1. I woke up this morning, checked the standings, and couldn’t believe what I saw. Yes, I knew what the Pirates were doing this year, but to actually see that the Pittsburgh Pirates are in first place – in print with my own two eyes! – was shocking. It’s one of those things that even though I know it to be true, I still don’t believe it is. With a record of 50-44, the Pirates are a half game ahead of Milwaukee, and in first place this late in the season for the first time since 1997. It took them until September to win their 50th game last year, and they now have three more victories than the Blue Jays. Crazy.
2. Their are plenty of ties between this years Pirates team and the Jays. Lyle Overbay plays first for Pittsburgh. Chase d’Arnaud, brother of Jays minor league catcher Travis and former college teammate of Eric Thames, plays third. Long-time Jays coach Nick Leyva coaches third.
3. Of course, the most important tie between the clubs for Jays fans happens to be a man named Jose Bautista, who the Jays acquired from Pittsburgh in 2008 for Robinzon Diaz. That worked out pretty well…
4. Speaking Bam Bam Bautista, the Jays slugger makes his return tonight from the ankle injury he suffered on Thursday. Replays looked pretty scary, a near 90 degree bend of the ankle, leading some to speculate that a trip to the DL was in the cards. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
5. In order to give his ankle a bit of a rest, Bautista returns tonight as DH instead of 3B.
6. Jose has DH-ed once this year, when he returned from a back injury on May 8th. He went 1 for 4 with a 2-run HR in that game.
7. With Bau at DH, there is a bit of a lineup shuffle tonight. Edwin returns to third to replace Bau. Eric Thames, who had been DH-ing on the weekend, moves to RF. Travis Snider will make his first career start in CF. Snider has played all of 5 innings in centre in his career (all this year). Many think he might wind up there eventually, so tonight is a good “let’s see how he does” chance.
8. With Snider in CF, that means the hugely disappointing Rajai Davis will be on the bench tonight. His .233 average and .605 OPS are career worsts, and with 25 steals, he has a long way to go to hit the 60 mark that many (including myself) thought he would reach.
9. But as disappointing as Davis has been he is far from the Jays most disappointing player. That nod goes to Aaron Hill, who has followed up last years horrendous season by putting up an even worse OPS and only 4 HR. Awful.
10. That 2B performance makes us long for the days of Roberto Alomar, the iconic second baseman who will now have his number 12 retired by the Jays. The ceremony (announced today) will take place before the game on July 31.
11. Alomar, of course, helped the Jays to back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993. But his most famous moment was likely his HR off Dennis Eckersley in the ’92 ALCS,
12. 1992, coincidentally, was also the last season that the Pittsburgh Pirates finished over .500. Until, maybe, this year. At least that’s what the standings tell me…