Last week was a very strange week for the Blue Jays.
Two off days (a two game series sandwiched between two off days???? Really???) and a rain out shortened the schedule to only four games – a bonus considering the state of the rotation right now.
There was the refreshing change of domination, as the Jays shellacked the defending champion Giants. That was sadly followed by a regression to what the team was doing in April, with a short two game sweep by the Yankees. Frustrating – very, very frustrating.
With seven games on tap against AL East rivals Tampa Bay and Baltimore this week the Blue Jays must ensure that they show up to play, or they could end the week buried in a massive hole.
Here are three things from week 7:
Week 7: May 13 – May 19
Record: 2 – 2
1. Bullpen Woes
The Jays went 2 – 2 last week, and while taking both games against the defending World Series champions is always great, the bullpen made things much more interesting than they should have been. On Tuesday, Brad Lincoln allowed four runs, trimming a 10-2 lead to 10-6 and forcing the introduction of Esmil Rogers. Then on Wednesday, Mickey Storey tried his best to let the Giants back into the game by allowing two runs of his own.
Overall, the Jays pen allowed seven earned runs in 10 innings last week, an ERA of 6.30. With the coming (and eventual going) of Storey, Toronto has now used 14 different relievers in 2013. While the top dogs – Janssen, Delabar, Loup, Cecil, and Oliver - have been very reliable, the other two (or three) in the ‘pen have been downright terrible. Esmil Rogers, Ramon Ortiz (in his lone relief appearance), Brad Lincoln, Edgar Gonzalez, Sergio Santos, Mickey Storey, Dave Bush, Justin Germano, and Jeremy Jeffress combined to toss 48.2 innings, with an ERA of 6.10 and a WHIP of 1.66.
After the Sunday rainout, the Jays begin a stretch of 14 games in 14 days, and are still without Josh Johnson. Depth in the bullpen is huge in stretches like that, and having the back end allow runs at that rate will not help the team win. Better production is no longer a nice to have – it is a MUST have, and the solution, interestingly, might be from within. Oft-injured reliever Dustin McGowan has pitched 3 innings in Dunedin and Buffalo in the past week, allowing only 1 hit, 1 walk, and striking out 5. Is he the answer?
2. Divisional Problems
The Jays entered 2013 as one of the favourites to win the AL East. Through seven weeks of the schedule, they find themselves in dead last, 10 games back of the Yankees. While a lot of things have gone wrong so far this year, the biggest reason they find themselves at the bottom of the division is their inability to beat the teams within it.
After their mini two game sweep at the hands of New York this past weekend, Toronto dropped to a miserable 1-8 against the Yankees. Add to that a 4-5 record against Boston, 1-2 against Balitmore, and a 2-2 mark against the Rays. and Toronto is a disappointing 8-17 against their fiercest rivals. That will not get it done.
If there is ever going to be a chance to set things back on course, it has to start now. The Jays welcome Tampa Bay and Baltimore to the dome for seven games this week. A winning record is mandatory, and anything less than 5-2 will be a real disappointment. There is some good news, however – they can finally say so long to the Yankees. The two clubs don’t meet again until August 20th. Hopefully by then Vernon and Lyle will be back to the normal, terrible, selves.
3. Waiting for Brett
.193 / .256 / .360 / .616
That is not the slash line that anybody expected out of Brett Lawrie in 2013. Yes he did miss the first bit of the season, and yes he didn’t get much of a spring training to get going. But he has now logged 125 plate appearances on the season, so the sample size is getting larger…and the production numbers are not.
He got off to a great start last week, going 4 for 8 with two runs and two doubles against the Giants, but was once again overmatched by the Yankees: 0 for 7 in two games. He is still providing great defense, and his energy levels remain through the roof, so it’s not like he is pulling the team down in a myriad of ways. But a few more hits would be nice.
They say that baseball is a very mental game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Brett’s struggles are in his head. Looking up at the scoreboard and seeing a batting average below the Mendoza line is enough to make a guy press harder. As soon as that average ticks above that mark, maybe into the .210′s, I think we’ll see Brett go on a huge hot streak. In fact – it’s a 500 Level Fan guarantee!