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You Can Learn A Lot By Watching – June 1, 2011 – Cleveland @ Toronto (Forfeit!)

June 3, 2011

I got tickets for Wednesday night’s series finale between the Blue Jays and the First Nations (seriously time for a new logo) intending to get an up-close-and-personal view of young tyro, Kyle Drabek, who shall forever more be named “Nibbles”. The ‘Nations countered with Josh Tomlin, one of those guys who has innocuously driven the ‘Nations to the best record in Baseball through the end of May.

As fans slowly sauntered to their seats, the ‘Nations paraded. After taking five pitches in a row to begin the festivities, Michael Brantley scoffed at a fastball grooved over the plate, doubling to centre field. Asdrubal Cabrera watched one pitch sail away before drilling the second a little to the right of Brantley’s initial drive. And Nibbles was spooked. And Nibbles began to really nibble. After fanning fan favourite Shin-Soo Choo, he walked Travis Buck and Carlos Santana on 11 pitches, missing up, down, in and out, his Gameday view looking like so much scattered buckshot. John Farrell came to the mound for a word to the wise, but three pitches later Grady Sizemore had split the gap once more, clearing the bases for himself, the king of his domain, a nation of one. Three quick balls and a solitary strike to Matt LaPorta were spared by a sharply hit grounder to Jayson Nix at third base, but a similar count to Jack Hannahan was not so lucky, leading to a third free pass. John Farrell came back out and took a bite out of Nibbles, who failed to throw even 40% of his pitches for strikes.

What can we learn from such an outing? Does Drabek need to spend some time in the Las Vegas sun to remember that a man with his stuff, a blistering fastball sitting at 93MpH, a curveball which is sorely neglected and a nascent cutter, does not need to nibble. The more he attacks the zone, the more he will gain command over it and the more lady luck can join his side – if only he stops missing the strike zone.

Shawn Camp came in and made quick work of number 9 hitter, Adam Everett. Back for the second, The ‘Nations went down in order, showing the still gathering fans what pitching is like when the zone comes under attack. Around that time, I turned to my companion, Rudy Bats and speculated that Camp may be forced to throw through the end of the third, to spare the Jays’ pen, even if only just for a little bit. Including the game in question, in six of Camp’s last ten appearances, he was in to throw 17 pitches or less. On only one other occasion did he have to exceed 30 pitches, chucking 36 in a loss to Detroit over three weeks prior.

It wasn’t to be. The third inning came, and not so much nibbling, Camp simply rolled over. Single to Buck to lead off, walk to Santana. Sizemore took a pitch for a ride, ably tracked down by Rajai Davis in centre field. And then, with runners on the corners, Matt LaPorta split the difference, ending a nine pitch at bat by turning around a changeup left over the plate, sending the ball deep and deeper, finally coming to a halt at the restaurant windows in left-centre field. Two more single and two more doubles and Shawn was de-Camp’ed, making way for Jason Frasor. Adding to the hilarity, Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar both dropped very playable pop-ups to greet Frasor to the party. When the dust settled on the top of the 3rd, the ‘Nations scored an additional 8 runs to bring their total to 12. To that point, the Jays had managed two baserunners in turn. A scribbled a hasty “Forfeit” on my scorecard and flagged down the nearest beer merchant.

As the game progressed, and the Jays turned to reliever after reliever, Josh Tomlin and his high 80’s heat maintained an iron grip on the Blue Jay bats, surrendering a solitary single through 4 and one-third innings, that being a poke to right field by Eric Thames. Thames had to return to the  plate once more to finally put a lasting blemish on Tomlin’s record, sending a first pitch changeup over Choo’s head in right field for a triple, the first of his career. Intrigued, Rajai Davis mimicked his young teammate, with another blast to right field, this one off of a cutter. Not one to let others steal his thunder, especially against his former teammates, Jayson Nix hit a low line drive to centre field, one that Michael Brantley could not quite reach, the ball squirting past him for another triple. A triple triple.  What can you learn from three triples in a row? Nothing! But it’s damn fun to watch.

The now animated crowd, finding something more interesting to watch than fans of the Calgary Flames bearing anti-Canucks diatribes, began a chant of “Triple!, Triple!, Triple!” to the next Jays’ batter, Yunel Escobar. His heart was willing, but his bat wasn’t, as he tapped a soft one back to Tomlin who had time to look Nix back to the bag before retiring Escobar.

Now awake, the Jays somehow made a game of things, scoring an additional six runs, highlit by a three-run home run to left for Rajai Davis, his first long-ball of the year. Tomlin, smoke and mirrors earning him seven strike-outs, was smoked in turn, surrendering six runs in six innings. If we needed a reminder as to why the ‘Win’ statistic is a waste of time (we really don’t need it, but humour me), Tomlin demonstrated it. Allowing six runs in six innings should not be cause for credit. But when the opposing pitcher can catch neither break nor corner, well, someone has to get the ‘W’. I give up.

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