Baltimore Orioles blast Blue Jays 12-2
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva throws in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles during an MLB American League baseball game in Baltimore, Maryland, September 26, 2012. (REUTERS)
They say a man's reach should exceed his grasp. In the case of Carlos Villanueva it may simply be a cruel deception.
Inside that superb swing man who has bailed out the Blue Jays many times these past two years there is a starting pitcher trying to get out.
Unfortunately, the deeper he gets into the season, the better Villanueva looks in his former role.
Tuesday night, as has happened all too regularly in September, Villanueva was raked over the coals by the Baltimore Orioles on their way to a 12-2 victory. Villanueva's evening came crashing down in a five-run Baltimore fifth inning that featured three home runs that sent him careening to his fourth loss in five September starts.
"I started out well, good break on my ball and a live fastball but that last inning, I'm one pitch away from keeping the game under control and it didn't happen," said Villanueva. "The mistakes I made, they hit them with authority. They did a good job of punishing (me). They didn't foul them off, or hit singles, they put the power stroke on it."
Villanueva, who can be a free agent come the end of this season, has made no secret of the fact he would like a chance to start full time and to be paid accordingly. Through his career, Villanueva has been a very good relief pitcher with the added value of being a competent spot starter.
The Blue Jay brass like him a lot but have expressed reservations about his endurance and the September numbers seem to reinforce that concern. In his five September starts, Villanueva has worked 26.2 innings and surrendered 24 earned runs (an 8.10 ERA) on 33 hits and eight walks. These results come at the end of a season in which he has pitched more innings (125.1) than in any of his previous six years.
"I don't think this was a matter of him running out of gas," said Farrell. "His secondary pitches were the ones that were up over the plate. His velocity was consistent."
"It's a shame," said Villanueva. "I've had a bad road trip. In the end I've given all I've had. Free agency, you worry about that after the season. I don't know what it was in Tampa. I've had some tough games there but I definitely felt better (in Baltimore).
"The disappointing part is that late in the year you want to have the strongest finish possible."
Villanueva wasn't the only Blue Jay pitcher to take it on the chin as the Orioles belted seven home runs, two each by Chris Davis and rookie Manny Machado. Davis has now hit nine home runs against Toronto this season, the most ever by an Oriole against the Blue Jays in one year.
The Blue Jays now come home for their final seven games after a 2-7 road trip, with both wins coming here in Baltimore.
In the broad sweep of mini-projects the Blue Jays are trying to complete in September, one that is showing very good results is the conversion of Brett Cecil into a situational lefthanded reliever.
"I think what Brett has been doing in that role is very encouraging," said Farrell. "On back-to-back days against a good hitter (Jim Thome) in a tight spot, he executes three breaking balls and does his job. I will tell you he's genuinely excited about the challenge of the role, the thought that he could pitch on any night when he comes to the ballpark. Everything that we've asked of him, he's responded favourably."
This goes back to last offseason when Cecil lost some 40 pounds.
"We asked him to drop weight. He's done it. We've asked him to go down to Triple A. He's done it. He may not have agreed with everything, but he's done it and made the most of every situation. He comes back and is going to pitch out of the bullpen. Maybe at first he still saw himself as a starting pitcher but he's adjusted. He's been committed to the conditions offered and good for him."
NEON DEION STILL HAS IT
Deion "Prime Time" Sanders, now 45 and 11 years removed from his last professional baseball game, put on a clinic in the batting cage at Orioles Park Wednesday afternoon, raking line drives all over the lot and even belting a couple of balls that left the property.
Sanders, perhaps the most successful two-sport star since Bo Jackson, is in Baltimore as part of the NFL Network crew who will broadcast Thursday's Browns-Ravens NFL game.
A Pro Football Hall of Famer, Sanders was a shutdown cornerback for five NFL teams -- the Cowboys, Falcons, 49ers, Redskins and Ravens -- winning Super Bowls with the Niners and Cowboys. As an MLB player, he played parts of nine seasons with the Yankees, Braves, Giants and Reds and was part of the 1992 Braves team that lost to Toronto in the World Series. His best major-league season was in that 1992 season when he hit .304. Fourteen of his 92 hits that year were triples.
Toronto third base coach Brian Butterfield was Sanders' first professional manager as a college student in rookie ball at Sarasota in 1988.
"In his very first game for us, he hit a routine two-hopper to the second baseman and beat it out," said Butterfield. "He's the fastest ballplayer I've ever seen."
Baltimore manager Bock Showalter would later manage Sanders at Double A Albany a year later. Sanders was at Orioles Park as Showalter's guest but his BP exploits drew a crowd of Orioles and Blue Jays players, many of whom became star-struck autograph-seekers.