Through the first five innings of tonight's game, Jeff Niemann did his best to make us forget about his last start (3.1 IP, 8 hits, 10 runs, 2 strikeouts, 3 walks, one home run, if it somehow slipped your mind). Using 66 pitches to navigate the first five frames, Niemann generated seven swinging strikes (10.6%) and, other than allowing a solo home run to John McDonald in the second inning, was nearly impossible to get a good swing on.
Ricky Romero was just as strong for the Jays, facing the minimum through four innings while allowing two walks: Zobrist in the third and Upton in the fourth, both runners erased on double plays. Romero hiccuped in the fifth inning, giving up walks to Longoria and Rodriguez then an RBI single to Zobrist and a two RBI double to Dan Johnson. With the Rays up 3 - 1 through five innings and Niemann on cruise control, the game seemed to be in good shape...
A flip was switched, as they say, and the sixth inning brought in some bizarro baseball.
The Jays started out the inning with some unexpected small ball. Fred Lewis executed a perfect bunt down the third base line that Longoria could only watch as it tiptoed on the chalk.Three pitches later, Lewis stole second and then scored on Dewayne Wise's single to right center. The Jays are last in the Majors in stolen bases with 44, but stole three bases off of the Neimann/Shoppach battery tonight.
The Big Nyquil got a wakeup call as he lost control and allowed the Jays to rack up five runs on two singles, three doubles, and a hit batsmen without recording an out before he was taken out in the sixth. Lance Cormier would enter the game and allow five more runs on home runs by Aaron Hill and Jose Bautista (one run charged to Niemann) leaving the Jays with a ten run sixth and effectively ending the game.
And that's all there really is to say. Niemann threw five innings of one run ball and then imploded in the sixth. Without being a trainer, it seemed that Niemann simply ran out of steam. While not ideal, this can be chalked up to this being his second start off of the DL and hopefully we can expect the Big Nyquil to return to form in his next start. I don't expect this Davis/Niemann Freaky Friday situation to last too much longer.
- The Yankees won, which puts the Rays one game back for the division, but thankfully the Red Sox lost and remain seven games back in the wild card.
- Jose Bautista did his best...well, 2010 Jose Bautista impression tonight (2-3, HR, BB, HBP, 4 RBI). Or maybe it was 2007 Carlos Pena...
- After stroking a two RBI double in the 5th, Dan Johnson tried to stretch it to three and was thrown out easily to end the inning. I know "They" say Joe Maddon doesn't believe in the common baseball adages and just wants his players to be aggressive on the base path, but with Romero on the ropes and Upton swinging a hot bat on deck, I wonder what might have been.