Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Toronto Blue Jays (66-79) at New York Yankees (83-63), 1:05 & 7:05 pm (DH) (ET) - News & Observer

Game 2: Toronto - Ricky Romero (8-14, 5.87) New York - David Phelps (4-4, 3.39) It's not surprising that given the choice, New York Yankees starter Andy Pettitte elected to pitch the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Having not pitched in the majors since June 27, the veteran is ready to get back on the mound.

Pettitte was slated to start Tuesday's opener of this three-game set between AL East teams, but the contest was postponed due to rain. The clubs will instead play two on Wednesday with a day-night doubleheader.

New York manager Joe Girardi said he gave Pettitte a choice in which game the 40-year-old wanted to start. He picked the opener.

"I ain't gonna lie to you, I'm tired of talking about (his return)," Pettitte said. "I just want to go out there and pitch and hopefully give this team a chance to win that ballgame and move forward from there."

Pettitte has been out since suffering a fractured left ankle in a game against the Cleveland Indians on June 27. The lefty went winless in his four starts prior to going on the DL and is 3-3 with a solid 3.22 ERA through nine starts this season, which follows a brief one-year retirement.

Pettitte has a wealth of experience versus the Blue Jays, going 21-12 with a 4.16 ERA in 42 meetings, including 41 starts.

Girardi had said on Sunday that Pettitte will likely be on a pitch count around 70.

Pettitte returns to a Yankees team that led the AL East by as many as 10 games back on July 18, but now finds itself once again tied with the Baltimore Orioles for first place. The O's took advantage of the Yanks' rain out and logged an extra-inning win on Tuesday to create the tie, though they have now played two more games than New York.

In order to keep Phil Hughes on schedule for his Thursday start in the finale of this set, David Phelps will return to the rotation to start tonight's second game for New York.

Phelps made his sixth straight start on Sept. 12 and beat the Boston Red Sox with 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball, then shifted to the bullpen and pitched on Sunday. The righty recorded two outs in an appearance against the Tampa Bay Rays and is 4-4 with a 3.39 ERA in 29 games (9 starts) this season.

Phelps, 25, has faced Toronto once this year as a starter and did not get a decision after allowing four runs on five hits, two homers and a walk in 6 1/3 frames of work.

Toronto's Ricky Romero was set to face Pettitte on Tuesday, but will instead go up against Phelps in the nightcap looking to avoid a 14th straight losing decision.

Romero, who won 15 games and posted a 2.92 ERA last season, was 8-1 following his last victory on June 22, but has since logged a 7.95 ERA over a 14-start winless drought. His 13 straight losses ties the franchise mark first set by Tom Underwood in 1978-79.

The 27-year-old lefty lost his sixth start in a row on Wednesday versus the Seattle Mariners, yielding three runs on eight hits and four walks in four innings of work.

"We're going to continue to work with him," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "We're going to continue to finish this year on a positive note and that is our intent going forward."

Romero, now 8-14 with a 5.87 ERA in 29 starts this year, has lost five straight decisions to the Yankees. That includes all three starts against them this year while posting a 4.95 ERA.

Henderson Alvarez will start the first game for Toronto.

The 22-year-old has followed up five straight losing decisions with back-to- back wins and is coming off a victory over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. Alvarez allowed three runs on five hits and three walks in seven innings, moving to 9-12 with a 4.91 ERA in 28 starts this season.

The rookie righty has faced New York three times while logging a 6.46 ERA without a decision.

Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar will begin serving a three-game suspension handed down by the Blue Jays on Tuesday for writing a homophobic slur in Spanish on his eye-black stickers during Saturday's game versus Boston.

Escobar, who is hitting .251 with nine homers and 49 RBI this season, apologized for the incident on Tuesday during a news conference at Yankee Stadium.

"I'm sorry for the actions of the other day," Escobar said through a translator. "I'd like to apologize to the fans and the Blue Jays organization. It's not something I intended to be offensive. It was nothing intentional or directed at anyone in particular."

Escobar's lost salary will be directed by the club to You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation according to a release by the Blue Jays. Escobar will also participate in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation.

New York has won six of its 11 meetings versus Toronto this season.

New York Yankees vs. Toronto Blue Jays September 19-20 Series Preview - Bleacher Report

The Toronto Blue Jays are a big part of what stands between the New York Yankees and another American League East division title. The Yankees will try and dispatch their division mates to the north en route to another postseason and they'll get help from an old friend who returns to start Tuesday night.

The Yankees are 6-5 against a weak Toronto team this season, with seven games left in the season series. The Blue Jays come in with nothing to play for other than personal pride and the chance to give their fans something to cheer about by putting a dent in the Yankees' postseason hopes.

Toronto will trot out two left-handed pitchers against New York, hoping to see see the Yankees' weaker "B" lineup that is filled with hitters the likes of Steve Pearce and Andruw Jones. The Yankees have mostly struggled against southpaws over the last two months, as evident by their weak performance against Felix Doubront at Fenway last week.

The Bombers rebounded nicely on Sunday at the Stadium by destroying highly-touted Tampa Bay lefty, Matt Moore, frustrating him through three innings and even agitating the young fireballer into throwing at Curtis Granderson's head.

Toronto, like all of the AL East teams, have been greatly impacted by injuries and it’s shown in their record. Toronto has been without star Jose Bautista since late August, though Bautista has played only six games in the 2nd half of the season. Bautista injured his left wrist while at the plate on a swing back in mid-July against New York.

Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind and JP Arencibia have all missed large stretches of time during the second half of the season, eliminating the Jays from playoff contention for a 19th consecutive season.

Toronto is hobbling to the end of the season and their pitching staff is practically praying things will end. Toronto ace Ricky Romero has endured a disastrous 2012 after getting off to a very nice start in his first three MLB seasons. Henderson Alvarez, Wednesday afternoon's starter, has been up-and-down of late, showing the inconsistency of a young starter.

Yet for all of Toronto's faults, they're still incredibly fifth in the majors in home runs. The Yankees should not take them for granted, particularly big sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasumus.

The Yankees are hoping to pounce on their prey and beat down the Jays at the Stadium continuing to build on the last two series victories. Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez have come alive for the Yankees at the right time as they near another AL East division crown.

The Yankees are hoping to gain ground on Baltimore and Tampa and find a late season surge while Toronto is playing out their slate of games looking to see what players may be contributors or starters for their squad in 2013.

Here is an offensive tale of the tape and a breakdown of the pitching match-ups:

By the Numbers (Major League rank through games played on September 17th):

Team OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage): 
Yankees: 2nd
Blue Jays: 19th

Team Home Runs: 
Yankees: 1st
Blue Jays: 5th

Runs Scored: 
Yankees: 2nd
Blue Jays: 11th

Batting Average: 
Yankees: 11th 
Blue Jays: 25th

Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP): 
Yankees: 19th
Blue Jays: 9th

Top Hitters: 
Yankees: Robinson Cano (.300 BA, .911 OPS, 30 HR, 77 RBI); Derek Jeter (.323 BA, .810 OPS, 15 HR, 55 RBI, *leads MLB in hits); Curtis Granderson (.235 BA, .816 OPS, 39 HR, 92 RBI)

Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion (.279 BA, .947 OPS, 40 HR, 102 RBI); Brett Lawrie (.278 BA, .733 OPS, 9 HR, 43 RBI); Colby Rasmus (.231 BA, .712 OPS, 22 HR, 73 RBI)

Toronto Blue Jays Updates: Yunel Escobar Suspended and WWRD: What Will ... - Bleacher Report

The Toronto Blue Jays have been in the news for the last couple of days for all the wrong reasons.

As you all know, Yunel Escobar has been lambasted for writing a homophobic slur in Spanish on his eye-black.

On a completely different note, the most interesting piece of news following the Jays at this point is Ricky Romero, and seeing if he can turn this losing streak around that is now a franchise-high 13 straight.

Let us begin by discussing Yunel.

Yunel Escobar Suspended for 3 Games

The Blue Jays have suspended Escobar for three games without pay for his actions last Saturday. Moreover, his salary for the three games (roughly $92,000) will be directed by the Blue Jays to You Can Play (an organization focused on equality and respect for athletes regardless of their sexual orientation), and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation according to ESPN.

I believe this is an excellent touch by the Blue Jays brass and they hope to completely squash this incident. Even Bud Selig agrees with me: "Major League Baseball supports today's decision by the Blue Jays to discipline Yunel Escobar and commends them for handling this situation appropriately and promptly,"

Was the three game suspension too harsh or too lenient?

Was the three game suspension too harsh or too lenient?

  • Too Harsh

  • Too Lenient

  • Just Right

  • Can We Just Play Some Baseball Already? I Haven't Watched the Jays Since Sunday!

So does this completely end the issue? I don't think so, as Escobar's reputation will take a hit. As mentioned by my colleague Adam Wells in his piece stating that Escobar should be released, many view this as a very punishable crime.

This led many to reassess Yunel's character, which was questioned upon his arrival to Toronto as it traded him for a much older, less talented shortshop in Alex Gonzalez.

The problem I have with this is that Escobar has been a great teammate and locker-room presence for the Blue Jays throughout his tenure. Sure, he made some mistakes in the Braves organization, but things have clicked here (not necessarily at the plate, but as a professional) and this was an error in judgement that he regrets.

Escobar has vehemently apologized (although he mentions that the phrase is commonly used by Latino players, another issue in and of itself), and even his manager (granted, this might be toeing the organization's lines) spoke about how surprised he was by this event as it is "out of character" for Escobar.

I believe that this was a stupid move by Escobar, and I completely agree with the way the Blue Jays have handled the situation. Let us now focus on baseball and the Blue Jays' game against the Yankees. Speaking of which...

Romero Due to Start; Ratings Will Increase

Hi-res-146440067_crop_exactAbelimages/Getty Images

The Blue Jays will play a doubleheader against the Yankees today with Romero starting the evening tilt. I believe this is another smart move by the Blue Jays as perhaps Romero can pound the strike zone against an older, more tired Yankee bunch in the second game.

However, things don't bode well for Ricky coming into this start. He holds a career ERA of 5.00 against the Yankees and has given up 10 earned runs in five innings in September against two weaker opponents (Tampa Bay and Seattle).

Call me mayb.... I mean crazy, but I think Romero pitches well tonight. He knows that his rotation spot is barely guaranteed for next season and that he has become the butt of many jokes.

He is a fierce competition, and I have a feeling that this will pull him through tonight in the second game of the doubleheader.

Romero goes up against the young right-hander David Phelps. I am a big fan of Phelps and think he has electric stuff with great strikeout potential, he just needs to keep the ball in the yard. There could be a lot of teams who play in a much more friendly ballpark (or division) that could really make him a stud, but boy is it tough in the AL East.

Both the Yankees and Jays had the Monday off, so both have had an unexpected break since last playing on Sunday. How the teams will react in the first game could easily tell the tale for the second (after nearly 70 hours off then playing for roughly six of the next nine).

We can sit here and predict all we want, but it will be fun to watch for most Blue Jay fans.

For argument's sake, I call a 5-3 Blue Jays win with Romero going six innings and giving up three.

For a full analysis of what is plaguing Romero, consult my previous piece which discusses how his eight wins were a mirage and that his struggles began on Day 1. 

Get at me on Twitter @the__ste (double underscore) for fantasy advice, fantasy articles, Jays news and discussion, as well as anything else I find awesome.

Toronto Maple Leafs: 4 Ways NHL Lockout Would Affect the Squad - Bleacher Report

The 2004-05 NHL lockout was not kind to the Toronto Maple Leafs. After making the playoffs for six straight years heading into the lockout, the Leafs failed to make the playoffs the next seven seasons.

With the 2012 NHL lockout four days old, Leafs fans hope that the same thing does not happen again. With Brian Burke at the helm, the Leafs should be better equipped once it is over.

Here are four ways the Leafs might be affected

POSITIVE: Toronto Can Take Advantage of Teams Adversely Affected by the Lockout

Elsa/Getty Images

If the salary cap goes down to $58 million, 16 teams would be forced over the salary cap. With those teams forced to make moves to get under the salary cap, the Maple Leafs could be in a position to take advantage.

They will be able to make deals with these teams that will significantly improve the Leafs roster for a low cost.

Two years after the last lockout, a team whose general manager was Brian Burke won the Stanley Cup. While it might not be directly linked to the lockout, it's no secret that Anaheim was able to improve in the new NHL.

While the Maple Leafs might not get the same result, they might be able to improve greatly over the next couple of years.

NEGATIVE: Junior Players Ready to Play for Marlies Wouldn't Be Able To

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The youngest players that might have won a role on the Leafs roster in training camp, like Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne or Carter Ashton, are now going to start the season in AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Even Jake Gardiner has been sent down.

With all of those players that might not have been on the Marlies roster, junior players like Stuart Percy or Tyler Biggs will not receive much of a shot to make the team.

POSITIVE and NEGATIVE: If Lockout Lasts All Year, It Burns off a Contract Year

Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

One hidden benefit of a season-long lockout would be the burning off of a certain few contracts.

The final years of contracts belonging to players like Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi would disappear, and fans would not be disappointed by any underachieving by the two. It would also kill off one of the buyout years of Colby Armstrong and Darcy Tucker.

On the downside, players like Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and other good players with one year remaining on their contracts would all be free agents much sooner.

POSITIVE: 2013 NHL Draft

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Perhaps the biggest positive of a season-long lockout would be a the Leafs' chances in the 2013 NHL draft. If the league handles the 2013 draft lottery the same way they handled the 2005 draft lottery, the Leafs are in a very good position.

The rules of that lottery were that every team started with three balls and lost one for every playoff appearance in the past three years or No. 1 overall pick in the past four years. A team could only drop down to one ball remaining.

This time around, the Leafs are one of the teams with neither a playoff appearance nor first overall pick.

There would be seven teams with three balls heading into the lottery: Toronto, Calgary, Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Minnesota, Winnipeg.

It's not a sure thing that the Leafs would end up with the first overall pick, but they would have a higher shot than they usually do.

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