Written by Greg Wisniewski, Rachael McDaniel, and Sean Addis
That, my friends, is Jose Bautista’s career slash line at Target field, where all four of these games will be played. It is, by some significant margin, his best result in any American League park for his entire career. Since his numbers in National League parks are in tiny little handfuls, they aren’t necessarily indicative of anything but one or two good nights. Target Field, though, is clearly Heaven on Earth for Joey bats. In 21 games there he has 14 home runs. That’s more home runs than he has strikeouts (11) and also walks (11) over his 98 career plate appearances there. Jose also had 14 career home runs at Baltimore’s Camden yards, and it took him a mere 330 plate appearances to hit them. Target Field has been the outlier of outliers for Jose.
I use the past tense because Joey Bats, 2017 edition has been anything but dangerous. His batting average is last among Blue Jay regulars, at .209, trailing Russell Martin’s .223. His OBP, (a stat that once flirted with .400), is .314, between Steve Pearce and Kevin Pillar. His SLG is 8th best. Tied with Russel Martin at .381 and ahead of…. my goodness… Ryan Goins. Jose, tragically, looks like a man who thought better of leaving one year too early – and instead it turned out to have stayed one year too late.
If he is to resurrect his dignity, if there is a hot streak to ride out on, I say it must start in Minnesota or it will not start at all. I don’t know what it is, Jose. It might be the hitter’s background, the altitude, the hotel breakfast or some other intangible thing you feel inside when you reach home plate. Whatever it is, suck as much of it into your lungs as you can and let it all out with a vicious leg kick and a focused eye. We want to know you’re still in there, still the man who owns the Twins in their own yard.
Big Sexy Night Might Not Be As Much Fun As Advertised
Bartolo Colón, Minnesota’s expected Friday night starter and promotional subject, has not been having what anyone would describe as a good season. It’s impressive that he’s even still pitching at his advanced age, sure, but when you get cut from the starting rotation of the 2017 Atlanta Braves, you know you’re not exactly having a career year. The surface stats are ugly (6.48 ERA, 7.02 DRA) and the underlying stats (a .593 slugging percentage against Colon’s four-seam fastball and a .583 slugging percentage against his sinker, pitches he throws a combined 82.9 percent of the time) are equally unpalatable. One only has to look at his most recent start – five runs, six hits, 1.2 innings pitched – to see that batters have been teeing up on Colon this season.
And yet, as has so often been the case with this season’s incarnation of the team, the Blue Jays have been unable to get much of anything going against Colón. In two starts against the Jays this season, the man some call Big Sexy has not allowed much in the way of big, sexy line scores – through 11.2 innings pitched, the Jays have scored only four runs (three earned) off Colón, despite Colón allowing a cumulative 16 hits and accruing only one (1) strikeout. One strikeout over two starts, yet the Jays lost both of them. It boggles the mind.
I don’t know that there’s necessarily an explanation for this, other than that the Jays are not good at hitting and that they’ve been even worse with runners on base – and probably some bad luck. That’s who this team is; we all know this already. What one can hope, though, is that the new faces, the Ureñas and the Hernándezes who now appear in the Jays lineup, will be able to overcome whatever has prevented the rest of the team from hitting Colón’s slow fastballs with runners on base. Otherwise, prepare for a frustrating Friday night.
Matt Belisle’s Effectiveness
At the July 31st trade deadline the Minnesota Twins changed directions and moved into a slight sell mode. They traded Jaime Garcia (who they acquired days before from the Atlanta Braves) to the New York Yankees and closer Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals. Since the trade deadline the Twins have gone 26-16.
A big contributor to their success has been the performance of Matt Belisle at the back end of the bullpen, going 2-1 with seven saves in eight opportunities. Since August 1st, Belisle has pitched 12.2 innings with a 2.84 ERA, 16 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings, and an opponents batting average of .167.
His success has been attributed to a tweak in his pitching repertoire. Belisle has thrown more two-seamers and four-seamers which has resulted in a decrease in the line drive rate and an increase in ground balls and more missed bats.
But it has been his leadership and veteran presence in the bullpen that has been the greatest benefit for the Twins. Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com discussed how he has been pivotal in keeping the young team focused during this surprising playoff run.
Belisle had two relatively successful seasons with the St Louis Cardinals and Nationals respectively, but he has pitched his best baseball in his career recently after a struggling start to the season. This does not bode well for the Blue Jays, who in limited at bats, have a slash line of .193/.258/.281, with 13 strikeouts in 57 at bats, against Belisle.
Lead Photo © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports