There was a moment during the 3rd inning of tonight’s Blue Jays vs Orioles game where – as much as I was hoping it wouldn’t happen – I was pretty sure the Jays were going to lose as a result of what happened on field. Facing rookie Jake Arrieta, the Blue Jays went single-walk-walk from Corey Patterson, Jose Bautista, and Adam Lind (making his long-awaited return) to load the bases with no outs. We’d scored twice against Arrieta already in the first two innings, and the kid looked like he was on the ropes. It was then Juan Rivera stepped up to the plate, and promptly hit a 1-1 fastball into a 5-2-3 double play that erased one baserunner and suddenly put 2 outs on the board. When JP Arencibia (last night’s grand-slam hero) followed with a flyout to right, I thought to myself, “man, I hope that doesn’t end up costing the Jays.”
But who am I kidding, really – you give opposing teams lifelines like that, and there’s going to be a decent enough chance they’re going to come back to hurt. Arrieta would go on to settle down, allowing just a run on 2 hits over the next 3 innings, and the Orioles took advantage of a bases-loaded advantage of their own in the 6th inning that proved to be the difference, as the Blue Jays lost by a 3-5 final score.
The loss was a tough one for Ricky Romero, who had otherwise pitched a solid game aside from a little bad luck and one major mistake. It started off innocently enough in the 6th, with a ground ball single to right from Vlad Guerrero that was just a little out of reach for Aaron Hill. Then Derrek Lee followed with his own ground ball to right. Matt Wieters hit a soft line-drive to left, and all of a sudden the 3-1 lead that the Jays had at the time didn’t look so good anymore. In a mirror play from the 3rd inning, Romero managed to get JJ Hardy to hit into a force out from 3rd to home, but the Jays couldn’t turn 2 because well…JJ Hardy is a tad faster than Juan Rivera.
It didn’t make a real difference, in any case, as Romero served up a meaty fastball up and over the plate for his first pitch to Mark Reynolds, who wasted no time in crushing it to left-centre for the grand slam. It was maybe the only pitch that I’d consider a mistake from Romero, and even though Reynolds has been struggling with hitting to average this season, you don’t usually get away with up and in-the-wheelhouse pitches to power hitters like that; if you’re going to get beaten in a bases-loaded situation, you have to make the opposing batter beat you on a ground ball.
Romero wound up throwing another 1.2 innings, but his line was marred: 7.2 IP, 5 runs on 11 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. Keep in mind that 4 runs came on 5 hits in the nightmare 6th, and you’ll see that Romero was excellent both before and after. The Blue Jays took advantage of a bases-loaded situation last night en route to victory; tonight, their inability to do the same ended up being the major difference as they were unable to mound any sustained offense in the late innings to help Romero out.
Lind’s return to the batting order was definitely a welcomed sight, though it came with mixed results. Lind was 0-for-3 with a walk tonight, and the middle of the the order was largely ineffective, going just 1-for-10 with a couple of walks between the 3-4-5 hitters. Corey Patterson continued his journeyman reinvention tour, going 3-for-4 tonight that included a couple of bunt singles, while scoring a run and driving in one. Aaron Hill, who is continuing to draw the ire of a number of Jays fans, went 2-for-4 today in his attempt to return to productive form. Rajai Davis continued to impress, notching stolen bases #17 and 18 in the same inning while going 1-for-3 – he’s just begging to be moved somewhere in the lineup that’s not ahead of Mike Mccoy (today’s 3B)/Jayson Nix/Edwin Encarnacion right now.
Yeah, the lineup is getting better with the return of Lind, but the 3B issue still has to be addressed at some point. The worst insult of the night came from O’s closer Kevin “7.59 BB/9″ Gregg, who allowed a couple of baserunners in vintage Gregg style, but also struck out JP Arencibia and Encarnacion en route to his 10th save. If there is ever a living argument for the “closer effectiveness is 90% possession of the job”, it’s Kevin Gregg, so you can imagine my disappointment when E5 went down on a swinging strike with 2 on. I mean, just stand there and let him walk you on base – there’s a pretty decent probability of that happening at any time with him!
In any case, the Jays will try to recover from being Kevin Gregg-ed tomorrow, with Jo-Jo “I have 1 win!” Reyes on the mound taking on Jeremy Guthrie. The amount of attention and love that’s been showered by the press upon Reyes (for overcoming all-time baseball futility) have been…inordinate, to say the least. Let’s see if he can back that up with a solid performance tomorrow.