TORONTO – The Blue Jays put an end to an ugly four-game losing skid and afterward the manager was happy to state the obvious.
“It was a much needed win, I will definitely say,” said John Gibbons after his club beat Boston 7-1.
Baseball's a strange game. It was an ugly homestand, the Blue Jays lost four of six to divisional rivals the Orioles and Red Sox, yet are sandwiched in-between the two teams with Baltimore a half-game ahead and Boston a half-game behind.
In five of the six games, Toronto at some point held a lead of three runs or more. The Jays won only two of those five games, Sunday afternoon being one of them. Yet a crisp, efficient win which combined strong starting pitching, clutch relief work, good defence and potent offence buoyed the mood of the club as it heads out on an eight-game road trip through Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
“It was a complete joint effort,” said R.A. Dickey, who tossed 6 1/3 innings of one run ball. “I felt like we all had a hand in today's game. It was a game that I felt really good.”
Dickey, who didn't walk a hitter for the first time in his Toronto tenure, left with one out in the seventh. The Red Sox had runners at second and third following a hit batsman and a double. Steve Delabar came in and got Jackie Bradley Jr. to pop up to third baseman Brett Lawrie and David Ross to fly out to centerfielder Jose Bautista. Inning over, the 2-1 lead preserved and the Jays would tack on two in the seventh and three more in the eighth to issue a final score that doesn't reflect how close the game was played for most of the afternoon.
Edwin Encarnacion had two hits and two RBI, hitting four line drives in his four at-bats. Combined with the final out he made in Saturday's loss, a line drive to centerfield, Gibbons is seeing signs his slugging first baseman is beginning to emerge from a near-dormant first month of the season.
“Today I thought he was really using his hands well,” said Gibbons. “He's like anybody else. Confidence can waver a little bit. I don't care how good you are, how long you've been around or how productive you've been the last couple of seasons. This game's all confidence.”
Brett Lawrie hit his sixth home run of the season, a solo shot off Jon Lester in the second inning. The timing was important; the Red Sox had taken a 1-0 lead in the top half of the inning.
“Definitely,” said Lawrie of the quick response. “This is one of those games you want to win, especially with an off day (Monday) and us going on the road and leaving a sour taste in 40-thousand people's mouths when we go on the road (with a loss.) We want positivity going on the road.”
The Blue Jays open a three-game set in Kansas City on Tuesday night. Right-hander Dustin McGowan will get the start against Royals left-hander Jason Vargas.
MORROW UNFAMILIAR WITH McGOWAN'S DIABETES-RELATED FATIGUE
As Dustin McGowan considers a change to his in-game regimen in an attempt to combat fatigue, fellow type 1 diabetic Brandon Morrow is in a comfortable routine and hasn't experienced anything similar to what McGowan's going through.
“I've never felt physically fatigued during a game,” said Morrow. “I have nothing to compare it to. What would somebody without diabetes be feeling at the same point? I feel like I recover, physically, as well as anybody else with regulated blood sugar. I think it's almost, not an advantage but you really learn your body well.”
McGowan deals with wild swings to his blood sugar levels during games in which he's pitching. In Wednesday's outing against Baltimore, he took a reading of more than 300 milligrams per deciliter. To put that in perspective, the average blood sugar level for a resting, non-diabetic is between 100 and 120 milligrams per deciliter.
He will wear his insulin pump in Tuesday night's game at Kansas City in the hopes of regulating his blood sugar level.
Morrow, on the other hand, has a strict program he follows that begins about four hours before each start. There are six to eight checkpoints, as he calls them, during that time span. Morrow's food and drink schedule is meticulous; his exercise and warm up routine equally so; he checks his blood sugar level about an hour and a half before first pitch.
Shortly before game time, he's paying close attention.
“If I ever go low it's in the bullpen,” said Morrow. “That's a two, three minute adjustment. During the anthem, the anthem's always a time I check my blood sugar and if I need a juice or whatever we have something ready to go.”
When the Blue Jays are on offence, Morrow will check his blood sugar level two or three times in the early innings of his starts.
“My blood sugar's crept up a little bit during games sometimes but I've never felt like I've just lost energy, like saying getting into the sixth inning and my body just shuts down,” he said. “I've never felt that way.”
High blood sugar levels can sap a diabetic of energy and can cause vision problems, particularly blurriness. Morrow says it's never gotten to the point where he blames the condition for an inability to command his pitches.
Low blood sugar levels can have an effect similar to drunkenness. There have been times when Morrow's been awakened in the middle of the night. He's in a cold sweat and his hands are shaking. He quickly drinks a glass of juice or eats a small portion and then waits the 15 minutes or so it takes for his body to regulate.
WALKER DISCUSSES EJECTION
Pitching coach Pete Walker wasn't pleased with home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg's strike zone in Saturday's 7-6 loss to the Red Sox.
He was ejected in the third inning. Walker and Kellogg exchanged words following a mound visit.
Perhaps the fact his pitching staff has walked 99 hitters so far this season is grating on Walker's nerves?
“Maybe it's been building, I don't know,” said Walker. “It's frustrating to watch the staff that we have walk guys because they are guys that know how to throw strikes, know how to attack the strike zone. Their philosophy and our philosophy is to attack early and expand late. It seems like we're getting behind and making poor pitches behind in the count.”
Here's another frustrating fact: entering Sunday's play, the Blue Jays have had leads of at least three runs in four of the first five games of this home stand. The record in those four games: 1-3.
The pitching isn't holding up. One day it's the starter and the next it's the bullpen.
“It's really slight, slight mechanical adjustments for a couple of guys but for the most part it's their mentality of attacking the zone and trusting their stuff and not buying into the fact that something like this can become contagious,” said Walker. “You walk a few guys, you start thinking about it. The sooner they can get out of their own heads and just get back to pitching and making pitches and trusting their stuff, the sooner we get over this hump.”