The Blue Jays were supposed to beat the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
After all, their ace, Roy Halladay, was on the mound to pitch the opener of the three-game set against the reeling Rangers, who had gone 2-7 in their past nine games.
In fact, the Rangers needed to rally from an eighth-inning, 5-3 deficit just to beat the Royals on Sunday and avoid an embarrassing sweep.
Also, Halladay was trying to become the first four-game winner in the majors this season, and set the tone for the series.
Sure, there are some concerns on the Jays, particularly Alex Rios' slow start to the season—he is hitting below his weight (.207 batting average going into Tuesday's action, vs. his listed weight of 215) and the pitching injuries with Jesse Litsch joining Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan on the sidelines.
Regardless, Doc was the one sure thing. With Halladay going on Tuesday, surely the Jays would go 11-4 on the young season.
The Jays offense has been leading the way so far, and surely another double-digit effort in runs was possible, right? Especially against a guy like Brandon McCarthy, who was just 14-20 lifetime with a 4.56 ERA. Not an ace or anything, obviously.
The Rangers' own ace, Kevin Millwood (1.17 ERA), isn't even scheduled to pitch in this series, having thrown on Saturday.
Another interesting tidbit was the Rangers have a habit this year of giving up a ton of runs in the opening games of a new series, as they'd already lost 15-2 (Detroit), 10-9 (Baltimore), and 12-3 (Kansas City) in such contests. Ouch.
The one tidbit that came to play on Tuesday night though, was actually Doc's mediocre lifetime record against Texas. Halladay was a pedestrian 7-6 with a 5.34 ERA versus the Rangers, and that ERA was Doc's highest against any team he's faced more than four times.
Well, as it turned out, Doc would be 7-7 against them by the end of the night, with that ERA climbing slightly.
The Rangers touched Halladay up for five runs in eight innings, with Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler tagging him for two-run home runs. Halladay gave up five extra-base hits in total. Ouch.
Toronto had a chance to rally in the eighth, down 5-3, to bail out Halladay, as he's done so often for his team. The Jays scored a run on Adam Lind's RBI single and loaded the bases with one out.
The 2008 Blue Jays would have choked in that bases-loaded scenario. No way would the 2009 edition let that happen.
Now, after Lind's hit off mediocre reliever C.J. Wilson (aren't all Rangers pitchers other than Millwood horrible?), Rangers manager Ron Washington gambled and brought in closer Frank Francisco, who gave up a single to Scott Rolen and a walk to the batting hero from the last couple games, Lyle Overbay.
Bases loaded, one out!
However, Francisco came back and retired both Rod Barajas and Travis Snider to keep the score 5-4 for the visitors.
Interestingly, the Rangers elected to bring in their closer an inning early, which sometimes backfires and the manager gets scrutinized. Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, however, this time it worked out for Texas. Barely.
(The Brewers using one of their relievers—Todd Coffey—to get an eight-out save last week—because Trevor Hoffman is on the DL—sure reminds old-time baseball fans of a totally different era, doesn't it?)
By the way, Wilson, the Rangers' left-handed specialist, doesn't even have good stats. 6.02 ERA last season, and 5.68 in 2009 going into Tuesday's action (yes, his high ERA this year was due to two poor outings, but he was due for another one anyway, if you looked at his pitching log).
Yikes. It would have been interesting to see how he would have fared had he stayed in the game for more than the one batter he ended up facing.
And oh, that eighth-inning drama wasn't all.
Aaron Hill's double off Francisco with one out in the ninth put the Blue Jays back in business. Rios, however, could only ground to short, moving Hill 90 feet away from plating the tying run.
But Vernon Wells popped out to end the contest.
Yes, Rios got a big RBI double to help the Jays rally in the third inning, but he was only 1-for-5, and his batting average, guess what, dropped. And advancing a runner to third is okay only if there was none out, not when there was already one out as was the case in the ninth.
Overall, a disappointing game. A game the Jays could have won.
Look at the bases-loaded situation in the eighth.
Look at the blown opportunity with Rios and Wells coming up in the ninth.
Weird stuff happening in the game:
-Who says an umpire's job is easy? The game was delayed for 10 minutes in the sixth when HP ump Kerwin Danley was hit on the head by Hank Blalock's broken bat. He had to leave the field on a stretcher. Yikes.
Last April 26th—almost one year to the day—Danley was taken off the field on a stretcher too after he was hit in the head by a Brad Penny pitch. He also left a 2006 contest after being hit on the collarbone by a pitch. Wow.
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