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Blue Jays vs Devil Rays official thread


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
ST. PETERSBURG -- Reed Johnson's pregame routine on Friday consisted of following Vernon Wells around the clubhouse. If Johnson could have the same results in every game, he might want to make himself Wells' permanent shadow.
The center fielder had three hits, two home runs and a team-high four RBIs in six at-bats from the leadoff spot during Toronto's 13-4 drubbing of Tampa Bay, a game Johnson didn't find out he would be playing in until midway through batting practice.

Wells has had stiffness in his left shoulder that kept him out of Wednesday's lineup, but he was set to return on Friday if all went well during batting practice. Just in case, manager John Gibbons posted an 'A' lineup (with Wells), and a 'B' lineup (without Wells), so Johnson could prepare appropriately.

"[Wells] hit BP and [his shoulder] didn't feel good enough for him to go, so they called me in from the outfield. I was shagging flies," Johnson said, adding that he was already expecting the news because of the lineup cards. "When I came in, they told me I was leading off and playing center."

Johnson said the announcement gave him about "15-20 minutes" to mentally prepare for his start, but it seemed to be plenty enough for the 29-year-old. He proved it by blasting the second pitch Seth McClung threw in the game over the wall in left field for his second home run of the year, and his fifth career leadoff homer.

The Blue Jays took their cues from Johnson, carrying a 4-1 lead into the sixth, before starter Casey Janssen allowed the Rays to pull within one on a two-run homer from Russell Branyan in the bottom of the inning.

"I thought Janssen did a very good job," Gibbons said. "They got to him a little bit in the sixth, but it was a good game."

After two more innings, Johnson sparked his team again, leading off the ninth with a single. A tiny gesture at the time, Johnson's single set off an avalanche of offense that saw Toronto send 14 to the plate against three different Rays pitchers. During the 26 minutes it took to complete the top half of the inning, the Jays scored nine times and forced the Rays to throw 70 pitches. Tampa Bay allowed seven hits and walked four before first baseman Lyle Overbay popped out to short to end the inning.

"Ouch," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the ninth. "I was fine there [after eight innings]. We had played a really good game until that point. We just imploded there in the ninth."

In a game where every Blue Jay reached base at least twice and the entire lineup reached in the ninth alone, it was only appropriate that the man who started it all earn the last hit of the inning. Johnson drove his second homer of the night, a three-run shot, to right field on a 2-1 pitch. He shrugged off his accomplishment, focusing instead on the team's effort and focus.

"I think it's just a case of guys continuing to take good at-bats and not straying away from their plan," Johnson said. "When you get into those types of games, you can get sloppy and take sloppy at-bats and try to do too much. As a team, I think we took very good at-bats. A couple of guys took walks in that inning, so we weren't up there just flailing, there were good at-bats."

Coming into the game, he had just one home run and eight RBIs in 38 games this season. It was the second multi-homer game of his four-year Major League career.

And to think, he almost didn't play.

"I think [the two posted lineups] was a smart decision by the manager, especially for guys like myself. Knowing that Vernon might not be ready to go gave me a little time to get mentally ready," Johnson said. "I just kind of followed Vernon around the clubhouse to see if I could get a read on whether he was going to play or not."

Courtesy of bluejays.com


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
ST. PETERSBURG -- As Toronto must have learned from its first two games at Tampa Bay this week, it only takes one inning to doom a ballclub. Unfortunately, for the Blue Jays, they were on the receiving end of the big inning on Sunday.
Starter Gustavo Chacin allowed three home runs in the fifth inning, as the Rays scored five, swinging the momentum away from Toronto in a 10-5 loss.

"I was missing my spots," said Chacin, who fell to 6-2. "[I was] leaving the ball open, [in the] middle and up and they made great swings. They didn't miss my mistakes."

Tampa Bay's difference-making inning mirrored the Blue Jays' efforts in the other two games of the series, as Toronto scored nine in the ninth on Friday and three in the seventh on Saturday to take the first two games.

On Sunday, however, it was the Rays' day, as the team added four runs in the seventh inning to ensure the Jays would not complete the series sweep.

Chacin induced 10 straight outs to start the game, while his teammates put three runs on the board in the top of the first on Frank Catalanotto's two-run homer to right, his ninth of the year, and an RBI single from Bengie Molina. Alex Rios doubled in Molina in the fourth to increase the lead to four.

It was around that time that the wheels fell off for Chacin. The Rays got one in the fourth and then jumped on the lefty for three homers and five runs, capped off by Damon Hollins' three-run shot that sent Chacin to the showers after just 4 1/3 innings.

Some pitchers feel a little more freedom to pitch with a four-run lead, but Chacin insisted that was the farthest thing from his mind at the time.

"I don't think [about the lead]. It was too early to think that," Chacin said. "You have to keep doing your job, and keep throwing your game, and that's what I tried to do. I just kept throwing my game and holding the runs back, but they made great swings."

Compounding the Jays' frustration in the game was the loss of third baseman Troy Glaus, who left the game in the fifth inning. Manager John Gibbons said Glaus "jarred the back of his hip."

Glaus became tangled with shortstop Aaron Hill near the visitors' bullpen in the second inning while the two were tracking a popup. Glaus stayed in the game, striking out in the top of the fifth before Eric Hinske was sent in to replace him on defense. The injury isn't severe, Gibbons said, and Glaus is day-to-day.

Hinske provided a boost with a two-out homer off reliever Brian Meadows in the seventh to pull the Jays within one, but Toronto's bullpen had one more rough inning to endure before the game was done.

Reliever Jason Frasor successfully foiled Julio Lugo's two sacrifice bunt attempts with runners on, putting Lugo in an 0-2 hole. But Lugo worked the count full, and Frasor threw him something he could hit.

"I was just trying to get a hit, move the runners over to second and third." Lugo said. "Then all of a sudden, it just went to a hitting count. And I was just trying to hit the ball hard right there."

Lugo hit it very hard to straightaway center field for a three-run shot that traveled 416 feet.

Gibbons shrugged off the loss, pointing out that the Blue Jays were still leaving Florida with their fourth straight series win -- sweep or not.

"I think everybody is [giving up a lot of home runs this year]," he said. "We're hitting a lot and other teams are hitting a lot. The key is, everybody's gotta [pitch] down. At this level, you leave a pitch up, they don't miss."

And so Toronto and Chacin, who suffered his first loss to Tampa Bay in five career attempts, head to Baltimore just one big inning shy of a sweep.