Summer is ending and it looks like the Jays are finally rounding into playoff contention; playoff shape anyway. With hopes of winning the division nearly unattainable and 12.5 games back, it appears that the Wild Card is the best the Jays can do.
The Friday night game was the first playoff like atmosphere the team has had in a long time. A series sweep would place the Jays in serious contention. With their number three Shaun Marcum on the mound and having struggles since coming of the disabled list, the hope was to battle through this game and get a win. Prior to his month long sabbatical on the DL, Marcum has gone to the sixth inning, in 14 of his 15 starts. Since returning, he has a 6.19 ERA and has given up 25 earned runs with 23 strikeouts and 16 walks across 36 1/3. Not typical Marcum numbers. On this night he did not even last four innings, allowing six runs on six hits. The Boston offensive was lead by homeruns from Dustin Pedroia (13th) and 11th homer of the season from struggling Captain, Jason Varitek. Newly acquired Paul Byrd, was his usual hard-working self, nothing flashy, but getting the job done for six innings, allowing four runs on six hits in six innings of work. Through Marcum’s struggles in this game, it was the Blue Jays league leading bullpen with an ERA of 2.98 that let them down this game. Shawn Camp who’s ERA has gone up nearly a half a run since the All-Star break, (3.65 to 4.03), gave up the final two runs of the game that put game one out of reach.
Game two brought different fortunes as the Jays showed signs of their high-powered offense that was talked about in the pre-season, led by Vernon Wells; 4 for 5, 2 homeruns and 3 RBI’s, Lyle Overbay; 3 RBI’s, and Kevin Mench with 2 doubles. Jesse Litsch, who was just recently recalled from a Triple-A stint in Syracuse, was back to normal, with a very efficient six inning, three hit performance with no runs allowed. John Lester on the other hand, had a very difficult day to say the least, not even making it out of the third inning, giving up seven runs. A bad performance on the mound was followed by an anemic performance at the plate by the Sox who managed only four hits on the day. Notably, Kevin Youkilis, who has picked up the slack since Manny Ramirez was traded, went 1 four 4 with 3 strikeouts.
Sunday’s game three had the makings of a tremendous pitchers dual, starring A.J. Burnett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. A.J. Burnett who has an opt-out clause in his contract that has two years remaining, is 4-0 in his last four starts and is trying to guarantee himself a big payday this off-season. A strong final month could make that a reality. A dual on paper, began just like the previous game, with the Vernon Wells show. Another two-out, two-run homer in the first inning to give the Jays a quick 2-0 lead. Burnett who has been lights in his past ten plus innings, quickly gave away the lead in a rough 3rd inning giving up a three-run homerun to Dustin Pedroia, his 14th of the year, and second in the past three games. Burnett and Dice-K, both ended the day giving up five runs, but once again it was the Jays phenomenal bullpen that kept the game in check. Scott Downs who has been nearly perfect since the All-Star break with a ERA of 0.56, shutdown the Sox for the 8th and 9th, while Red Sox Closer Jonathan Papelbon kept the Jays at bay, shutting them down in the 9th on nine pitches and the 10th on six pitches. On this day, it was the Red Sox bullpen, and a replacement at third base that would get them the win. Brandon League of the Jays gave up the game winning home run to Mike Lowell replacement; Jed Lowrie, his 2nd of the year. Manny Delcarmen got the save in the 11th, concluding the extra-inning thriller with a strikeout out newly acquired Jose Bautista.
The Jays conclude this series pretty much where they started, eight games back in the Wild Card Race. A day off is followed by another important series with the Jays visiting the AL East leading Rays. The Rays seem to have the Jays number once again this year with a 9-3 record, and 3-0 against Jays Ace, Roy Halladay (5.32 ERA in 3 starts).
Probables for the upcoming series are;
By Devon Teeple
MLBcenter.com Toronto Blue Jays Correspondent
Devon Teeple is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network which includes the Biz of Baseball, the Biz of Football, the Biz of Basketball and the Biz of Hockey. He is also a intern with the Football Outsiders and collaborator with the Plymouth River Eels. Devon is available as a freelance writer and be contacted via email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org