Griffin: Jays bullpen blows save for seventh time as A's win 7-3
OAKLAND-The Jays can't seem to help but make every game an adventure. After leading twice on Tuesday, including a one-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, the Jays handed the ball to closer Francisco Cordero in search of his third save.
Instead, a leadoff double by Michael Taylor and a one-out single through a drawn-in infield by Cliff Pennington and the Jays' pen had blown its seventh save in 11 opportunities, with Cordero blowing each of his last three chances. It seems it's all BS all the time.
Then came a stolen base, an intentional walk, a passed ball, another intentional walk, a five-man infield with Jose Bautista coming in from right and a game-winning grand slam by Brandon Inge. The rest is history repeating itself and the Jays not learning. The second leading active closer behind Mariano Rivera, Cordero (1-2) is 2-for-5 in save opportunities.
“It's hard to explain what's going on, but like I said, I have to make better pitches, I've got to get people out, or I will have no job at all,” Cordero said, facing the media in the moments after the loss.
Manager John Farrell has gone to Cordero in save situations since Segio Santos suffered his shoulder injury back on April 20. That may change, but it was too soon after the devastating loss to the A's for Farrell to say anything about his ninth inning situation.
“He is our closer and to think that we're going to make a quick decision 10 minutes after a ballgame, a tough loss like tonight, that's not at this point yet,” Farrell said.
“It's been putting a hitter away. When he gets into a count, some hitters have fought some pitches off and he'll get a pitch on the plate to get a base hit. Tonight with the leadoff double the other way, then the sac-bunt and...the three outs in the ninth are pretty tough for us right now.”
Of all the unusual managerial decisions Farrell has made in his two years at the helm of the Jays, the decision to pinch-hit Omar Vizquel for a resurgent J.P. Arencibia with one out in the ninth, with runners on the corners and the score tied 2-2 is one of the most unusual. Then to have the 45-year-old shortstop work the count to 3-1 and pop up a squeeze bunt for the second out makes it more bizarre.
“I felt like right there, we're looking for a safety squeeze,” Farrell explained. “As good of a bat-handler that Omar is, I felt like that was where we could execute that. I wanted to stay away from the double play. Ball was not carrying here at night at all and yet here's a grandslam as a walkoff. Just felt that was an opportunity to execute a first and third safety-squeeeze and unfortunately he pops it up.”
For his part, a disconsolate Arencibia began to talk about the move in a very quiet clubhouse, then decided suddenly to remain quiet about being pinch-hit for suggesting he would address the question on Wednesday.
But even with the Vizquel popup, it all worked out, at least for the moment, as red-hot leadoff man Kelly Johnson came through, scorching a line drive single to right field putting the Jays ahead. Johnson drove in all three Jays' runs, with two of the club's six hits.
“I thiought we executed at times when we needed to, offensively,” Farrell suggested. “This is a tough ballgame to lose. You put yourself in that position in the ninth to get three outs and close out a victory and tonight we didn't convert.”
The A's feature some good young starting pitchers in their rotation, but then again, don't they always feature some good young starting pitchers in their rotation. The problem is that too often the names of said pitchers change from year-to-year. On Tuesday, the A's sent talented 23-year-old, Jarrod Parker out to face the talented and more experienced 27-year-old, Ricky Romero.
Parker pitched well in his third start since his recall on April 25, but neither man recorded a decision. The A's promising rookie righthander worked seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits, with five walks and three strikeouts in the opener of a brief two-game series.
Parker was followed to the hill by righthander Ryan Cook, who in 14 relief appearances has now pitched 15-2/3 innings without allowing a run. He has allowed just three hits over that stretch and lefthanded hitters for the season are 1-for-24. Both Parker and Cook arrived in the same trade from the Diamondbacks, for lefthander Trevor Cahill.
“They added some good young arms,” Farrell said prior to the game. “Parker is a guy that people around the game have known about while he was in the minor leagues and he's got a great arm.”
The Jays opened the scoring in the third inning on a two-run homer by Johnson to deep left field, scoring Arencibia who had doubled the other way into the right field corner. It was Johnson's seventh homer of the year, two behind team leader Edwin Encarnacion. But Farrell was aware that the A's have enough weapons themselves to make life difficult.
“They play to their strengths of the roster,” Farrell said. “They're leading the league in stolen bases. The key for us is going to be keeping the top two guys off the bases. There's good baseball people here and they're going to find a way to win games.”
Romero was not able to keep leadoff man Jemile Weeks off the bases. The A's second baseman singled in the first and reached third base. Then in the fifth, the pesky Weeks walked and stole second setting up a game-tying two-run homer by centre fielder Josh Reddick.
“The one pitch, the 2-1 fastball he left up over the plate to Reddick is the extent of the scoring,” Farrell said of his starting pitcher's efforts. “In a couple of spots where Ricky had to make a big pitch he did. On a couple of occasions against Taylor to snuff out any ptential threat in the middle innings.”
Romero has struggled against lefthanded batters and the trend continued. Entering the game, lefthanders were hitting .262 with a .767 OPS. Meanwhile he had limited righthanded batters to a .162 average and a .513 OPS. Romero did not have his great stuff on this cool night. He was forced to throw an uncharacteristic 110 pitches through six innings. He walked five batters, a season high.
“I'm disappointed in myself,” Romero said. “Five walks is very uncharacteristic of me. It's just one of those things where you have to battle through it. It felt like I'm cutting myself short of outings. Five walks, that's 20 pitches, that's 20 pitches that can get me deeper into the seventh and eighth inning.
“I'm just hurting myself. It was a struggle finding my release point. I think it dates back to last outing and the one before that. I just haven't been able to find myself yet. I continue to work hard at it and obviously watching some film and kind of seeing what the problem is, but it's something that I'm sure I'll kind of fix quick.”
Romero has gone over the 100-pitch mark in each of his last four outings and remains undefeated in his seven starts. He handed it over to the bullpen and Jason Frasor in the seventh. Lefthander Darren Oliver worked a perfect eighth. But then along came Cordero and it all fell apart.
“As teammates all we can do is stand by each other,” Romerso said of Cordero's struggle. “This is probably where he needs us the most. We're going to do just that. You've just got to pack up tomorrow and get back to work. I'm sure when the bell rings, we'll be ready.”