Six games on the road last week for the Blue Jays, with the end result being a mix of bitter disappointment and joyous hope. With the first three games of the week coming in Tampa, Toronto found thenselves with a chance to take over third place in the division, and maybe start themselves on a roll towards the Wild Card. After taking the first game, the Jays were blown out in game two, before blowing Thursday’s game spectacularly – perhaps the most difficult loss of the season.
But after that carnage came the hope . Travis Snider was once again sacrificed to the minors, but this time coming back in his stead was the man Jays fans have been waiting for all season long. And Brett Lawrie didn’t disappoint, leading the Jays to a series victory over the O’s and back to within striking distance of the Rays.
With the team returning home to play a fairly soft August schedule, the sky’s the limit.
Here are three things from week 19:
Week 19: August 1 – August 7
Record: 3 – 3
1. The Kid Has Arrived
On December 6, 2010 Alex Anthopoulos dropped a bombshell. Gone was Shaun Marcum, the team’s workhorse and most consistent starting pitcher. Coming back to Toronto was Brett Lawrie, Milwaukee’s first round pick in 2008, a top prospect, and a Canadian to boot. Though opening himself up to criticism for fans who wanted to win now, AA must have envisioned all along what Lawrie could provide the lineup. After a tease in Spring Training, and a injury in the minors, Lawrie finally made his debut last week.
The debut of Kyle Drabek was exciting. The debut of Carlos Delgado was memorable. But the debut of Brett Lawrie was off the charts.
Three games. Five hits. One home run. Two RBI’s. A .455 AVG and a 1.182 OPS. Whatever you were expecting from the kid, he exceeded it.
And therein lies the danger. The expectations are enormous. He is only 21 years old, and has played only three major league games. Labels such as “The Great Canadian Superstar” or “Franchise Saviour” might be a little aggressive. Let’s give him a few months, and a few home games first.
After that we can just refer to him as Prime Minister.
2. Ricky Romero – Staff Ace
There is no official definition of a staff ace, no Webster’s or Oxford dictionary entries. But if there were, I would list the following attributes: consistent, dependable, gives the team a chance to win each and every start, stopper of losing streaks, dominant.
Then I would put a photo of Ricky Romero beside it.
Romero has been flirting with the ace label for a while, but was always seen as being one step away. Well, it last week was any indication – he’s made that step.
Romero pulled of two straight victories, pitching eight innings in each start, and giving up a total of five hits with 12 strikeouts. Though his walk total is still a bit high to be considered one of the AL’s elite, it is encouraging to note that he walked zero in Sunday’s start vs. Baltimore.
But what’s even more encouraging, is that with the Blue Jays bullpen in shambles and seemingly getting worse by the day, Romero has decided to take matters into his own hands. He has now pitched at least eight innings in three straight starts (all wins) and seven innings in four straight. His season ERA has dropped to 2.94, and he has moved into the top-10 in the AL in strikeouts.
That sounds ace-like to me.
3. Toronto’s Hottest Hitter – Edwin Encarnacion? What?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Believe it. The much maligned, heavily criticized, and widely scorned Mr. Encarnacion is on a hitting tear. In six games last week, EE posted a .381 batting average, and a .956 OPS with 2 doubles, and 5 runs scored. He walked more times than he struck out, and has now hit safely in seven straight games and 12 of his past 13.
Edwin’s average now sits at a season high .277 and his OPS at a season high .772. He is giving the Jays a bonafide slugger in the middle of the lineup, especially crucial right now with Jose Bautista and Adam Lind both scuffling a bit.
He seems to have found a new home as Toronto’s DH, as he is hitting substantially higher when he doesn’t have to play defense. As a 3B this year, EE was plagued by defensive woes, which obviously transferred over to his hitting (.223 AVG / .678 OPS). But as a DH, Edwin has thrived: .324 AVG / .859 OPS, which makes one wonder how much damage he could have done if installed as the DH back on Opening Day.
Not only has he saved the Jays in recent days with his hot hotting, he has also saved himself. His hot hand is the sole reason why it was Travis Snider, and not himself, who was exiled to Vegas to make room for Lawrie.