Sat., May 27, 2017
Ryan Goins was either mock-miffed or genuinely annoyed.
Assuming the post-scrum position, up against the wall in the clubhouse, he didn’t like the query that a reporter had just posed.
“Is that the only question I get, about a dropped ball? Wow.”
Well, let’s just say that it was an interesting dropped ball, charged as an error in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Texas Rangers, and in the estimation of the on-field masked men, not an automatic out on the transfer rule — as in transferring the ball from glove to throwing hand.
And the thing was, Goins actually engineered the out at first anyway, recovering for a nifty 6-4-3 put-out, catching Nomar Mazara scrambling back to first after rounding the base.
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But maybe Goins, a role player amidst a hot May — and his contributions notable as the Blue Jays have re-set their season — has become more accustomed of late talking about grand slams and walk-off clutch hits, both on his personal highlight reel.
“We won the game 3-1, hit a homer, pitching was great, defence was good. I dropped a popup. I guess that’s what I got.”
Honestly, we intended to get to the rest of all that, with the weird dropped ball episode out of the way.
“I caught it. Took it out of my glove. They thought I didn’t catch it. I don’t really know what to think about that one. Not on me to say.”
Okay, but nice putout Ryan?
“Yeah, back hole.”
The other side of Goins, his superb defence, was on display later in that frame. On a full count, Rougned Odor — apparently the most hated player in Jays Nation for felonies past, most memorably sucker-punching Jose Bautista in the face almost exactly a year ago — rattled one toward the hole between first and second with the shift on. Then Odor stumbled out of the box and only made it halfway to first as Goins, coming hard across a considerable distance, barehanded the ball and nailed the putout with Odor still some 40 feet from the bag.
Of further lip-smacking merit was a liner off the bat of Mike Napoli in the seventh that Goins speared to turn a double play with Devon Travis and Justin Smoak, stretching his full six-foot-four length to make the second out.
“Honestly, at first I was just thinking about going to first,’’ Goins said. “Then instincts just kind of told me to go to second. From there, Devon had a good turn, Smoky with a good stretch there at first.”
And let’s not leave out Goins bedeviling Odor again in the ninth, shift on, scooping up a dribbler, glove-flipping on run, shovelling it to Smoak.
“Making a play any time is fun for me,” said Goins, who was restored to short with Troy Tulowitzki getting a day off from a manager still cautious about prime players just returning from rehab stints. “Go out there, flipping, diving, whatever. It’s always fun to take them away, for sure.”
“That double play in the seventh inning was a hell of a play,” manager John Gibbons said. “The play on Odor in the ninth . . . He’s shading that side of the bag and had to come a long way because Odor can really run. On the popup, I think he just dropped it on the transfer. That’s a judgment call. They thought he had it long enough.
“Other than that he had a tremendous day. He’s had a tremendous month, gave us some big home runs, big hits, great defence. We wouldn’t be in this sport, trying to get back to the top, without Go-Go, that’s for sure.”
The Jays moved a game above .500, 12-11, at the Rogers Centre while extending their winning streak to five, matching the best run they’ve managed this season.
Jose Bautista, back to his Joey Bats self after a wretched April, pretty much took care of all the offence the Jays needed with his three-run swat in the fifth inning when Toronto finally cracked Texas starter Yu Darvish. After Luke Maile walked and Travis lined a single, Bautista jumped all over a first pitch slider Darvish hung over the plate with a 412-foot parabola to left centre. It was his ninth jack of the season and his sixth with runners in scoring position, tying Yankees DH Matt Holliday for the American League lead. Six of Bautista’s long balls have either tied the game or given Toronto the lead.
“He just missed up and I was lucky enough to get a part of it to hit out of the park,” said Bautista, who had seen a whole bunch of sliders from Darvish in his first two fly-out at-bats.
While there had been considerable moaning and groaning about Bautista through his .178 April, that now seems a distant memory with his terrific May (.298 average, seven homers, 1.011 OPS).
“I feel a little bit better rhythm-wise,” he explained of the turn-around he never doubled would come. “I feel like I’m manipulating the bat where I want to more often now than I was a few weeks ago. Because of those reasons I’m jut not missing that often. So I’ve just got to go up to the plate with that feeling and continue to execute my game plan.”
For the sellout crowd at Rogers, the middle game of this weekend series against a team that must have nightmares about the Jays, the bloom came off the rose early — oh, about three seconds in — and loudly as starter Marco Estrada gave up a first-pitch home run to leadoff hitter Shin-soo Choo, who cranked an 88-m.p.h. fastball some 434 feet over the centre field wall.
That was a rude smack upside the head.
“I woke up this morning in a really good mood,” Estrada said later. “Just mentally prepared for this game. Came out to the ballpark, bullpen went really well. Then Choo swung at the first pitch and crushed it. Which sucked, obviously.”
Maile, who started the game catching with Russell Martin playing third, had actually called for a changeup, Estrada’s bread-and-butter pitch. “It kind of caught me off-guard. I thought he was joking with me.” Pause. “I probably should have thrown it.”
Estrada had a three-strikeout inning after that homer. And then he got really serious, holding Texas hitless until a single and double in the fourth — he got out of that jam — and allowing just four hits overall through six, racking up eight strikeouts en route to his fourth win.
Estrada has turn into a K-king, with 78 on the season, third in the AL.
“It’s not like I’m looking for them,” he shrugged. “I think it’s just being healthy, not having a sore back, I’ve been able to reach out and finish pitches. I know my (velocity) is up a tick. Makes it a little tougher for hitters, maybe.
“I know 90-91 isn’t a blazing fastball but when you throw a decent changeup, it makes it look a lot faster. Maybe that’s what it is.”
A decent changeup?
Ha. Ha. Ha.
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