MacArthur: Pitching and speed key to Jays' latest win

Scott MacArthur
5/24/2014 5:49:01 PM
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TORONTO – It's a sign of the times for the Blue Jays.

The team that leads the major leagues with 69 home runs and is second in slugging percentage (.443) and on-base plus slugging (.770) won again on Saturday, 5-2 over Oakland, thanks to strong pitching and speed on the bases.

"We stink, we stink," joked R.A. Dickey when asked about the much-maligned starting rotation, which has posted a 2.84 ERA through the last turn, dating back to the start of last week's series at Fenway Park. "We're going to keep stinking, too. We're happy to be under the radar. We're happy that people don't, as a staff, give us any respect. It's okay. We are professionals and we're going to keep grinding and we'll see where we end up at the end of this thing."

Dickey hurled 8 1/3 innings of two-run baseball, marking the first time this season he threw a pitch after the seventh inning. After exorcising that seventh inning demon, one that's seemed to plague him through most of the season, he urged that neither he nor his rotation mates get too comfortable.

"One thing I feel like we can't do is take things for granted," said Dickey. "We're in a good spot right now but there's going to be a challenging stretch too during this year so we've got to really ride the wave as long as we can ride it."

The home run-happy Blue Jays wouldn't go without in that department on Saturday. Brett Lawrie's leadoff blast in the fifth broke a 1-1 time. Toronto has homered at least once in 27 of its last 32 games.

But, offensively, the Jays' win, the club's fifth in a row, was built on the legs of Jose Reyes and Anthony Gose.

With two out in the third and the Athletics ahead 1-0, Anthony Gose took off from first base on a 2-2 pitch to Melky Cabrera. Shortstop Eric Sogard darted for second to cut down the would-be base stealer, which opened up a left side single for Cabrera. Gose never stopped running and when leftfielder Craig Gentry bobbled the pickup as he approached third, Gose made the turn home and scored the tying run.

In the fifth, after Lawrie's home run had given Toronto the lead, Gose singled with one out. Reyes followed with a single of his own, advancing Gose to third. Reyes went to second on a Jesse Chavez wild pitch. Cabrera hit a groundball to Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss, who had the ball deflect off his glove as he prepared to step on first and make a play on Gose at the plate. Both Gose and Reyes scored and the Jays were ahead, 4-1.

Two innings later, in the seventh, Reyes doubled with one out and attempted a steal of third. Cabrera put the ball in play, a grounder to Sogard, and Reyes didn't stop. He rounded third, hustled home and beat the Moss throw to the plate. The Jays led 5-1 and there was no looking back.

"You know the old saying, 'Speed never goes in slumps' and they can make some things happen," said manager John Gibbons. "Reyes has been around the game for a long time and he's always done that. Gose is on his way up and trying to make a name for himself and that's what he does."

"It's a lot of speed there," said Reyes of the threat Gose and he present heading into the middle of the batting order. "Gose has been unbelievable for us. Not just what he brings, just playing good defence in the field and he can run every ball down. That's something that we need. Like I said, we'll just take it one game at a time and continue to play the way that we play with timely hitting and good defence."

Reinforcing the fact Toronto is getting contributions from different players each day, Saturday marked the first time all season that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion failed to reach base safely in the same game.

Santos Throwing

Sergio Santos, on the disabled list since May 11 with a forearm strain, played catch for a second straight day prior to Saturday's game.

He threw from approximately 70 feet on Friday and from 80 feet on Saturday.

There is no timetable for Santos' return to action.

Hendriks Dispels Australian Stereotypes

Friday night's winning pitcher, 25-year-old Liam Hendriks, is a native of Perth, Australia, the western-most major city in the country.

Since moving to North America, he's become accustomed to dealing with questions about common stereotypes attributed to Australians. Which is the silliest?

"That we all live about 15 miles away from each other," said Hendriks. "We have over 20 million people in the country. Obviously we only occupy like five percent of the country and 95 percent's barren but that's the biggest one, that we all live 15 miles away and we all ride to school in kangaroos."

No, he hasn't met Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame. Yes, he's been asked that question on many occasions.

Hendriks' wife, Kristi, is a native of Montreal. Her influence is all over one of his new favourite sports.

"I'm a huge hockey fan," said Hendriks. "I'm a Canadiens fan, a Montreal Canadiens fan."

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