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Ferguson: Twins walk away with DH sweep over Blue Jays

Scott Ferguson
4/18/2014 11:37:56 AM
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It was an inning like no other in Blue Jays history, at least not one that anyone can remember. In the second game of their day/night doubleheader at Minneapolis, three Blue Jays pitchers, Steve Delabar, Sergio Santos and J.A. Happ combined to issue eight walks, wild-pitched home three runs and gave up six runs in total on just one hit. That turned a 5-3 lead into a 9-5 loss, a twinbill sweep at the hands of the Twins and a series loss. Counting the nine walks issued by the two starters, R.A Dickey and Dustin McGowan in just eight and a third innings, the Jays surrendered 17 free passes on the day.

Grant you, one "crappy day" as skipper John Gibbons put it, inflated these numbers, the Jays have dropped to 10th in pitching stats in the American League. Worse than that, their 4.05 team ERA is the worst in the AL East and so is their walks allowed total of 67.
 
The walks total is particularly disturbing when you look at their division rivals. In order, Boston and the Yankees have only walked 37, Baltimore 39 and Tampa Bay 45.
 
A year ago, the Jays issued 98 walks in the first month of the season. At the team's current average of just a fraction over four per game, and with 11 games remaining in April, they will finish with 111 for the month, and remember, they started last April at 10-17 and never really recovered.
 
In the last five years, the Blue Jays exhibited their best control in 2010, the final season under Cito Gaston when Bruce Walton was the pitching coach. That season, they walked only 77. That year, they finished with 85 wins, and wound up in fourth place, 11 games off the division lead. In 2011, the walk total jumped to 107, then improved to 85 in John Farrell's second and last year with the team. Then, the total jumped to 98 in April of 2013 and as stated, the club is now on pace for 111 this month.
 
More walks, especially by the starters, generally means more pitches thrown, fewer innings pitched, more stress on the bullpen, and another up the track finish. The Blue Jays, who've fashioned an 8-8 record so far, are by no means in a crisis situation yet, but if they keep this pace up well into May, they will be.

Misery Loves Company
 
You know the old saying, misery loves company. Well, the White Sox arguably had an even worse game walk-wise than the Blue Jays did on Thursday night. On Wednesday, they dropped a 14-inning five-hour 17-minute marathon at home by a 6-4 count. But the real story is how they lost.
 
After starter John Danks gave them six decent innings of three-hit ball, albeit walking four batters, skipper Robin Ventura went through seven relievers, including four in the 8th inning.
 
In the 8th, relievers Scott Downs, Jake Petricka, Donnie Veal and Maikel Cleto each walked a batter and the Red Sox scored a run to cut the Chicago lead to 3-2 before Cleto finally got out of the inning. In the 9th though, he walked two more to lead off the frame before getting the hook. Matt Lidstrom took over, and allowed the tying run to score, but did manage to go two innings without walking anyone.

Then Ventura handed the ball over to Daniel Webb, who worked the 11, 12 and 13th innings, giving up one run while walking another three. Each team scored a run in the 11th, so it was 4-4 after 13. After 59 pitches, Webb was done. Ventura was out of pitchers, choosing not to use any of his other starters and really messing up the rotation.
 
In the 14th inning, infielder Leury Garcia went to the mound. He proceeded to walk two before giving up a game-winning two-run double to BoSox rookie centrefielder Jackie Bradley Jr. The Red Sox walked only three over 14 innings and struck out 15. The White Sox, who have one of the best pitching coaches in the business in Don Cooper, walked 15 on the night and struck out only five. Hard to believe two games like this happened on back-to-back nights.

Altogether, the Blue Jays two games at Target Field lasted six hours and 15 minutes. The White Sox played a game, plus the five extra innings in five hours and 17 minutes. Incidently, the White Sox have walked 79 batters, the worst in the American League, and their ERA is 4.90, better only than Minnesota's.
 
Oddly enough, Chicago has the same record as the Blue Jays at 8-8. The Jays are tied for second in the AL East with Baltimore, two games back of the Yankees, while the White Sox are tied for third with the Royals, just a game behind first-place Detroit. Sandwiched in between, just a half game behind the Tigers, are the Twins, if you can believe it with the worst earned runs average in the American League. Safe to say, nearly three weeks into the season, the hitters are ahead of the pitchers for the most part.

Numbers Game

Some surprising numbers in the early going. BoSox righthander ace Clay Buchholz still doesn't have a victory. He's (0-1) with a 5.51 ERA. On top of that, the top two batsmen to switch teams in the offseason are struggling. Robinson Cano, who jumped from the Yankees to Seattle as a free agent, went into Thursday night's game in a 3-18 slide, but did get one hit and drove in three runs in an 8-6 loss to Texas. Overall, Cano is hitting .271 with one homer and eight runs batted in. Prince Fielder, who was dealt by the Tigers to the Rangers, is only hitting .164 with one homer and four runs batted in.

Like their parent club, the Buffalo Bisons got swept at home in a doubleheader on Thursday by Scranton Wilkes Barre, the Phillies farm club. On the plus side, Ricky Romero, who thanks to five early season postponements, was making only his second start of the season, gave up just one run over six innings on just two hits in the opener. He did walk four and strike out two, but he  also retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced and induced 12 ground ball outs in getting a no-decision.

On the flip side, Kyle Drabek got beat up pretty good in the second game. In just four innings, he gave up five earned runs on 10 hits, including three homeruns. He struck out four and walked none, as the Bisons' record dipped to 7-5.




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