At the outset, last week looked like a tough test for the Jays. Three games in Chicago against the red hot, first place White Sox, winners of 10 of their past 11 games coming into the series. That was followed by three games in Atlanta, a team that Toronto always struggles against in dreaded Interleague play.
So when you look at it that way, a 3 – 3 record on the road trip can be seen as a success. However, the fact that the Jays lead two games late and lost both on walk-off hits showed that the chance was there for much, much more.
Disappointing, yes. But crippling? No.
Here are three things from week 10:
Week 10: June 4 – June 10
Record: 3 – 3
1. One Huge Inning
Call it anything you want, but there’s no denying just how huge the fifth inning of Sunday’s game in Atlanta was. And I’m not just referring to the number of runs (6) or hits (7).
Coming into that inning, the Jays were floundering. They had lost three straight games, including two via walk-off hits. They already trailed the Braves 4 – 0, with Ricky Romero on the ropes and looking very shaky with 8 hits and 2 walks allowed. A loss would mean a sweep at the hands of the Braves, four straight losses overall, a drop back to the .500 mark, and absolutely no momentum as they headed home to face the red hot Nationals.
But something happened. Maybe it was the fact that Romero gutted out a strong end to the bottom of the 4th, escaping a bases loaded, one out jam with no runs surrendered. Maybe something was said by a coach or a player. Or maybe the team just decided that enough was enough – losing was not an option.
Whatever it was, the Jays responded in a big way, scoring 6 to take the lead, and pave the way for a rout. The 18 hits were a season high, and the 12 runs were the second most this year.
More important was this – there’s no telling how our fickle ban base would have reacted to another loss. Thankfully the guys stepped up and spared us from finding out.
2. Middle Order Mashers
Raise your hand if you can remember seeing this happen this season: the first two batters get on (for the most part Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar) only to have both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion strike / pop / ground out. Just when you think a huge rally is about to get started, the big boys screw it up. I can remember it happening on multiple occasions.
Well, hopefully it will be no more, because finally – FINALLY – the middle of the lineup bombers are hitting….at the same time. Though Edwin has been raking all season long, Jose was off to a slow start. I think the slow start is over…
Look at the numbers put up by the two last week:
Bautista – .261 AVG / .379 OBP / 1.075 OPS, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 R
Encarncacion (only 3 games) – .462 AVG / .500 OBP // 1.115 OPS / 0 HR, 1 RBI, 3 R
But it hasn’t only been last week. Since May 15th the two have been clicking:
Bautista – .280 AVG / .358 OBP / .971 OPS, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 19 R
Encarncacion – .325 AVG / .400 OBP / .988 OPS, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 12 R
The pair are suddenly the most powerful teammates in the American League, having combined for 34 HR and 88 RBI. The 34 bombs are more than Hamilton and Napoli on Texas, Cano and Granderson on the Yankees, and Dunn / Konerko on Chicago.
With the sluggers nice and hot, one would think that wins are sure to follow. After all, if we could win with Bau doing his best Johnny Mac impression, surely we can win with him back to normal.
It’s a question that must be asked: What’s up with David Cooper? Is he the real deal, or is his recent hot streak just a mirage?
The recent call up has not looked out of place at all in Toronto’s infield, providing more power, contact, and patience at the plate than Adam Lind did when he was here. To date Cooper is hitting .333 with a .893 OPS and 2 HR. He hit .333 with a .945 OPS in four starts last week, reaching base at a .412 clip.
The sample size is incredibly small, but what has impressed most so far about Cooper are his splits. Against righties he is hitting .333 with a .940 OPS. Against lefties he is also hitting .333, which – as a left handed batter – is a blessing for Toronto fans, especially after seeing Lind whiff so often.
Of course we should keep our expectations tempered, but there are some reasons for optimism. Cooper was a first round draft pick in 2008, which isn’t all that long ago. In other words, he hasn’t been languishing in the minors for a decade. He also won a batting title in AAA Vegas last season, so success isn’t unprecedented.
Besides, we don’t need him to be an All Star.
We just need him to be better than Lind.