he made it through the start relatively unscathed again in large part because of his excellent stuff.
Now you might be thinking, how come I’m so much easier on Drabek when he struggles with control like he does, but so brutally hard on Jo-Jo Reyes, even though he has similar numbers? Well, you just have to watch the stuff coming out of their hands to understand. Drabek isn’t throwing strikes, but the pitches he throws aren’t the zero-tilt, right over the heart of the plate variety. In just his first year in the league, Drabek already possesses a higher K-rate than Reyes, and holds his opponents to a batting average 30 points less than Reyes. When Drabek has been in development in the league for 3-4 years with well below average results and supremely hittable stuff, rest be sure I’ll be hard on him too.
Drabek actually looked to be done after the 6th inning after running his pitch count up to just over 100, so it was a surprise when John Farrell kept him out there for the 7th despite all of his control problems. It turned out to be the right call: despite the fact that Drabek allowed his 6th walk to lead off the inning, he was able to make it through the next 3 batters without giving up a hit – by doing so, he kept his team in the game at 1-1, and the team gave him the win the inning after.
Frank Francisco did have a bit of a tough time recording the save, allowing a home run to Johnny Peralta and two fly balls that looked much too close to being home runs, but a handshake is a handshake, I suppose. The win is the Blue Jays’ 6th in a row, and the turnaround from the team on the field over the last week that lost 5 in a row has been a night-and-day rollercoaster ride. The Blue Jays will look to keep the momentum going as they go for their 2nd straight series win with another victory over the Tigers; they don’t even have to play Justin Verlander this time!