Not really Ernie Whitt. But I imagine him often sophistically engaging in informative MLB talk. Especially the Toronto Blue Jays. Follow on twitter @EWhittExchange. *I am not Ernie Whitt.*
Photo credit: thestar.com
An 11 game winning streak comes and goes quite quickly, apparently. The Jays fought and scratched and clawed and got themselves up to a 38-36 record, two games above .500 for the first time this season and at one point, 3.0 games back of a Wild Card spot.
My, how things change.
The winning streak was incredibly important as it put the team back into a competitive position leading up to the all star break, and a couple key series against AL East rivals. They swept the Baltimore Orioles for wins 9, 10, and 11. Great. Back in the mix. Following this great feat of 11 straight wins, the Jays moved into Tropicana Field, where they have fared absolutely dreadfully over the past few years, for three games against the Rays, whom they had temporarily overtaken in the standings.
Before I get into the negatives, I will happily acknowledge R.A. Dickey’s first complete game shutout as a Toronto Blue Jay. After two straight losses in Tampa, Dickey completely shut down the Rays’ bats with a dominant performance, giving up only two hits on the way to a 3-0 Jays win. Again, another brief glimpse of why he signed on with this team. A note to Rogers Centre people or whoever it is that makes these decisions: close the roof when Dickey is on the mound.
Now, this is where things start to fall apart and glimpses of the Blue Jays of April and May start shining (dully, I might add) through. Starting pitchers fell apart, the bullpen all of a sudden was marginally hittable, and the bats went silent. (Ace-mil) Rogers, although not terrible, looked more like a spot-starter pulled from the bullpen when he gave up 4 R and 3 BB in 6 IP, paired with a dreadful lack of run support (the Jays managed one hit through seven innings).
Buehrle followed that up with a nightmare, reminiscent of April type start and the Jays’ bats again went silent, managing only six hits and one run for the game. Clearly, five runs is not enough to win a series.
Brett Cecil gave up a run. That’s all I have to say about that.
And then into Boston. Oh how I hate it when the Jays lose to Boston. Two games into this pivotal series, and two more losses to show for it. Chien-Ming Wang’s sinker went flat in the opener and that was a complete disaster as the Red Sox jumped out to an early and insurmountable 7-0 lead.
Game two saw a lot of the same. As they loved to do throughout April and early May, the Jays managed to dig themselves a hole early with poorly executed pitches and not coming up with base hits when they needed them the most. Although clawing back to tie the game after going down 5-0 early, it just wasn’t to be as the bullpen allowed far too many base runners and handed the Red Sox the runs they needed to win the game.
And José Bautista. He is having a heck of a time at the plate. Not only during this short skid they’re in now, but really since he hit the big top of the 9th game tying home run in Chicago that started their streak. In his last ten games he’s hitting a measly .135 with 1 home run. Not something you’d expect from your biggest star and supposedly top run producer (although Encarnacion is quickly usurping him of that). Just watching him at the plate is enough to make you cringe. His timing is off, he’s not seeing the ball well and swinging at bad pitches, and he’s pulling off the ball horrendously. His stride is taking him to the third base side dugout and it ain’t pretty. Time to square up and hit strikes into the gaps and over the fence like we all know he can. It’s time for him to step up and lead this team.
The winning streak saw the Blue Jays pull to within 5.0 games of the division lead, and it has since (quickly) fallen back to 8.5 and they’re in real danger of falling back to the daunting double-digits mark before the end of the weekend.
It’s one thing to go on a long winning streak to gain ground and give themselves hope for the second half of the season. It’s another thing, however, to maintain that ground once they’ve achieved it against division rivals in the most important games they’ve played thus far in the season.
That’s why these last two games in Boston are so important before going home to face the powerhouse Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre, where they’ll surely run into some great starting pitching. Let’s hope another streak is in the mix somewhere soon, because the Jays are starting to look sloppy and lose ground quickly on what they worked so hard to gain.
I didn’t even mention Kawasaki. Huh.
Go Jays Go!