In the last full week before the All-Star break, the Jays rebounded nicely from a dismal Week 13 to finish 3-3 in Week 14 of the schedule (July 5 – July 11). Taking into consideration the opposition – two legitimate contenders in Boston and Minnesota – a .500 record isn’t all that bad.
So at the break the Blue Jays sit at 44-45, exactly the same record they had through 89 games in 2009, and about 10 or more games ahead of where most experts thought they would be. All in all it was a successful first half for the Jays. They lead the league in home runs, are sending three players to Anaheim for the ASG, and are a fun exciting team to watch – all setting up for what should be an entertaining second half.
Here are three things that emerged from week 14:
1. Effing Red Sox
It doesn’t matter where. It doesn’t matter when. Toronto just can not beat Boston this year. The Red Sox came to town on the weekend with multitudes of their annoying, rude, and obnoxious fans, and promptly took two of three, including a Friday night massacre. The 14-3 loss was the worst this season for the Jays, and would have looked a lot worse if not for a few late game home runs.
Toronto is now 2-7 on the season against the Red Sox, including 1-5 at home. The record is very discouraging because for the most part the games have been close. Boston has outscored the Jays 54-37 this year, but 11 of those runs came Friday. Five of the six losses have been by two runs or less.
That tells us that though Toronto has been competitive they still lack the finishing power against good teams. In other words they still have to learn how to win. With nine games remaining against the Red Sox they still have plenty of time to learn.
2. Growing Pains for Ricky
Ricky Romero was cruising along this season until last Saturday. Heading into that game he had was 6-4 with a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts. Then he went out and got blown away two starts in a row, the latest coming on Friday night against the Red Sox. In each of those starts Romero failed to make it out of the third inning, combining for 5 IP, 13 ER, 5 BB to 5 K, an ERA of 23.40 and a WHIP of 3.40. His season ERA rose all the way 3.71.
If it’s true that all young pitchers go through growing pains then this should just be a bump in the road for Romero. Plus, there are three “silver lining” items to prove that things aren’t all bad:
1. The Boston game wasn’t as bad as it looked, with four of his runs allowed being unearned and Brian “I can’t get anybody out” Tallet letting in a few of his baserunners. Let down by defense and bullpen.
2. The early exits will keep his total innings down.
3. According to Richard Griffin, Joe Girardi named Romero one of the great young pitchers in the game today. Not bad…
3. HR Derby Continues
A lot of debate, disappointment, and anger around Toronto these days due to Jose Bautista’s exclusion from tonight’s MLB Home Run Derby. I wrote a post about it yesterday. But for a moment let’s stop talking about Bautista, and start talking about the Blue Jays’ proficiency at slugging bombs. When April ended and Toronto lead all of baseball in HR (35, one ahead of Arizona) people thought it was a fluke. The Jays were supposed to struggle offensively. They would slow down.
Then Toronto went out and slugged 54 long balls in May to extend their lead. While they did slow a bit in June (26 HR, T10th in MLB), they are back with a vengeance in July, with 21 bombs in only 10 games. Critics around baseball now have to take notice – at this point in the season it is no longer a fluke. The Jays power is for real.
Toronto took it to another level last week. They slugged multiple home runs in seven consecutive games, one shy of the franchise record of eight, only to have the streak stop on Sunday. The Jays could only manage a single blast yesterday, a two run HR by Aaron Hill. In a year when offense is down across the board, the fact Toronto continues to belt home runs at such a terrific pace is nothing short of amazing.