The baseball season is long – 162 games long, so calling any game this early in the season a must-win game is a bit harsh. But Sunday’s series finale against the Orioles had that feel to it. A loss would have meant a series sweep – at home none-the-less – to the perennial door mat Orioles, destroying all early season momentum. Some Toronto fans, notoriously fickle, were already starting to waver in their support of the club, and the leak in the bandwagon might have grown if the slump continued.
Thankfully the offense finally awoke, exploding for a seven run 6th inning to pace the team to a 9-2 win and keep the Jays above the .500 mark. Yes it’s a long season, but every game counts, even those in April against Baltimore.
Here are three things from week 2:
Week 2: April 9 – April 15
Record: 3 – 3
1. Bautista Missing in Action
It was a week to forget for Toronto’s MVP. Bautista, coming off back-to-back monster seasons, seemed to pick up right where he left off with a 3 for 4 opener that included a home run and 2 RBI. Unfortunately not much has gone right since. Bautista is still sitting at 1 HR and 2 RBI, and his rate stats are sinking like a stone. In six games last week Bau was 3 for 22 for a .136 average and a .390 OPS and an alarming 5 strikeouts.
To my admittedly uneducated batting eye it looks like a matter of timing. Bautista’s leg kick looks to be either a fraction of a second early or a fraction of a second late, leading to several mis-hit balls, pop outs, and swings and misses. If there is a silver lining, it looks like he is slowly putting things back together. On Sunday he hit a double, scored a run, drew a walk, and smoked a line drive that was right at the third baseman – an out, yes, but solid contact.
Hopefully an off day on Monday will be all he needs to get things back together.
2. Edwin for Life!
While Bautista continues to struggle, along with a few other higher profile Jays, one man continues to dominate. 500 Level Fan’s favourite man, Edwin Encarnacion is off to a terrific start. He leads all starters with a .957 OPS, and his 9 RBI place him in a tie for fourth in the AL. Last week he posted a 1.148 OPS and even threw in two stolen bases for good measure.
Put into context with the struggles of the rest of the team, his hot start is great. But it’s even better when compared with the way he started last season. Edwin didn’t hit his third HR last year until June 25th. At the end of May, he was hitting .247 with a .619 OPS, only 1 HR and 10 RBI. He was playing atrociously in the field, and looked shaken, with little to no confidence. There was even talk about shipping him to the minors or releasing him.
Now, EE looks like a changed man, dripping confidence, and playing with a fire that we haven’t seen in him since arriving in Toronto. What a difference a year makes.
3. Kyle Drabek – Fact or Fiction?
6.06. 1.81. 55. 14.
Those were some of the 2011 numbers of Kyle Drabek. A 6.06 ERA, league worst 1.81 WHIP, 55 walks, and only 14 starts before being shipped to AAA Vegas. After his numbers in the minors ended up looking worse, many fans simply gave up on him. Suddenly, the key piece of the Roy Halladay trade was no longer blue chip prospect Kyle Drabek. It was now catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
It’s still very early, but we might want to rethink that statement. Drabek wasn’t even supposed to make the team out of spring training, but an injury to Dustin McGowan opened up a spot in the rotation and Drabek has stepped in and run with it. Through two starts, he is a perfect 2-0. His ERA is 1.42 as he has allowed only 2 ER in 12.2 IP. His stuff is still nasty, with 10 strikeouts for a 7.1 K/9 ratio. And most important of all, his control looks a lot better too. Thus far he has allowed only 4 walks. His BB/9 is 2.8, far, far below the brutal 6.3 ratio in 2011.
Now, two starts do not make a season, but it’s hard not to be excited with the way Drabek is pitching. He isn’t getting down on himself after allowing a home run, or a timely hit, and he isn’t throwing tantrums in the dugout when things don’t go his way. After Adam Jones hit a 900 foot home run in the 6th yesterday, I was expecting a meltdown that never came.
If Drabek can keep it up, maybe the rotation will be a strength after all.