Prior to Thursday’s game against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons read part of a text he received from his friend, former O’s pitching great Jim Palmer, now a noted broadcaster.
“He said, ‘I’ll see you on August 27 (in Baltimore). Hope you’re still around.’”
With that, everyone in the manager’s office broke up. And no one laughed louder than Gibbons, who loves making himself the butt of the joke.
But even with the Jays’ dramatic 5-4 victory over the lowly Orioles in 10 innings on Thursday, the question is being asked with increasing frequency: Is Gibbons’ position becoming more and more precarious?
Sportsnet broadcaster Arash Madani asked Gibbons about his job prior to Thursday’s game. Gibbons said he doesn’t think about being fired, though it’s starting to become a hot topic down at the Rogers Centre.
The general consensus is that the veteran manager is not in trouble of losing his gig, at least not yet, because if he was fired, all the criticism for the team’s poor performance would shift to the guys who fired him, president Mark Shapiro and GM Ross Atkins. These are the guys who put this subpar product on the field.
It’s hardly Gibbons fault that the starting pitching has vastly under-performed, the batters have suddenly lost the ability to hit, closer Roberto Osuna was arrested and the club has been bitten hard by the injury bug for the second year in a row.
“That’s the frustrating part for me,” said catcher Russ Martin, who is experiencing his own troubles at the plate. “Not having our best team out on the field. That’s what’s frustrating. Every team is going to have their injuries, one here and the other one there, but when you lose like 2-3-4 pieces at the same time, it’s tough.”
Heading into Thursday’s game against the Orioles, the Jays had lost 10 of their last 11 home games and seven of their last eight overall.
With the bottom-feeding O’s in town for four games, the Jays have a chance to dig themselves of their rut somewhat. But if Baltimore wins the series, something drastic could happen.
Rumours are heating up that if the Jays sink any further, the club will seriously consider trading pending free agent Josh Donaldson and left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ as part of an inevitable rebuild.
In Thursday’s game, the Orioles took a 1-0 in the first on a sac fly to right by Manny Machado, scoring Trey Mancini from third.
Toronto right fielder Curtis Granderson tied it the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to right off Baltimore starter David Hess, his fifth. Before that, the Jays had gone 15 innings without a run. Granderson also made a nifty, sliding catch off Mancini in the fifth.
Jays lefty Jaime Garcia posted one of his best starts of the season and brought the Rogers Centre crowd to its feet when he struck out Chris Davis on a full count with two out and the bases loaded in the sixth.
Garcia gave the Jays their fourth straight quality start, but the bullpen let them down yet again. Tyler Clippard replaced Garcia in the seventh and gave up a solo home run to Austin Wynns, his first career blast. In the eighth, John Axford gave up back-to-back homers to Danny Valencia and Mark Trumbo, putting Baltimore ahead 4-1.
Cue the comeback: In the bottom of the ninth, with O’s closer Brad Brach on the mound, Luke Maile walked with one out, followed by a double to left by Aledmys Diaz. Randal Grichuk hit a double to left to cash in both runners. Pinch hitter Devon Travis walked and Kevin Pillar singled home Grichuk to tie the game.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter then brought in former Blue Jay Miguel Castro to face Yangervis Solarte, who hit into Toronto’s third double play of the game.
Teoscar Hernandez led off the 10th with a double and Castro walked Justin Smoak intentionally. The big righthander then struck out Kendrys Morales and Maile but gave up a single to Diaz to bring Hernandez home for the win.
AROUND THE DIAMOND
Right-handed starter Marcus Stroman is going to throw three innings of a simulated game on Friday at the minor league complex in Dunedin against extended spring training players … As per the Baseball Toronto website, with their final pick in the 2018 MLB draft (Round 40, 1196 overall), the Jays chose South Alabama shortstop Drew LaBounty who had fouled a ball off his eye earlier this year, a career-ending injury that has required multiple surgeries. Now he goes out an MLB draftee … Donaldson is eligible to come off the DL on Friday.