The Whole Sad Story
Victor Zambrano made his first start for the Jays, albeit a short one, and the Jays were again unable to win a close game late, dropping their second straight to the Cleveland Indians, 7-6.
Zambrano was lousy, the only saving grace was that he was on a 60 pitch count, so he was out in the 3rd for Josh Towers. Zambrano walked 3 in 2 2/3 innings (to be fair, one was intentional), struck out only 1, AND surrendered 4 hits, not to mention throwing a wild pitch with runners on. He was getting good late movement on some pitches, but Fasano repeatedly set up outside, and Zambrano kept leaving it over the dish. The guy is the combination of wild inside and outside the zone, and would've gotten bombed if he'd stayed in, in my opinion.
Towers was all smiles as he trotted in, even laughing it off when Clayton muffed his second play of the game. His smile faded, though, the following inning, when McDonald was unable to play a ball of 2nd base and, after a Victor Martinez single, Alex Rios ran a fly ball down but, in his haste to make the throw in to get the runner tagging up from 3rd, dropped the ball. Of course, Jhonny Peralta followed up with a towering 3-run HR over the leftfield wall to erase all the Jays' good work and give Cleveland the 2-run lead.
The Jays tied it up at 6 the following frame though, as Wells, Glaus, and Hill all doubled. Downs trotted out for the 6th and looked very good, striking out Sizemore and Delucci. He walked Hafner on a 3-2 pitch, then got Victor Martinez to ground out to preserve the tie. Downs also struck out Trot Nixon to start the 7th, but with 4 righties coming up, Gibbons came out to take the ball from Downs and give it to Tek Janssen.
Janssen immediately got into trouble, surrendering sharply-hit singles to Garko and Peralta. He showed poise in boucning back to get Casey Blake looking, and then, facing Josh Barfield, induced a heartstopping drive deep into the gap that Adam Lind just ran down. Lind seems to have improved substantially in the outfield from last season, by the way.
Janssen got into a little more trouble in the bottom of the 8th when Sizemore singled to lead off the inning. However, Hill made a great play to force Sizemore at 2nd, Hafner hit a drive into the gap that Lind ran down, and Hill made another great heads-up play when Overbay muffed an easy grounder to close out the inning.
The Jays managed nothing in the 8th and 9th, and Accardo forced extras with yet another extremely sharp inning. Both he and Downs have yet to be charged with a run.
The Jays finally started something in the 10th with 2 out, when Vernon Wells walked and was singled to 3rd by the Hurt to bring up the struggling Overbay, who lined out to left to end the threat. I have never seen a team do so much of its rallying with 2 outs.
The Jays lost it in the 11th, with Shaun Marcum taking the hard-luck loss. Delucci lead off with a broken bat bloop that Vernon Wells couldn't come up with, and with the shift on and Delucci running on the pitch, Hafner hit a little bleeder down the line. No one could get to it in time, and Delucci scored the winning run. A tough loss.
Clayton Watch :
Royce Clayton has had some bad games as a Jay, but this was the worst. He struck out in his only at-bat (he also had a sacrifice bunt, but how bad are you when you are in the AL and your manager asks you to bunt in the 2nd inning?) He also made two terrible plays at SS, although one was scored a hit as a result of charitable scoring. On both, Royce failed to get in front of the ball. None resulted in a run, but we know Royce can't hit, and he hasn't been even average at turning the double play in some years, so if he is unable to make the basic play, we're better off with a McDonald/Smith, McDonald/Adams, or McDonald/Olmedo platoon.
Waxing/Waning Gibbons :
I loved Gibbons move of pinch-hitting Stairs for Clayton in the 5th inning with the bases loaded. The Jays had been leaving many on-base, stranding 9 through the first 4 innings, and Clayton was stinking up the joint anyway and is just totally replaceable by McDonald. Even if you need to pinch-hit for McDonald later, you still have Smith on the bench (although Stairs is really the only decent hitter on the bench anyway - I guess Phillips could pinch-hit against a lefty.) Stairs rewarded Gibbons with a patient (dare I say gritty) at-bat in which he walked, and Fasano followed up with another patient at-bat to give the Jays the lead.
I even liked Gibbons use of Smith to pinch-hit for Fasano in the 9th with 2 out and no one on. Smith's only real skill is his isolated power against righties, as he stinks at getting on base and his strikezone judgment is awful. Batting before the top of the order, it was a fair shot that he would get a fastball to drive.
Jays of the Day : Accardo and Downs were both splendid, combining for 3 1/3 innings of no-hit, 5K, 1BB ball. Frank Thomas had a very good day at the plate.