In Toronto’s ongoing quest for what could be called an unlikely .500 finish in 2010, week 25 (September 20 – 26) was a rousing success. True, the Jays were playing two of baseball’s bottom feeders, but the sign of a good team is one that beats up on the also-rans. Baltimore and Seattle certainly fit that category.
The 5-1 week pushed the Jays record to 80-75, not bad for a team expected to win 60-65 games. Toronto now finishes off its schedule with two of the toughest teams in MLB, with three at home against the hated Yankees, and then their first ever visit to Target Field to face the Twins.
Here are three things from week 25:
1. Milestone Day in Canada
September 23 was quite a day at the Rogers Centre. Not only were fans treated to a rare 1-0 victory, but they also got to witness first hand a dominating game by one of baseball’s best pitchers (Felix Hernandez), and two significant milestones.
In the bottom of the first inning, with two out and nobody on base, Jose Bautista launched a majestic fly ball into the Blue Jay bullpen – his 50th home run of the season. J-Bau became the 26th player in MLB history to hit the 50 HR milestone, and the first since 2007. He also became one of the most unlikely 50 HR hitters ever, considering he only slugged 16 all of last season. But remember – he hit 10 in September alone last season, and now has 62 bombs since he started getting regular playing time. This is no fluke.
Later, in the fifth inning, Ichiro stepped to the plate sitting on 199 hits and promptly laced a single to centre field. The hit made him the first player in history to record 10 straight 200 hit seasons, a feat for which the Toronto faithful richly rewarded him with a standing ovation.
Not a bad day to be at the ballpark.
2. Baltimore Beware in 2011
To say that Toronto owned Baltimore this year would be an understatement. 18 games played, 15 wins, and 93 runs scored. It was complete and utter domination.
The Jays wrapped up the season series with a three-game sweep over the weekend, but if you think the affairs were simply between two teams playing out the string, think again. Sunday’s game was full of bad blood that just might carry over to the 2011 campaign.
After Jose Bautista was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the 3rd inning, Shaun Marcum instantly retaliated, beaning Luke Scott with his first pitch of the 4th. Fast forward to the 5th – with Bautista at the plate again and facing a 2-0 pitch, he was plunked for the second time by Alfredo Simon. The Orioles pitcher, and manager Buck Showalter, were instantly ejected from the game. I’m not sure how Bautista prevented himself from charging the mound, but cooler heads prevailed.
But the incident clearly irritaed both Bautista and Marcum, judging from the post-game interviews:
Marcum: “It’s horsesh*t. It’s something we’ll remember for next year. I guess that’s how they do things over there. We have a little more respect for the game.”
Bautista: “Maybe it’s cause we kicked their ass this year. We murdered their pitchers pretty good all season.”
All signs point to a fiery 2011…
3. Closer Controversy?
It’s a bit late in the season, but it looks like we might have a closer controversy in Toronto. After nailing down the save Thursday afternoon, Kevin Gregg struggled on Friday night. With two-on, two-out, one run already in, and a 2-0 count on the batter, Cito removed his closer in favour of Jesse Carlson, who nailed down the save.
On Sunday, with a 5-2 lead, it was Jason Frasor who was brought in to finish the game, not Gregg. According to Gaston, Gregg just “needs a couple of days off” because he threw a lot of pitches this week. But with an offseason with plenty of questions looming, one has to wonder if the last few days were really meant to get Gregg some rest, or if they were meant as a quasi-audition for next season.
Time will tell.