Toronto Blue Jays Thoughts, April 19th Edition: In Which Henderson Alvarez Steps On Dynamite

By Thom Tsang

If you thought things would get better for the Toronto Blue Jays after Brandon Morrow’s not-so-great start against the Tampa Bay Rays, you probably won’t want to read on too much further for my thoughts about the rubber match…

Henderson Alvarez had gotten by more than smoothly over his first 2 turns despite a miniscule 2.77 K/9, largely due to his excellent control (1.38 BB/9) and ability to generate weak ground balls – his .190 BABIP is indicative of that; of course, it’s also indicative that Alvarez has probably been the recipient of some good ol’ fashioned luck from the baseball gods. That 4.52 xFIP Alvarez walked into tonight with was going to catch up with him at some point, and that point just happened to be today’s 9-4 loss. Despite just a pair of walks, Alvarez had trouble keeping the ball down over his 6.1 innings, and as with his first two starts, could not avoid giving up the long ball, giving up a pair of homers in the 5th inning, the first a solo shot by Desmond Jennings, and the 2nd – and more decisively – a 2-run bomb from Evan Longoria. That pretty much capped an ugly night for the young righty, who posted a final line of (6.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2BB, 4K). Alvarez had no problems generated ground outs otherwise (12-3 GO/AO), but when you give up enough hits, eventually they’re going to stack up against you. It’s not like you thought he was going to strand 89.7% of runners for the rest of the season, right? Then again, he did get hit in the face on a throw to the plate…

– 5 straight hitless games, and one relatively-harmless-fat-joke-gone-wrong later, JP Arencibia has decided enough was enough. He wasn’t about to let Jeff Mathis show him up as the offensive-minded catcher much longer, and got on the right track with a pair of hits against Jeremy Hellickson of the Rays, including a RBI double in the 4th inning. With the 2-for-4 night, JPA nearly doubled his batting average to date…to a still paltry .111 – still, it’s only 12 games into the season (10th for JPA), and we’ve seen him put together some pretty impressive hitting streaks before – it’s simply too early to worry about this sort of thing.

– …besides, both Jose Bautista (0-for-3, 2 BB) and Kelly Johnson (1-for-5) are hitting below .220 to date, and we’re not worried about them, right?

– Rookie reliever Evan Crawford looked decent in his debut back on the 15th, but was less so today, after allowing a pair of walks (plus an intentional one to Longo) in an inning of work. He did get out of a bases-loaded, 2-out jam against Luke Scott in the 7th, but deceptiveness is only going to get him so far. He’ll have to exhibit better control and willingness to attack hitters if he is to try to gain a larger role in the bullpen.

– and now, your semi-regular Travis Snider update: 11 games, 3 HR, .432/.490/.773 – even for the PCL, it’s still pretty impressive. Meanwhile, Eric Thames has an OPS of .587. Can’t imagine that Thames won’t get better as the season goes along, but I also can’t imagine Snider being much worse in the bigs either. Travis is the better defender, is younger, with the bigger upside – the Blue Jays have done the yo-yo act with him since he first made his debut, but I imagine they can only keep a 1.263 OPS guy in Vegas for so long.

The Blue Jays are probably pretty happy to not have to see the Rays this weekend, after dropping the 3-game set and exiting with a record of 6-6, good for 4th in the AL East. The team will be in Kansas to take on the Royals this weekend with the hopes of getting back on the winning track. At least we’re still ahead of the Red Sox!

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