To be completely honest, the last few years, I had been slacking off at seeing Jays games—maybe one per season if I was lucky. This year, however, rising gas prices included, I've already seen two—a Sunday afternoon against the White Sox, and a Saturday game against the Cubs.
In both instances, I wanted to reintroduce a variance on the running diary that I developed (or at least I think I did) last season when I saw A.J. Burnett produce one of his gutsiest performances as a Blue Jay—the inning-by-inning breakdown, along with pre and postgame thoughts.
It turned out that last night was the perfect game to start it, too, as the Jays did something that they haven't done all season, and unlike the two previous games, the crowd was pretty solid.
-As we drove through Brantford, we stopped at a Subway. Instead of poking fun at Jared or the ridiculous monkey commercials, Trevor and I ended up discussing whether or not Nuke LaLoosh would have blown out his arm over his major-league career and would have needed to be converted to a closer.
Trevor says no, as his mindset for the job would have been terrible, and he's better suited as a long reliever. I say yes, because he's got a few of the assets a good closer needs—he can bring the heat, he's a little wild so he can make the game interesting, and he's a nut job—needless to say, even if he became a closer, I think his inability to comprehend the role (which, I'm hoping he wouldn't) helps him immensely.
-Does anyone remember Lance Painter?
-Vernon Wells' performance this week will determine whether I keep him or try and deal him in my fantasy league. He's had one solid game in the past month really, so I'm interested to see if he can turn it around and have a solid second-half.
-The fact that we make Jesse Carlsson carry the Dora the Explorer backpack pregame is disgraceful. The fact that Carlsson looks like he doesn't quite know what's going on is hilarious. The fact that I've already finished my cheese fries makes me nervous about tomorrow morning.
After Alyson Stoner threw out the first (or second) first pitch, we found out the she's just as tall as David Eckstein—and she's fourteen. Following that up was an Aubrey Huff solo home run.
I feel reassured—too bad it takes a career to be able to afford getting drunk at a ball game.
Another item to add to the Cool Things That Could Have Happened if We Had Kept Reed Johnson list: with the injury to Aaron Hill, our leadoff hitter (Inglett) and our No. 2 guy (Johnson—or whatever order they would have come up) would have both been wearing knee-highs.
This is almost as cool as the time the color commentator for a Red Sox game a few years ago pointed out that half of the Sox infield wore knee highs, and no, this is not irrelevant.
I'd also like to say that Joe Inglett should be endearing himself to Toronto fans right about now. The guy is the only one in this game hitting over .300. He runs like the wind and he just lays out for everything. Apparently Cito thinks he can really play, too, based on his .377 batting average in June and the fact he's started something like 10 of the last 17 games at second base.
To further cement his 'legacy' (for lack of a better word), Joey scores the game-tying run on a Vernon Wells singled after an Alex Rios strikeout.
Remember a few months ago when Rios ended the game with a strikeout-looking with two out, bases loaded, on a 3-2 count because he "wasn't looking fastball"? He's still not sure if the fastball is coming.
Luke Scott strikes out in a three-up, three-down inning, and Trevor and I score delicious blue slushies—all for the low price of $4.50 each!
Scott Rolen drew a walk to lead off the inning, and then proceeded to steal second base as Lyle Overbay, or 'Highly Overpaid' as we've sometimes heard at Jays games, strikes out.
What's really impressive about Rolen is that he's second to Mike Schmidt amongst third basemen who've hit 20+ homers in a season and won a Gold Glove in the same year—Rolen's done it six times. Not bad, eh?
Top Third: Hmmm...for a multiple-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman, Rolen doesn't square up so much as he SWIPES BACKHANDEDLY AT THE BALL!!
Maybe I'm blowing it out of proportion, or maybe I'm just irate at the two unearned runs for McGowan, but still—that's a very makeable play for a guy like Rolen.
In other news, the new Batman movie looks amazing. I just thought you should know that I get to watch the trailer in between innings.
In other, other news, Ron Wilson (you know, the new head coach of the Maple Leafs) was at the game and received cheers from the crowd when he was on the Jumbotron. Too bad it took him a solid 45-seconds to notice.
Well at least Joe Inglett didn't have to worry about tiring himself out running a lot this inning—after a leadoff single by Joey, Marco Scutaro immediately grounded into the old 6-4-3 double play.
Alex Rios lined out after that too—just figured you should know that at least he's swinging at the fastball now.
Melvin Mora singles in the fourth and comes around on Adam Jones' RBI double to increase the Orioles' lead to 4-1, while we notice a trend that has a lot to do with September callups—most guys hit their first home run off someone obscure: You know, the Juan Moreno's and the Pedro Borbon's of the world?
Granted, something like that isn't completely unexpected, but it'd be interesting to see the percentage of guys who hit their first home run off of pitchers who've thrown less than three years in the majors.
In other, much more relevant news, the slushie guy tells me that there's "No antioxidants in the slushies". Hey it's Toronto—that's probably a big selling point.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Toronto Blue Jays! After leading off with a walk, Vernon Wells (maybe I should have started him today) came around to score on a Rod Barajas single. Adam Lind then proceeded to ground into an inning ending, bases-loaded 5-4-3 double play.
In light of bringing Cito Gaston back though, maybe we should bring back the rest of the Level of Excellence. Dave Stieb is bound to have a few good innings left in him, right?
Dustin McGowan is done after 60-something pitches. Granted, he didn't throw exceptionally well, but he threw well enough to give us five innings, didn't he? Who am I kidding; Brian Tallet just went one-two-three to end the fifth.
Not only does each team have their second baseman who is wearing number one leading off, but they also had their one-two-three guys go one-two-three to end the fifth. The only thing that salvaged this inning was the "ICCCCEEEE......CCCCCCOOOOOOOLLLLDDDDDD.......BEEER" guy who takes his job so seriously, I think he could be the next great wrestling announcer with a voice like that. Watch out Jim Ross.
Good God, it's a Coors.
Another one-two-three inning for Tallet, and we get to find out that the Oakland A's have traded Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden to the Cubs for Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, and Josh Donaldson.
I guess in three years that A's will have turned Sean Gallagher into an ace and will be shopping him around the league, too.
Bottom Sixth: On a long fly ball from Vernon Wells that curves foul, I shout "Carlton Fisk it". Me, Trevor, the guy to my left with his girlfriend, and Chicago Cubs fan (from Chicago) behind me are the only four people in the stadium to get it. What's cooler is that the Cubs fan was eleven when it happened and we got to talk about the great Reds and Red Sox teams of the '70s, which then leads into Gibson's homer. All that is surpassed by one Matt Stairs at-bat though...
Me: Ugh...F-6. You sunk my battleship.
Trevor: Dude, are you going to say that every time that happens now?
Me: Nah, I'll just be sure to whip it out every few innings.
Trevor: Do you want to rephrase that?
Me: I'd really rather not.
The bases are loaded for Nick Markakis, and I just decided to announce that if he homers, I'll eat my shoelace. Thankfully (thankfully?!) he singles, and I've still got both laces, but the Jays are now down 6-2. A 6-3 putout from Kevin Millar (who's a great guy to watch before the game because he just has so much fun out there) ends the inning before any more damage can be done.
Thanks Jason Frasor.
If you haven't seen the clip of the peanut vendor going behind his back with the bag of peanuts, I suggest you YouTube it now. And I really do mean right now, as this is going to get slightly confusing.
To put what's about to happen in context, the Jays are a team that hasn't been able to mount a comeback after the seventh inning this season.
Barajas starts the inning off with a single, while Lyle Overbay proceeds to flyout to left, followed by an Adam Lind single, and a Joe Inglett flyout.
Two-out, two-on, and time for the same old Jays, right?
Marco Scutaro walks, and Alex Rios works the count to 3-2, and BELTS a FASTBALL into left-centre for a bases-clearing TRIPLE. But it doesn't stop there folks, as Vernon Wells drives Rios in with a single.
Game tied 6-6.
Following another single and an HPB for Scott Rolen, Barajas caps the bat-around with a 6-4 putout, but the point is that, despite Trevor pulling a Jamie Campbell and saying "maybe this is the game they come back" during the seventh-inning stretch, the Blue Birds have made this thing a game.
The Orioles can't leave the infield, getting retired on three straight groundballs. Being excited going into the bottom of the eighth is foreign in Toronto this year. There's a weird feeling here, but maybe it helps that the crowd is actually behind this team tonight.
I couldn't look away if I tried.
The Jays score three-straight flyouts, but the mood was lightened by probably the best sign I've ever seen created:
For a good time, don't call my ex.
The man holding that is a genius.
I'm officially scared now. The only real news that came out of that inning was that Jay Payton played on the same team (Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets) in College that Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra did, in the season that those three catapulted the Jackets to the College World Series.
Poor Nomar. He had a good career, too, until it got derailed by injuries and Mia Hamm.
U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" seems to be the song we play when it's time for our team to thrive in a big moment, which got me thinking about inspiration things you could say to this song while in the dugout, and I came up with this:
"Tonight boys, there's one street with a name. It's called Victory Lane. I'll see you there...."
I'd walk out at the end of that line to have to team score a riveting comeback. I'm a Tom Landry-style hat, a Gene Hackman mustache, and a movie contract away from making this happen.
Following a Marco Scutaro strikeout, Alex Rios draws a walk, and up comes Vernon Wells. Wells follows in the footsteps of Scutaro, but in the process, the ninth-inning steal of second by Alex Rios happens—which is one of the most underrated on the list of "most exciting plays in baseball" (ask Boston Red Sox fans about Dave Roberts and 'The Steal'...don't tell me they don't agree).
The Orioles don't want to pitch to Matt Stairs, so they intentionally walk him, putting two-on and two-out for Scott Rolen, who's mired in a mega-slump lately.
But I guess all you really need to break out is a well-timed Freddy Bynum error.
Euphoria erupts as we watch the ball scoot into the outfield, as Bynum doesn't even bother to stand up from fielding the ball—I know exactly how he feels, too.
To be honest though, there's too much going on in the stands for me to care long enough. There's high-fiving, there's screaming until our lungs hurt, and there's a sense of this being a turning point in the season.
Don't ask me why, but it just had a different feeling at the game, like this team was prepared to gut out the tough wins now, after three months of not being able to.
In all likelihood though, I'm getting ahead of myself—I've sat through the games where the Jays looked like a real team and looked to have the ability to turn it around, and then I was mired in disappointment the next few weeks after all that promise went to waste.
Who knows though? At least we got a real baseball game that got the people on their feet before the season ended—I was worried it would never happen.
-As we were driving home, we tuned in to AM 590. Needless to say, whoever the late-night guy is on that station is very in love with Derek Jeter, vehemently defending him being the best choice to be a leader on a new ballteam.
Given the choice of any player from any era (I'm not sure if that was the argument or not) I'd take Johnny Bench. If it had to be the current era? I may take Pudge Rodriguez, while a caller made a few good points about Jason Varitek. I would probably just go with a catcher in general though.
The big argument was "stats outside the scoresheet", but no one on the field is supposed to be smarter than the catcher—a smart catcher can make a lot of things happen, and a smart catcher with a great arm can intimidate the other team.
In no way am I saying Pudge has the best arm in the business, but if we're talking "outside the scoresheet" stuff, then catchers give confidence to your pitching staff, the ability to notice patterns, and so many little nuances that otherwise go unnoticed.
Am I saying Jeter isn't a great leader? No. I just wouldn't go with him as my first choice.
-Apparently McGowan left with soreness in his shoulder. That's definitely reassuring.
-I still don't like Mike Wilner, but I can at least appreciate him a little more. He does put up with a lot of strange calls and impractical ideas from some callers, which is tough. In a position like that, it has to be frustrating to keep getting the same people calling in with the same ideas to solve something that isn't quite controllable in the game of baseball. I guess you have to give credit where credit is due.
-Melky Cabrera and Coco Crisp need to play in the same outfield at some point in time, and someone needs to draft a kid with the nickname of Snickers. That'd be the tastiest outfield ever.
Pasqual Coco and Pedro Borbon (Senior and Junior) would be three other members of the "Cadbury All-Candy Team".
It's just a thought, after all.