CINCINNATI – The late, great Earl Weaver once was asked about momentum and whether it existed in baseball.
“Momentum is only as good as the next day's starter,” the long-time Baltimore Orioles manager famously quipped.
Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons was smacked in the face with that truth on Saturday. Less than 24 hours after his club staged the second biggest comeback in franchise history, winning 14-9 on Friday night in a game it had trailed 8-0, J.A. Happ (6-4) imploded on the mound and the Reds won a laugher 11-1.
“He didn't have it today,” said Gibbons. “We really never had a chance. You know, just kind of sucked the wind out of us right away but, hey, we move on. Show up tomorrow.”
Happ got the first two outs of the first inning. Reasonably quickly, too, as Billy Hamilton grounded out and Todd Frazier lined out. Then, inexplicably, Happ fell apart. He walked Joey Votto. He walked Brandon Phillips. He walked Jay Bruce to load the bases. Ryan Ludwick smacked a two-run single to centerfield, scoring Votto and Phillips. Happ walked Devin Mesoraco. Finally, Ramon Santiago grounded out to end Happ's 37-pitch first inning.
Whatever the events of Friday night had done to ease the burden of an ugly sweep in New York, Happ had put his team in another hole and this time the offence couldn't climb its way out.
“I was trying to be too fine, maybe, or what I'm not sure,” said Happ. “I let three guys go and then the base hit, kind of a tough way to start. I tried to be aggressive after that, but we didn't have a ton for them today and that started with me.”
Jay Bruce hit a solo home run in the third, the Reds scored four more times on three singles and two doubles in the fourth and Happ's day was done. So was the Blue Jays' afternoon; they could muster only a Colby Rasmus solo home run in the seventh off of Reds' starter Mike Leake (5-6).
REYES LEAVES WITH KNEE BRUISE
Jose Reyes won't start on Sunday after fouling a ball off his left knee in the fifth inning of Saturday's loss to the Reds. He didn't take his shortstop position after finishing his at-bat, replaced by Steve Tolleson.
He doesn't think it's serious.
“I hit it pretty good there, but it's not a big deal,” said Reyes.
Reyes confirmed he'd already been approached by manager John Gibbons, who informed him that he wouldn't be in Sunday's starting lineup.
Reyes is hitless in his last 12 at-bats and Gibbons suggested a breather could do his shortstop good.
RASMUS ON A ROLL
Colby Rasmus is off to a nice start since coming off the disabled list in time for Wednesday's game at Yankee Stadium.
In four games, he's 6-for-14 with a home run and two doubles. He drew a walk, a crucial one at that, leading off the ninth inning of Friday night's improbable come-from-behind, 14-9 victory over the Reds. He scored the winning run on an Erik Kratz double.
Rasmus missed 33 games with a strained right hamstring. He didn't waste time while he was hurt. He went to work in the gym and he credits his easy transition into the lineup to increased strength.
“Going on the DL, I'm able to put a little weight on and get stronger and lift (weights) and do a lot more things that I'm not able to do when I'm playing because, when I'm playing, it's hard to get those good lifts in where you can be sore the next day,” said Rasmus. “You don't want to mess yourself up. I was able to get stronger and that helps.”
The Blue Jays went 23-10 in Rasmus' absence, for most of the stretch maximizing the potential of the Anthony Gose-Kevin Pillar centrefield platoon. What Gose gave the Blue Jays with speed on the bases and defensively in centre, he couldn't make up for the power threat of Rasmus's bat. As the club began to struggle and the power numbers regressed to normalcy, it became clear how much Rasmus was missed.
He's back and he's resumed the same approach he brought into spring training.
“I'm not letting any pressures make me feel pressure,” said Rasmus. “In the past, when I was younger, people tried to always light a fire under me because I'm kind of chilled and just kind of laid back, quiet and they always tried to make me get real amped up and it didn't help me none because I drove myself crazy wanting to do good. I'd get myself so amped up and then not do good and the let down can break you down over time. I try to stay away from that, put me some country music on and stay relaxed, slowed down and then the game will speed me up.”
On that crucial walk Rasmus drew against Reds' flamethrower Aroldis Chapman on Friday night, he went up to the plate looking to greet one of Chapman's famous heaters, which consistently top 100 miles per hour.
“I'm looking for cheddar cheese balls,” said Rasmus, referencing one of his many nicknames for the fastball. “I mean, it is what it is, you can't worry about his offspeed stuff even though he's got a good slider, a good change-up.”
NAVARRO JUBILANT AS MESSI SCORES
Dioner Navarro is a fan of Argentine soccer great Lionel Messi.
That, in fact, may be an understatement. Navarro wears a Messi jersey underneath his batting practice jersey everyday. He's got the schedule laid out, too. When Messi is playing for his club team, FC Barcelona, Navarro sports the striped, red and blue home jersey. Currently, with Messi captaining Argentina in the World Cup, he's wearing Messi's Argentine attire.
When Messi scored in extra time to lead Argentina over Iran, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon, Navarro sprung up from a clubhouse couch and did a lap of the room, high-fiving teammates along the way.
For Navarro, the game was too close for comfort.
“I just got a few more greys on my head,” said Navarro. “What a goal.”
Navarro admits his infatuation with Messi is strange, especially because it's uncommon for one professional athlete to fawn over another. The admiration began about a decade ago.
“Back home, Venezuela, we grew up and we didn't have much money,” said Navarro. “We had only the local (television) channels and my parents were trying to get us as far away from whatever they were showing us on TV, violence and all that stuff back home. We used to get the games from Spain and I kind of grew up watching the games from Barcelona and, when Messi stepped in, he was 17 years old the first time. Every year he keeps growing. He keeps doing unbelievable things.”
Argentina's win was as much a relief to Navarro as it was a thrill. He'd been getting grief from his teammates.
“They were all over me, oh my gosh,” said Navarro. “The last thing I wanted was it to be tight because I knew everybody was going to be talking smack to me. Messi came through.”
The Blue Jays optioned right-handed pitcher Liam Hendriks to Triple-A Buffalo before Saturday's game.
Left-handed reliever Rob Rasmussen was recalled from the Bisons, which marks his second stint with the Blue Jays this season.
Rasmussen made four appearances from May 20-29. He pitched two innings, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out two.