Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Anatomy of a Blue Jays Comeback

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Courtesy of Yahoo/Getty Images
Baseball is a wonderful game; one moment your favourite team is seemingly completely out of it with next to no chance of winning. And then the next, your team catches a lucky break and it completely changes their fate.

The great thing about baseball is until that 27th out is recorded, there is always a chance. Down 6-1 to the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning and a 2.5% chance of winning the game, it didn't appear as though the Blue Jays had a chance ... but they did.

So you're telling me there's a chance? Yes.

Yesterday's 8-6 comeback win over the Tigers may not have had any bearing on whether or not the Blue Jays will make the playoffs, but for some reason it certainly felt like that game had early season implications of what was to come.

So let's relive that fateful seventh inning in which the Blue Jays staged their impromptu comeback over the Detroit Tigers.

At bat #1: Single by Melky Cabrera
WPA Added: 0.40


With Jose Reyes just having lined out to third base, Melky Cabrera wasted absolutely no time in going after the first offering from Darin Downs. It was an 86 MPH changeup right down the middle of the plate, and Cabrera nearly took Downs' head off with another line shot.

It's a little difficult to make out, but in the still above ... you can see that Darin Downs nearly gloved the ball, only missing it by a few inches. But luckily for the Blue Jays, that lucky break was the beginning of their comeback.

At bat #2: Walk by Jose Bautista
WPA Added: 0.42


At first, I thought that Brooks Baseball missed a few pitches in the sequence to Jose Bautista. It actually turns out the third and fifth pitches in the at bat missed the zone entirely and bounced to the plate.

This is where the wheels started to come off for the Brayan Villarreal, as  pitch skipped to the backstop, and had it not been for some great glovework by Alex Avila, Melky Cabera would have advanced to third base as well. 

At bat #3: Walk by Edwin Encarnacion
WPA Added: 0.98


If I were Jim Leyland, this is where I start to panic. Villarreal was actually ahead in the count 1-2 at one point to Edwin Encarncion. EE did a great job of fouling off a couple of tough pitches; one up and in, and the other at the bottom of the zone.

And then Brayan Villarreal proceeded to throw three straight pitches down and away to Encarnacion, but he didn't bite on one of them. In the final pitch of the at bat, EE did check his swing, but it was well low of the strike zone.

At bat #4: Walk by Mark DeRosa
WPA Added: 0.146


Typically, Mark DeRosa might not seem like the type of player you'd want at the dish with the bases loaded. But with a career .350 AVG and five career grand slams, DeRosa was actually a wise choice to have in the lineup in that particular situation.

It turns out he really didn't have to take the bat off his shoulders very much, as Brayan Villarreal did most of the heavy lifting by walking Mark DeRosa on six pitches.

Villarreal was actually ahead in the count 1-2 to DeRosa as well, but subsequently missed his spots. The fourth, fifth and six pitches of the at bat where nowhere even close to the plate, which lead to a run being walked in.

At bat #5: Double by J.P. Arencibia
WPA Added: 0.340


With another right-hander coming to the plate in J.P. Arencibia, Jim Leyland opted to go with his third reliever in the inning, Octavio Dotel. With a career .202 AVG against him, Dotel has made a living of dominating righties, but this time Arencibia got the best of his former teammate.

J.P. was likely just looking to put the ball in play, which would explain why he swung at the first pitch up and in. And then Dotel came in with a 89 MPH cutter in J.P. Arencibia's wheelhouse, and he absolutely crushed the pitch.

Had the ball not hung up in the cold Detroit air, it probably would've had the distance to be a home run. But instead, J.P. split the outfielders and completed the Blue Jays comeback in the eighth inning.

As Lloyd Christmas and the Toronto Blue Jays have shown, sometimes in life ... all you need is a chance.

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