Friday, April 18, 2014

Flashback Friday: Kelly Gruber Hits for the Cycle


A single, a double, a triple, and a home run. Most players would be happy to collect each of these within a single week of play. But there are select few that have done it all in one game.

Hitting for the cycle is an extremely rare feat in Major League Baseball. It's happened just over 300 times since 1882, and only two players have ever done it in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform.

In honour of the 25th anniversary of this momentous occasion, this week's Flashback Friday takes a look back at Kelly Gruber's cycle from April 16th, 1989; the first cycle in Blue Jays history.

Dave Stieb took to the hill for the Blue Jays and was coming off a complete game one-hitter in his previous start. His cohorts eventually put some runs on the board, but not before allowing the Royals to jump out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning.

Stieb was yanked from the game after retiring only one batter and allowing the first six batters in the Royals lineup reach base. So after being down 6-0 in the first frame, the Blue Jays had an uphill battle, but Gruber single-handedly got them back in the game.

Gruber drove in a total of six runs, and went 4 for 4 on the day. Here's the sequence of how his at bats played out.

Inn ▴ Batter Pitcher Play Description
b1 K. Gruber F. Bannister Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep LF Line)
b2 K. Gruber F. Bannister Double to LF (Line Drive to LF Line)
b7 K. Gruber T. Gordon Triple to RF (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF)
b8 K. Gruber J. Gleaton Single to CF (Fly Ball to Short LF-CF)

Also an interesting fact, current Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer was playing third base for the Kansas City Royals that very game.

Of course, in some strange coincidence, Kelly Gruber just so happened to be in attendance at the Skydome some 12 years later when Jeff Frye became the second Toronto Blue Jay to hit for the cycle. As rare as it is to hit for the cycle, what are the odds of that happening?

Kelly Gruber has kind of become a good luck charm when it comes to hitting a cycle. So if Gruber ever shows up at a Blue Jays game again, chances are a player has a decent shot at making history ... just like he did.

Images courtesy of Getty Images

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sergio Santos Makes History (Not in a Good Way)


It was a implosion of epic proportions; there is no other way to put it. It was an ugly night for the Toronto Blue Jays, but it was an especially bad night for one man in particular.

In a 9-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins, Sergio Santos had the dubious honour of making MLB history. He did what no other pitcher has ever done before.

Sergio Santos became the first pitcher in MLB history to throw three wild pitches in one game and not record a single out.

Sure, pitchers have thrown three or more pitchers in an inning, but at least they've retired a batter. Sergio Santos did not. Tack on the three walks surrendered by Santos and you have what was an overall horrendous outing by the on-again off-again Blue Jays closer.

Here's the sequence of events:

Score Batter Pitcher Play Description
Sergio Santos replaces Steve Delabar pitching
Trevor Plouffe pinch hits for Aaron Hicks (CF) batting 8th
3-5 T. Plouffe S. Santos Walk
Kurt Suzuki pinch hits for Eduardo Escobar (SS) batting 9th
3-5 K. Suzuki S. Santos Wild Pitch; Pinto Scores; Herrmann to 3B; Plouffe to 2B
Pedro Florimon pinch runs for Trevor Plouffe (PH) batting 8th
4-5 K. Suzuki S. Santos Walk, Wild Pitch; Herrmann Scores; Florimon to 3B
Darin Mastroianni pinch runs for Kurt Suzuki (PH) batting 9th
5-5 B. Dozier S. Santos Mastroianni Steals 2B
5-5 B. Dozier S. Santos Walk, Wild Pitch; Florimon Scores; Mastroianni to 3B

Sergio Santos threw a total of 16 pitches in that outing, four of them being strikes and 12 of them being balls. Whether it was the weather or otherwise, Santos simply could not find the strike zone, as his pitches hit the dirt time and time again.

It was an ugly, ugly inning overall, and in this particular instance, the ability to forget a game like this and look forward to the next series is the only way to move on.

Hat tip to @Noah_Sherman for the info. Image courtesy of Getty Images

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Target Field: Bautista and Encarnacion's Playground


Ordinarily, sending a visiting team to the frigid confines of Minnesota in mid-April might be considered a punishment. But for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, they probably revel at the chance to return to Target Field.

As the Blue Jays get set to continue their nine game road swing through Minneapolis, Bautista and Encarnacion enter the series as two of the most prolific hitters ever at Target Field. Mind you the stadium's only been around for four years, but still very impressive.

Target Field is essentially Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarncaion's playground.

Take a look at how Bautista and Encarnacion's career numbers stack up against other visitors to Target Field. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better power combo in baseball when they visit this ballpark.

11 Jose Bautista 11 10 .362 .423 1.043 1.466
13 Carlos Santana 31 7 .200 .296 .461 .757
14 Adam Dunn 24 7 .259 .347 .565 .912
16 Paul Konerko 33 6 .304 .385 .488 .873
17 Miguel Cabrera 36 6 .346 .429 .559 .988
18 Edwin Encarnacion 13 6 .356 .434 .778 1.212
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2014.

You would think just by the virtue of the fact that the Twins play 81 home games a year, the home players would rack up home runs over time. But that simply isn't the case.

1 Josh Willingham 130 29 .254 .375 .509 .883
2 Trevor Plouffe 193 27 .254 .318 .436 .754
3 Jim Thome 101 24 .261 .392 .577 .969
4 Justin Morneau 203 20 .279 .351 .436 .787
5 Michael Cuddyer 149 17 .282 .350 .456 .806
6 Brian Dozier 126 15 .242 .305 .397 .702
7 Danny Valencia 135 15 .291 .329 .445 .774
8 Ryan Doumit 137 14 .261 .318 .422 .740
9 Jason Kubel 117 13 .259 .328 .415 .743
10 Joe Mauer 253 11 .321 .401 .425 .827
11 Jose Bautista 11 10 .362 .423 1.043 1.466
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/14/2014.

Jose Bautista has one less home run at Target Field than Joe Mauer; except Mauer has played 242 more games than Bautista in Minnesota. Yet, Joe Mauer has 11 career home runs at Target Field while Jose Bautista has 10.

And not only is it the quantity of home runs that Bautista and Encarnacion manage to hit in Minnesota, but it's the sheer ferocity in which they hit them. This moon shot into the third deck at Target Field by Jose Bautista is probably my favourite.

Games at Target Field in April are likely much different than the dog days of summer, but both Bautista and Encarnacion have hit home runs in Minnesota in both April and May. Single-digit temperatures this week might not have much of an impact on them.

One possible explanation for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion's numbers at Target Field can be attributed to the quality of pitchers they've faced on the Twins. Go through the list of guys they've hit home runs off of, and it's a veritable who's who of replacement level pitchers.

Francisco Liriano (the old version), Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, one-time Blue Jay P.J. Walters, Brian Duensing and Johan Santana just to name a few.

And the probable pitchers for this series in Minnesota are as follows: Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Kyle Gibson being the sole beacon of hope for the Twins. So Jose and Edwin just may rack up a bunch more home runs before they leave Minneapolis this week.

Image courtesy of City News

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flashback Friday: Alfredo Griffin's Hilariously Bad Strikeout


There's a reason why only a small percentage of hitters make it to "The Show" - hitting a Major League pitch is not an easy feat. For the few that make it to the bigs, sometimes even they have difficulty timing a pitch.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at a hilariously bad strikeout courtesy of Alfredo Griffin. The game in question took place on September 27th, 1992 at Yankee Stadium.

Without context, this might seem like this is the worst strikeout you've ever seen, but let me provide you with a bit of background.

The Blue Jays enjoyed a comfortable 9-0 lead heading into the top of the 5th inning against the Yankees, and that's when Griffin entered the batter's box.

By all accounts, it was a very rainy day at Yankee Stadium, and Alfredo Griffin's motivation was to get five innings in the books as quickly as possible so the game would be made official. So he subsequently swung for the fences at three straight pitches and struck out.

As if it wasn't bad enough that Griffin struck out on a pitch that was good two feet outside the strike zone, he didn't even run out the ball to first base. I mean, come on man ... if you're going to feign an at bat, at least sell it a little better than that.

It kind of resembles the type of swing you'd see a kid make in little league where they just close their eyes and swing for the fences, regardless of where the baseball is.

Griffin's plan was ultimately foiled by the umpires as they called for a rain delay, but the Blue Jays went on to win 12-2 over the Yankees.
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