The Toronto Blue Jays lost the home opener to the LA Angels 7-5, but there may be some cause for optimism.
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Start with the bad news: the Blue Jays lost their home opener to the Angels, 7-5 in a wildly exciting 11-inning game.
The game was tied 5-5 at the end of regulation. Both teams failed to score in the tenth. In the top of the 11th, Ryan Borucki walked José Iglesias. Kurt Suzuki – who had struck out four times at that point – then dropped an absolutely beautiful bunt, advancing the runners to second and third. Borucki struck out Dexter Fowler for the second out, and the Jays brought in Rafael Dolis to face David Fletcher. Fletcher hit Dolis’ first pitch for a bloop single to centre, scoring two runs. Raisel Iglesias then struck out all three Jays in the bottom of the 11th to end the game.
So what is the good news?
The Jays have had troubles with the mental game – unforced mistakes (“flubs“) – for years. And this game presented no lack of opportunities to flub. But the Jays played an essentially flub-free game. Remember the problem Vladdy had last year catching pop fouls near first base? This game, he made it look easy. Or when fielders have failed to communicate? Lourdes’ calling off Bo on a popup to left was textbook. Or when fielders got flustered, and rushed (and botched) plays? Joe Panik waited out a slow dribbler in the 6th, and calmly threw to Vladdy for the out. Or when Cavan rushed throws from third? In the 7th, Mike Trout hit a slow grounder to Cavan at third. There was no way to catch him – so Cavan did *not* throw.
Granted, these are things that ballplayers are *supposed* to do. But the point is, the Jays have not been doing them – at least, not doing them consistently. It is a positive (and very welcome!) sign that they played a generally smart, controlled game – even if they lost.
So why DID they lose?
Well, they were playing a d*rn good team. The Angels will likely surprise a lot of people this year. But if there were one area of weakness it would be … fundamentals.
In the top of the 7th inning, with one out, Dexter Fowler reached on an infield single. The Jays brought in Jordan Romano to face David Fletcher. Romano failed to hold Fowler, who promptly stole second. Fletcher then hit what might have been a double-play ball to second, but with Fowler already on second the Jays only got the out at first and Fowler advanced to third. Fowler then scored on Ohtani’s short single to right field. It is possible that Fowler would have stolen second base even if Romano held him properly … but it is also possible that he would not have tried, or tried and failed.
An even more painful fail came in the bottom of the 7th. With the score tied 5-5, Joe Panik led off the inning with a double. Danny Jansen was the next hitter. In that situation, it was Jansen’s job to move Panik to third – either with a bunt (as Suzuki did so well in the 11th!) or by hitting the ball to the right side. Instead, Danny hit the ball to short, freezing Panik at second. Marcus Semein then hit a 340-foot lineout to centre, which would have scored Panik from third easily. Biggio grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning and strand Panik.
Ah, but are not flubs and fundamental mistakes the same thing? There are similarities, but they are subtly different. A flub is a mental error – like throwing to the wrong base, or rushing a throw unnecessarily. A failing in fundamentals is more of a failure to execute – like being unable to lay down a bunt.
The bottom line? It was an exciting game, which either team could easily have won. Hopefully the remaining games in the series will be equally exciting (but with better outcomes!)
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.