It’s a good thing, I suppose, that I waited until after the Blue Jays’ recent four-game series in Oakland was over and the team was safely on their way to Tampa, as opposed to blogging on, say, Friday. My spirits are decidedly better after a couple of back-to-back victories to salvage a series split than they were at the tail end of a season-high six game losing streak – even if that losing streak seems to be a more accurate indication of the talent level of the team right now than the consecutive wins would trick us into believing.
If these are the dog days of summer, in keeping with the theme, the Jays are passing off some mongrel mutts as lineups. For instance, it was one thing to carry the rather anemic bats of your Omar Vizquels and Jeff Mathises (Mathii?) in the early part of the season when they were mostly glued to the bench and maybe seeing one to two starts per week. But it’s a different matter altogether to have those kinds of subpar offensive performers dotting a lineup that, on at least one occasion this weekend, was more than half made up of players who started and have spent most of the year in Las Vegas.
And yet. Against a “playoff contender” by many accounts in the Oakland A’s – a team with very good pitching that’s bumping along at eight games over .500 – they split four games on the road, and might have made it three of four given a little more extra inning luck on Friday. I realize this probably sounds a little Pollyannaish, since they also came off three straight stinkers in Seattle, but my point (I think) is that even among those teams considered to be just a cut above the likes of the middling Jays, the gap isn’t that big, and when the Jays are healthy, they’re probably on the positive side of it.
While I’ve got my rose-coloured glasses on, can we put our hands together for Ricky Romero*? With just three hits conceded over an effective seven innings on Saturday (albeit with four walks sprinkled in alongside five strikeouts), our enigmatic ace-cum-whipping-boy had one of his best outings in recent memory. He was TERRIBLE at pitching to the score like Jack Morris would have, as the single earned run he gave up was enough to preclude him from chalking up a much-coveted win. That honour went to Jesse Chavez for his work in extra innings, the reward for which was a convoluted designation-for-assignment. ANYWAY, Ricky pitched well, and he just mostly looked like he was in control out there. He had a glimmer of confidence – dare I say swagger – that had been missing in action for far too long. It was nice to see, and I was probably happier for him on Saturday than any other player on the team.
* NOTE: putting hands together can be repeated in a clapping motion, or hands may be clasped for a longer period of time in prayer for continued improvement. Your choice.
Youth Will Be Served
That’s not to say I’m not also happy for some of the erstwhile 51s who have found their way into the Jays lineup, out of either aggressive escalation of their competition level or sheer necessity due to injury. It’s easy to get discouraged about the recent trajectory of the season and argue over the organizational response, but the upside is that we’re getting a look at some intriguing players. I’m not just referring to Anthony Gose and Adeiny Hechavarria here, who are obviously fascinating if possibly in a bit over their heads in their first tastes of MLB action. I’ve also been interested in Moises Sierra as a potential fourth-outfielder type for a while, and if you can get past a couple of herp-derp plays in the early going for him, he does look the part of a big leaguer just lacking some polish to his game. It may not be the case that the team will have to hang with these kids for too long, provided injuries to Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus are as mild as has been reported and Jose Bautista progresses a little better in his recovery. There remains merit, though, in giving these prospects a taste of the big-leagues to see how they respond. With the Rays, Yankees, White Sox, Rangers and Tigers in the immediate offing, if they’re still here, they’ll definitely get a test.