The Blue Jays had a strong outing today in Clearwater against the Phillies today with R.A. Dickey and his knuckler looking quite nice and the bats doing the rest of the work. Devon Travis was a standout for the team making plays on both sides of the ball.
The game got underway quickly with Jose Reyes taking Cole Hamels deep in the first at-bat of the game. A Russell Martin strikeout later and Jose Bautista doubled the score with another homer to centre field. Hamels had poor command of his fastball all day and left a ton of pitches up over the plate which were capitalized on by the Blue Jays. Odubel Herrera had a horrid day in centre for the Phillies with a number of ugly diving attempts that resulted in extra bases for the Blue Jays. One such occasion came in the second when Dalton Pompey got to second base after Herrera was unable to reel in the soft liner.
R.A. Dickey chugged along impressively in the first few innings recording a solid amount of ground ball outs and a pair of strikeouts as well. Canadian Phillippe Aumont relieved Hamels in the fourth after the lefty went 3.2 innings allowing five hits and the two earned runs in the first. He also had five strikeouts on the day despite his wild fastball command thanks to a nasty curveball and changeup combo that was making some Blue Jays hitters look foolish.
The bottom of the fourth inning got a little rough for Toronto as Jose Reyes miffed a Chase Utley ground ball that allowed the veteran second baseman to reach safely. After Ryan Howard moved him over, Carlos Ruiz knocked Utley home to make it 2-1. Herrera made up for some of his defensive miscues by knocking home Ruiz to tie the game, with both runs obviously being unearned thanks to the Reyes error. Herrera got picked off shortly after to put himself right back in Ryne Sandberg's doghouse.
Aumont continued into the fifth inning where Jose Reyes hit a double to Herrera and advanced on a wild pitch. Unfortunately Bautista guessed wrong on a few off-speed pitches and struck out swinging to end the inning. Devon Travis made a fantastic play in the bottom half to get the Jays off the field, quickly getting the ball to first base on a slow roller. R.A Dickey also showed a little bit of subtle annoyance with an Aumont inside pitch:
With Seth Rosin (what a name for a pitcher) replacing Aumont in the sixth, Josh Donaldson launched a fastball down Broadway into orbit on a very pretty swing. Danny Valencia followed that up with a single which was eventually followed by a deep fly ball by Travis off the top of the left field wall. Valencia looked like he would easily score but a perfect relay play by the Phillies defenders gunned him down at the plate on a close play.
Jeff Francis replaced Dickey in the seventh ending the knuckler's day with a line of 6.0 IP with five hits and two strikeouts plus the two unearned runs in the fourth. Robert Allen looked mighty impressive today throwing almost exclusively knuckleballs that had crazy movement all day afternoon long. Francis allowed a nice bunt single to Herrera that Donaldson mishandled but otherwise had a good seventh inning showing some nice curveballs.
The Jays got on the board again in their half of the eighth with Justin Smoak doubling home Steve Tolleson (who was pinch running for Josh Donaldson) to make it 4-2. Devon Travis came up next and continued his nice day on both sides of the ball by hitting home a run before Smoak was subsequently thrown out at the plate. The former Mariner certainly does not have speed to burn on the basepaths. Travis was then brought home by Dalton Pompey who continued a nice day with a single to right field.
Southpaw Aaron Loup relieved Francis in the eighth and left a lot of balls up in the zone and got some unlucky bounces on choppers leading to a few weak singles. A couple of ground ball outs brought in a run to make it 6-3 before Loup was able to get out of the inning.
Steve Delabar closed out the ninth inning striking out the side in mighty impressive fashion. He had a off-speed pitch that looked like it had more break than his usual slider to go along with a mid-90's fastball and his splitter. He's staking a solid claim to regain his late-game role he held before last year's implosion.
Some notable lines for the Blue Jays today:
- Jose Reyes was 2-4 with a home run
- Russell Martin was 0-4 with two strikeouts but looked great catching Dickey's knuckleball
- Jose Bautista was 2-3 with a home run
- Josh Donaldson was 1-3 with a walk
- Danny Valencia was 3-4 and has nearly won himself a bench job with the big league squad
- Devon Travis was 2-4 and looked very good in the field as well
- Dalton Pompey was 2-4 with a RBI