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Recap: Blue Jays 5 @ Pirates 3 – until Sergio Santos came in.

Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) hits a double in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 2.
And another one gone, and another one gone. Another lead bites the dust.

The Blue Jays had a two-run lead stolen from them by the aptly-named Pirates, as de-facto closer Sergio Santos allowed two homers in the 9th inning in a 6-5 disappointment.

Two long home runs to centre field. Not little squeakers that hugged the foul pole and barely made it over the fence. I’m talking Colby-Rasmus-stopped-running-long-before-the-ball-landed gone.

Gazing at the stat line, if you didn’t know that the game was won on a walk-off homer, you’d look at the hits column and assume a very different ballgame.

When Pedro Alvarez stepped to the plate with one out and a man on base, the Pirates had 3 runs on 15 hits. To say they were due would be an understatement. He’d make it 5 runs on 16, then two batters later, Starling Marte would make it 6 on 17.

That was Marte’s fourth hit of the game – one of three Bucs with three hits or more.

But ignoring the necessity to reassess the ninth inning situation for just a moment, it’s worth noting that up until that point, the Jays made some changes, did some experimenting; and a great deal of it worked.

First off, as DiNic predicted, Brett Lawrie got the start at second base with Juan Francisco getting the nod at third.

Lawrie had two hits and helped turn two double plays; Francisco doubled, walked, and was also in on a double play.

Another attempt to change things up, though done over a couple of days, was bringing up Chris Getz and Steve Tolleson to replace Ryan Goins and Jonathan Diaz.

Tolleson pinch-hit for starter Brandon Morrow in the 6th and had an RBI triple to make it 5-3 at that point. Getz was brought in as a double-switch to play 2nd, moving Lawrie to his natural position.

So with these changes taking place, and with the Jays pitchers only allowing one walk (despite the 17 hits), things seemed to be heading down the right path tonight. And in an NL ballpark too!

Before I get to the break-down, I want to touch on the subject of Gibby, and how I wonder how anyone can really blame him for any of the follies of this team.

I’ve heard the question tossed around that if you’re satisfied with him, would you choose him over any other manager in the AL East?

I don’t know about that, but I don’t think he can be blamed for making a solid lineup – one that he’s not afraid to shake up, either.

Can he be blamed for what’s gone wrong with the bullpen? That each of his most reliable arms have failed him at least once in the past two weeks?

Tonight he handled the ‘pen perfectly. Instead of going with a long reliever in the 6th, he chose Steve Delabar. Brett Cecil pitched two shutout innings. Then he went to his “closer” with a two-run lead.

No, this loss had nothing to do with Gibby, and it’s hard to argue any of these blown leads have.

This bullpen misses Casey Janssen, and until he comes back, it would be wise to shake up the current arrangement.

As Gregg Zaun said tonight, Santos has a great slider, but he doesn’t have the command or learning experience of a veteran pitcher.

As we’ve seen a number of times already this season, there are nights that he simply has no feel on the ball, and there are nights he strikes out the side.

Even tonight, he made Andrew McCutchen look silly for the first out in the 9th. But when he misses his spots (which seems more often than not), good hitters feast on him.

Something’s gotta give.

THE GOOD

– Jose Bautista had two hits and drove in his 19th run. He’s hitting .297 now

– Colby Rasmus hit a two-run dinger to left-centre field – somewhat shocking because he’s normally a pull-hitter

– Brandon Morrow pitched well enough to get the win. It wasn’t a quality start, and 11 hits and 102 pitches in 5 innings isn’t spectacular, but it isn’t a disaster either. He’s got to build off of that. But hey! Only one walk!!

THE BAD

– Steve Delabar allowed two hits in his inning of work. Something’s off about him this year…

– Going 1 for 5 isn’t horrible, but Jose Reyes needs to hit better than .182 for that Marlins trade to not look even worse.

– Rasmus, despite the dinger, struck out twice more, once on an ugly breaking ball in the 9th, to drop his average to .198.

THE UGLY

– Not to completely dwell, but let’s talk a bit about the stat-line on Santos:
–3rd blown save in 8 tries.
–Two long homers to deepest part of the ballpark.
–ERA jumps to 10.61 – He’s now allowed 11 runs on 12 hits in 9.1 innings this season. That’s three homers allowed (He’d allowed only 10 in 145.2 innings entering the season).

– I feel like it’s worth noting the quotes a couple of sources (Shi Davidi and John Lott) pulled up from Brett Lawrie regarding his start at 2nd base.
“I’m a third baseman. I’m not a third base/second base type of guy. I’m a third baseman and that’s my position.
“I enjoy playing the game when I’m not thinking. Second base, you’re worried about double plays, worrying about all these different things, where I’m doing my best when I’m not thinking at all.”
Well, he turned two double plays tonight, and his two hits raised his average to .215.
Maybe he should shut up.

THE NEAT

I mentioned in my preview for Thursday’s game that Steve Tolleson had an interesting history at the plate.

27 hits in 120 ABs, but of those 27 hits, 9 were for extra bases, with 6 doubles and 3 homers.

His pinch-hit RBI triple tonight was the first of his career and made it 10 of 28 for extra bases.

Sounds like the kind of guy you could bring in as a pinch-hitter on a more consistent basis (hint hint, nudge nudge)

THE NEXT

R.A. Dickey (2-3, 5.09) takes on Francisco Liriano (0-3, 3.97) in a battle of tough, skilled pitchers. Dickey spent a while in the NL, while Liriano started with the Twins, so this is familiar territory for both of them.

Dickey looked pretty good his last time out, but I never like the Jays’ chances against even an adequately talented lefty; and Liriano is better than that..

Stay tuned for another 7th Inning Stretch Balkcast coming this Sunday.

Seeing as the closer discussion will likely be front and centre, who do you think should be closing until Janssen returns?

Tweet us your ideas to @JaysBalk and we might just mention them in the poddy!

For Jays Balk, I’m @TheAsherRoth.

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