The Jays have now managed to win the first two games of a three game series five times, and each time failed to win the third game. Ted Lilly got socked by the Red Sox on Wednesday, May 31, looking bad through each of his 4 innings pitched, luckily giving up only five earned runs. He gave up five hits, donated 4 walks, struck out 3, and gave up two home runs – one to Ortiz, and one to Loretta; Ortiz I can understand, but the homerun to Loretta was emblematic of the way Lilly pitched – it was Loretta’s second homerun this season. Lilly had absolutely no control; he got extremely wild in the fourth inning, giving up three walks in the inning. I have no idea why he was so wild. Lilly has shown a lot of deterioration over the last four games, interspersed with a good outing against Chicago. He should bounce back tho - Lilly is a quality pitcher, and has generally pitched better the second-half of the season. He’ll do what he always does – walk a lot of guys and strike out a lot of guys. Lilly currently has 35 walks in 58 innings, with 47 strikeouts, with a total of 11 homeruns against. That’s a lot of home runs.
The Jays made it a game though. They came back with that excellent offense of theirs, for a 7-5 loss. Lots of Jays players shined in the game, including Rios (3-4, 2 runs scored, BB), Hillenbrand (2-5, 2 runs scored, 1 RBI), and Aaron Hill (3-2, 2 RBI). Needless to say, those three are the hottest hitters on the Jays team right now. Rios is pretty much just keeping up the pace, and Hillenbrand has been on one hell of a streak since about the 18th of May, he’s 4th in the AL in batting average (the Jays have three players in the top ten in batting average: Rios, Hillenbrand, Wells). Hillenbrand is streaky though, no way he’ll end up in the top ten in batting average.
So the Jays failed to sweep. Still, they took two of three from the Red Sox. The Jays have really dominated the Sox this season, going 9-4 (as I mentioned previously, three of those losses were Josh Towers’). Looking briefly one might think the Jays have been lucky, since they haven’t had to face Schilling and Wakefield yet. However, it could be Schilling and Wakefield who are lucky. Beckett has pitched well against pretty much everyone except the Blue Jays. Wakefield and Schilling could be called the best pitchers on the team (rather than Beckett) because they have not run into the Jays yet. Historically, Schilling has not fared very well against the Jays (in his limited time with the Red Sox), so perhaps he is lucky so far this season. But Wakefield has always been tough on the Jays. So the Jays probably have had a bit of luck on that front – but the Red Sox were lucky to face Josh Towers three times. So we’re even.
This non-streaking thing is I think a testament to how well the Jays have really played. After the schedule they had to play until now, and having won at most three games in a row (once), it is rather remarkable that they are 30-23. They are showing a lot of resilience. They lost that game against Boston, which was a tough loss, and they bounce back and swamp the Devil Rays. Well, they waited until the 9th inning, but then they swamped them good, and took the game by a score of 13-4. I mean, really, the Jays beat the hell out of them in that one inning, sending 14 batters to the plate, scoring 9 runs. Thanks to that inning everyone on the team reached base twice over the course of the evening. Reed Johnson hit two homeruns, Troy Glaus had three hits, Hillenbrand had three hits (including a homerun), even Edgardo Alfonzo got a hit (his first with the Jays) and a walk. Aaron Hill continued his upward progress with 2 hits, raising his average to .269. Rios had probably the worst night at the plate out of all of them, picking up only one hit and one walk in 5 ABs. Wells was out of the lineup for the second game in a row, he shouldn’t be out too long, no one seems very worried (he hurt his shoulder on Tuesday, on the swing previous to hitting his third homerun of the game). Reed Johnson filled in more than adequately for him.
Casey Janssen, again I’m touting this kid. But he keeps having good outings. A few were too short though - when he gets into trouble, Gibbons usually take him out, rather than let him work his way out of it. He’s given up only 8 walks (three of which came in a very nervous first start; he has amazing control) in 49.2 innings (8 starts), and only 37 hits. Both the hits per innings pitched and walks per innings pitched are outstanding. It’s too bad he isn’t getting the strikeouts that would really lower his era dramatically and make him elite (he definitely could strike out a lot of guys though – in the minor leagues he was striking them out a just slightly under 1 per inning). He also doesn’t get the ground balls like Halladay does, which bring home the double plays. Halladay has a 2.72 ground ball/fly ball ratio, whereas Janssen has a 1.80 ground ball/fly ball ratio. But with a WHIP under 1, and the Jays having lost two of their original five starters (Burnett, and now Towers), Janssen is likely a mainstay for the remainder of the season. If Janssen can start pitching deeper into games, he’ll be a contender for Rookie of the Year. I know, I know, Justin Verlander, Jonathon Papelbon, etc… but Janssen is at least the equivalent to Verlander, who has had more starts and so more innings, and does strikeout batters more often than Janssen, but Janssen is beating Verlander healthily in WHIP and opponent’s OPS, and basically tied in era. Only time will tell who will come in second to Papelbon, although if any rookie starting pitcher finishes the season with a WHIP under one, he should be the rookie of the year. I just looked up who has a WHIP under 1 right now, in the entire MLB (Janssen I guess is not eligible yet, although he must be close), and the only three starters with a WHIP under 1 are: Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Jose Contreras. You should know how good their seasons have been so far. Those three are closely followed by pitchers with WHIPs slightly over 1: Halladay, Schmidt, Santana, Webb, Schilling, Glavine, Vasquez, Arroyo (Verlander is 19th with a 1.18 WHIP). Janssen would be second on that list with a .91 WHIP. I know, it’s early, but Janssen’s control is bound to keep his WHIP down, and that will lead to success.
Oh, and I heard you mentioning Edgardo Alfonzo on the podcast - one of his RBIs came on a bases loaded walk, the other on a dribbling ground ball.