Blue Jays Blow A Pair Of Leads En Route To Extra-Innings Loss To Rays

By Thom Tsang

To say that the Blue Jays bullpen hasn’t had the best of season would be a tremendous understatement. Having gone just 23-for-42 in save opportunities, it might even be an understatement to say that the Blue Jays relief corp have been downright terrible this season. They’ve given up leads like Jo-Jo Reyes likes to give up hits, and essentially everyone in the ‘pen has been to blame for some late-game loss at some point. Yet, the embattled group of pitchers managed to sink to a new low today, recording not one, but two blown saves during this afternoon’s series closer against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brett Cecil and Wade Davis were the starters on the mound today, but it scarcely matters at this point, because we can probably just fast-forward to the end of the game. Tied at 3 in the 10th inning, the Blue Jays got a clutch RBI hit from Colby Rasmus (2-for-5) to go ahead 4-3, only to have our “closer” Jon Rauch come in for the bottom half, and give it right back on the first pitch he threw to Desmond Jennings.

Rauch would retire the next 3 batters, and the Jays regrouped against at the top of the 11th, this time getting some improbable heroics from Jose Molina, who hit a 2-run triple off Juan Cruz to give the Jays another lead in extras. That was going to be enough, right? Wrong. For some reason that I don’t think I’ll ever understand, John Farrell elected to keep Rauch out there to seal up the win situation that he got himself into by blowing the save just an inning earlier. Maybe Farrell thought it’d be a good idea, since Rauch hadn’t thrown too many pitches and recovered nicely from the BS; either way, it was a move of loyalty that backfired. The big righty started things off by giving up a double to BJ Upton, and then a single from Casey Kotchman moved runners to 1st and 3rd with no out.

Only after Matt Joyce brought the Rays to within a run with a ground out, did Farrell finally decided that he’d seen enough, bringing in Shawn Camp for the save. Camp being himself, he would then give up a RBI single to another rookie, Robinson Chirinos, for his own blown save of the afternoon, before almost flat out losing the game after Desmond Jennings followed it up with a double. The Jays narrowly escaped the jaws of defeat once again, despite the blown save.

That’s not a problem for Camp, who opened up the bottom of the 12th inning with a flyout, and then promptly got back to the business of losing the game, by allowing a triple to BJ Upton. After the team decided to intentionally load the bases, Chirinos finally put the team out of its misery with a RBI single – his 2nd in 2 innings.

Normally, you might say that the loss was a shame because it was a close battle, but it really wasn’t the case here. This was a game that the Jays should have won in the 10th, and frankly, one that the team deserved to lose. There is no excuse for the total lack of major league competency that has been shown by the collective that is the Jays bullpen this year – you thought Frank Francisco was bad? Rauch isn’t that much better – he just hadn’t been put in a spotlight role until recently, and now that he has, there’s nothing to suggest that he should continue to get the ball in the 9th for the duration of the season.

So who do you go with? Not Camp, and not Jesse Litch. Maybe Casey Janssen? He has been, by far, the best Blue Jays reliever this year (which isn’t saying much), but it’s hard to imagine a guy who gives up a hit every inning being effective in a high-leverage role. But hey, why not? It’s not like anyone else can get consistent outs in this comical display the team is calling a bullpen right now.

Oh, and Bautista hit his league leading 33rd HR of the season today, too. Not that it mattered much, though; as long as the bullpen are going to excel at blowing leads, anyway.

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