Thursday, January 10, 2008

Worst. Series. Ever.

While I found the Jays’ offense incredibly obnoxious last year, it was by no means the most frustrated I have been as a Jays fan. After watching Toronto get completely PWN3D by Rickey Henderson and the Oakland A’s in the 1989 ALCS, I was praying for a shot at redemption. I went into the 1990 season with high hopes and expectations.

The Jays jockeyed for top spot in the AL East with the Red Sox through most of the year. As the summer wore on, Toronto would get so close to the top and every so often be tied atop the standings only to quickly fall back into second place. It seemed whenever the Jays needed a big win, they just couldn’t get it.

In mid August, the Jays embarked on a nine game road trip that would take them to Chicago, Minnesota and New York. At the time, they were two games back and when they returned home faced the Red Sox in an obviously crucial four game series. The road trip started well as the Jays took two of three at Comiskey, swept at the Metrodome and went to the Bronx tied with the Red Sox for top spot.

After George Bell singled in a run in the first inning of the opener at Yankee Stadium, the Bombers threw up a four-spot against Todd Stottlemyre. The Jays scored in the second, third and fourth innings and enjoyed a brief 5-4 lead until Jim Leyritz singled home Kevin Maas to knot the game at five.

A one-out Tony Fernandez triple was stranded in the seventh, and in the bottom of the 11th, two errors brought the game home for the Yankees. No biggie though, the Yankees had lefty Chuck Cary (4-8, 4.24 ERA) and Andy Hawkins (3-10, 5.52 ERA) starting the next two games. Then the bats when stone cold.

The Jays scored just two runs off both Cary and Andy Hawkins (both in the fifth inning) and the Yankees swept. The Jays road trip went from terrific to meh and the Blue Birds limped home two games out of first. On the bright side, Dave Stieb was slated to open the series and he came through tossing seven solid innings giving up two runs. He came out to start the eighth and Ellis Burks singled. Cito Gaston came out and decided to ice the game bringing out Tom Henke.

The “Terminator’s” first pitch to Mike Greenwell left the field was quickly as it reached him and it was all tied at three. Henke settled down striking out four of the next six outs he recorded.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Mookie Wilson singled and was picked off first by Joe Hesketh. However, Mark Marshall, who was playing first, bungled the catch and Wilson made it to third. An intentional walk to clutch hitting Tony Fernandez brought up Kelly Gruber with runners on the corners and one out. Jeff Gray replaced Hesketh and Gruber tapped one lightly to third and Wilson scampered home and the Jays received karmic payback for the loss to the Yankees in game one of that previous series.

The Jays were one game back of Boston.

Then the bats died completely wasting three magnificent starts by Jimmy Key (7 IP/0 ER), David Wells (8 IP/1 ER), and Todd Stottlemyre (8 IP/1 ER). In game two of the series, Key and Dana Kiecker (4-6, 4.53 ERA)--who hadn’t recorded an out in his previous start against Baltimore, threw up goose eggs for eight innings. The Jays had man on third, one out, in the first inning only to have George Bell and Kelly Gruber strike out. The Jays would only get one other runner to third and that was the result of Tony Fernandez hitting into a double play with men on first and second.

After a three-up, three down eighth inning by Duane Ward, Ellis Burks, Mike Greenwell, Mike Marshall, and Tom Brunansky all singled and the Red Sox were up 2-0. Jeff Gray was brought in to pitch the ninth and sandwiched a Pat Borders groundout with strikeouts to John Olerud and pinch hitter (for Manny Lee) Rance Mulliniks and the series was tied.

The Jays now had to face Roger Clemens (18-5, 2.04 ERA)--who was enjoying a magnificent season--on Saturday. Boomer Wells was up the challenge and both tossed up goose eggs until the top of the seventh when Dewey Evans opened the frame with a home run. Meanwhile, the Jays never got anybody as far as third with less than two out.

With Clemens still pitching in the bottom of the ninth, Gruber reached on an error by Wade Boggs. One out later, Fred McGriff boomed a double but Gruber held up at third. John Olerud was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. The Jays had their first really good scoring opportunity of the afternoon. Catcher Greg Myers lifted a lazy fly ball to right field and Gruber stayed put. This time Manny Lee (who had an unlikely ability to hit off Clemens) hit for himself but whiffed on a 1-2 pitch and Clemens had the shutout.

The Jays went into Sunday hoping to salvage a split.

Todd Stottlemyre faced Greg Harris (10-5, 3.33 ERA) in the finale of the series. Once again, both starters threw up zero after zero on the scoreboard. Other than the second inning, Toronto went three up/three down against Harris. After seven innings, it was still 0-0; Stottlemyre opened the top of the eighth with a walk to Brunansky, and a wild pitch got him to second. Stottlemyre bore down and struck out Luis Rivera but Jody Reed singled Brunansky home.

Down by a run, Greg Myers beat out a grounder deep into the hole between third and short and Kenny Williams pinch ran for him. Junior Felix struck out without advancing Williams. With Manny Lee up, Williams swiped second base. He tapped a ball to the mound and Williams was caught in a rundown. Lee reached second before Williams was tagged out. Rance Mulliniks pinch hit for Glenallen Hill and drew a walk. With runners on first and second, Red Sox skipper Joe Morgan brought in Jeff Gray who got Wilson to fly out to right to end the threat. The Jays got a two-out walk from Fred McGriff, but John Olerud swung at a 1-2 pitch ending the game.

The Jays were shut out for the third straight time by the Red Sox. Over those three games, the Jays garnered 12 hits and nine walks. They were 0-for-26 with RISP.

As I wrote earlier--Worst. Series. Ever.


The Jays lost their next two to Milwaukee getting only four runs. They won the finale of that series and it was the beginning of a run where the Jays won 16 of their next 22. A win against the Brewers opening a series in Milwaukee on September 24 gave them a 1.5 game lead over Boston. However, they lost the next two and lost the first two of a three game set in Fenway Park and the Red Sox were back on top to stay.

Best Regards


No comments: