Sports

BASEBALL

Rangers avoid being swept by Blue Jays

By Mike Rutsey, Toronto Sun

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nick Martinez (22) throws during the third  inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nick Martinez (22) throws during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Park in Arlington. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

ARLINGTON, TEX. - 

There are times when baseball can be the cruelest of games.

Sunday was one of those times for Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey.

Through his 61/3 innings against the Texas Rangers, Dickey allowed just two balls out of the infield, yet left the game trailing 4-2 with one out and runners at second and third.

The lone balls that left the infield came at the right time for the Rangers as they included a two-run triple by Alex Rios in the fourth and two-run home run by Mitch Moreland in the seventh.

The Rangers would go on to roll to a 6-2 victory in the series finale after the Jays had taken the opening two games.

“Just bizarre. You kind of marvel, at least I do, I marvel at the game that we play so much,” Dickey said of the outcome. “It was one of those days where I had a good knuckleball, it was late (late movement) in the zone. It wasn’t necessarily a swing-and-miss one but it had enough bite on it — I don’t know how many ground ball outs I got but there were quite a few (15 in all) and it was working.

“I left one up in a crucial situation and (Mitch) Moreland did a good job with it. It was a hard knuckleball up, kind of in, he pulled his hands through and hit a homer. That’s usually not the difference in the game when you’ve given up a home run, a triple and an infield single.”

But that was the hand that Dickey was dealt.

The Jays have been excellent defensively most of the season but yesterday was not one of those days. They combined to make four errors, two by third baseman Juan Francisco. Just one of the errors, though, resulted in a run.

The Jays have an off day Monday before opening a big three-game series against the Red Sox in Boston.

They have played well over their stretch of 20 consecutive games in as many days forging an 11-9 overall and have won 10 of their past 15.

Dickey, though, believes it could have been more and although the Jays sit in third spot in the division they can’t afford to squander a chance to sweep a series like they had Sunday.

“Great teams find a way to sweep series you know, great teams find a way to win series so we’re definitely going in the right direction but there’s more there and I think we all know it,” Dickey said. “Today was a game we probably should have won and as we go forward we’re going to be playing some very stiff competition and you can never let up. Championship clubs never let up so hopefully we can kind of find that closure to series as we go forward, myself included.”

With the loss Dickey dropped to 4-4.

With the game tied 2-2, Rios reached on an error by Francisco when the ball roiled up his glove and his rushed throw bounced to Adam Lind giving Rios time to make it to first safely.

Moreland followed by lining a 1-2 pitch into the first row of seats in left. It was just the fourth homer that Dickey has allowed this season.

Offensively the Jays were limited to two solo home runs — by Francisco and Edwin Encarnacion — and wasted opportunities, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

After cruising through the opening three innings without allowing a hit, Dickey ran into trouble in the fourth.

With one out, Shin-Soo Choo hit a slow roller to short and even though Jose Reyes made a fine barehanded grab and quick throw he could not catch the speedy Choo.

Dickey walked the next batter, Adrian Beltre, and Rios followed with a long fly to right centre that one-hopped the wall for a two-run triple. It was the first ball off Dickey that left the infield.

After misfiring the previous two innings the Jays opened a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a 406-foot home run to right by Francisco, a shot that landed in the upper deck.

The home run was the eighth of the season for Francisco who has now recorded a hit in 19 of his 26 games. With the homer, 13 of his 25 hits have gone for extra bases, the others being four doubles and one triple.

The Jays, trailing 2-1, tied it in the sixth on another blast, this one provided by Encarnacion.

Hard-throwing Rangers lefty Aaron Poreda (96-97 m.p.h.) opened the inning in relief of Nick Martinez, caught up to one of his heaters and clubbed a towering fly that cleared the wall in centre some 413 feet away. It was Steady Eddie’s ninth of the campaign.

It would also be the Jays last run.

STROMAN SENT TO BUFFALO

The Blue Jays are looking around for a fifth starter.

It won’t be top prospect Marcus Stroman.

Following Sunday’s game the young right-hander, who has made five appearances out of the bullpen, was shipped back to triple-A Buffalo where he will resume his role as a starter.

Liam Hendriks, who is 5-0 at Buffalo, is the leading candidate to be called up to make the needed start next Saturday at Rogers Centre against Oakland. It could not have been Stroman who has been used as a reliever since being promoted May 4.

His preference would have been to have been used as a starter once he was called up but now he intends to work diligently on re-establishing his starting credentials with Buffalo.

“It is what it is, I’m not discouraged to go back down there,” he said after shaking hands and saying goodbye to his teammates. “I’ll learn to become a starter again and hopefully be back up here at some point.”

It is more than ironic that the Jays would be in need of a starter now after moving Dustin McGowan back to the bullpen and not be able to tap their top prospect at triple-A. More like bad management but as Stroman said, it is what it is.

It is obviously better for his career that he go back and return as a starter than languish in the Jays bullpen.

“Yeah, I want to be a starter, 100 percent,” he said. “That’s kind of the role I thought I was going to be in when I came up here. So yeah, I think in the long run hopefully I can be a starter and show I can start at this level, that’s the plan.”

Would be have preferred if the Jays just waited and called him up when they needed him to start?

“Um, it’s hard to say, it’s hard to say because every opportunity you get to contribute you want to jump on it and go but I’ve been groomed as a starter the past year and a half so it’s hard saying otherwise,” he said.


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