1131 for publication October 16, 2015
“… another magical diving catch by Kevin Pillar. Had that ball made it past him it was headed for the centre field fence.”
Since the Toronto Blue Jays broke training camp in April, we’ve heard glowing superlatives upgraded after each trade or acquisition. Yet it’s still been a rough road to the American League Division Championship.
But laying out an evaluation of the team by position a couple of weeks back, I ended that column with “… It always comes down to pitching and hitting. A betting man has to like the Jays chances.”
Yet true to form the Jays made it hard on themselves to play “small-ball,” the kind of game that makes chicken soup out of chicken droppings.
After a pair of two-run losses at the Rogers Centre, they left their home field advantage in shambles and headed to Texas. There, for lack of a better word, they “clawed” their way to even with a solid two game set in Dallas, and returned home for the real “home game” advantage in Game 5.
That the Jays were lucky to a certain extent is not in question. The old adage says, “you have to be lucky to be good.” Still the remarkable part is they managed to prevail, primarily using their bats. As for being fortunate in game five, the examples are many.
Before any examples of “breaks” are made, turns of luck and good fortune are the result of applying abilities, planning, execution, and follow through. The people in baseball like to call it “percentages,” like righthand batters facing lefthand pitching, or the exaggerated infield shift.
Marcus Stroman wasn’t sharp in the early going, a speed-wobble beginning and fortunate to get out of the first inning down by one with the leadoff Texas batter, Delino DeShields, hitting a double. He persevered through an overall hot-cold performance giving up 6 hits, 3 runs, 2 earned in six innings and shifting from being in trouble to being in control.
Aaron Sanchez in 1.1 innings gave up 2 hits, 1 run. Closer Roberta Osuna in 1.2 innings gave up nothing, striking out four of the five batters he faced including the final out. The pitchers combined ages in order of appearance? 24-23-20 = 67 and those young arms bodes well for the future.
Speaking of arms, also in that earlier column I had noted that Ben Revere’s thrower was suspect. “… Revere’s arm is a drawback on the throw from the leftfield fence or corner to second base, and on-line to home plate or the cut-off man.” On DeShields rocket double, it sailed over Revere’s head, hit the wall and bounced directly back to him as he turned and airmailed a looping throw to ten feet off the pitcher’s mound. That kind of suspect.
But there were other signs of good fortune:
-twice in game five, Texas runners held up at second base rather than challenge Bautista’s arm from right field. Considering the runner has a safer sprint traveling further away from the right fielder with every stride, perhaps it had something to do with those two throws he made to third and home plate against the Yankees in the final days of the regular schedule. Scouting reports don’t lie.
-Russell Martin throwing out Andrus at third made possible by Donaldson’s lightning slap-tag on the foot that stood up to video review.
-Donaldson’s bloop single that barely made the outfield grass, to keep a Jays inning going.
-Encarnacion’s statement homerun.
-Goins performing a picture-perfect backhand short-hop play to strangle a Ranger rally in the 5th.
-another magical diving catch by Kevin Pillar. Had that ball made it past him it was headed for the centre field fence.
-three consecutive disastrous errors in the Texas train wreck that was the 7th inning. Andrus made two, Moreland made the other throwing to Andrus. It loaded the bases with nobody out.
-while Bautista’s dramatic three-run homer in the seventh wasn’t sheer luck, the result was fortunate, and it was about time. The Jays slugger was in a foul-ball, pop-up slump and the power-driven no-doubter was timely.
-not being a fan of post-series splash-parties I did admire the players taking their celebration back out to the field with the fans.
So, today’s the day to keep ‘er goin’ boys. The Mojo is already running.