Leading off the game for the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre, with the anguish of Friday night’s debacle still resonating in his mind, Devon Travis handled the adversity the best way he knows how.
He guided a bloop single into centrefield.
A couple of hits later, Travis was celebrating on the field with his teammates in the aftermath of a big 3-2 bounce-back win over the Boston Red Sox.
The outcome was also a big relief for Melvin Upton Jr., although sometimes it is hard to tell.
The stoic Blue Jays outfielder, after being booed mercilessly for his defensive follies about 15 hours earlier, stroked the big hit of the contest, a two-run home run shot in the second inning that paved Toronto’s way to victory.
The outcome not only snapped an unholy four-game losing skid but also moved the Blue Jays back within a thin game of Boston’s lead atop the American League East standing.
“We had two guys who took a lot of heat (Friday night) who came through for us,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons, who can never resist an opportunity to take a dig at the assembled media masses.
“Upton with the big homer and Devon, continues to swing a bat,” the manager pointed out, just in case somebody had a lapse in memory. “Everybody loves a winner, and rightfully so.”
Both Travis and Upton committed errors during Friday night’s 13-3 loss to the Red Sox in the opener of the three-game series that has been billed as Toronto’s most critical showdown of the season thus far.
For Travis, Toronto’s young second baseman whose batting average is back up to a team-leading .305 after going 3-for-4 with a double on Saturday, it was important for the club to wash away the debacle from the night before.
“Oh yeah, that was huge,” he said. “That was a real big one. I think everyone showed up today with a little extra motivation so that was a nice win.”
When Travis first arrived in Toronto for the 2014 season in a trade with the Detroit Tigers, the take on him was that he possessed good hitting skills but that his defence was suspect.
Those defensive shortcomings have never really shown up until recently when his steady hands suddenly turned jittery and the defensive miscues started piling up.
Through his first 57 games this season, Travis was only charged with three errors while patrolling second base.
Over his next 23, a tentative Travis has booted the ball on eight occasions, including gaffes in three consecutive outings heading into Saturday’s game.
Travis said he knows his defensive play has suffered of late and he faults an unbridled enthusiasm that he admits he sometimes lets get the better of him.
“I play this game with a lot of energy, sometimes that can be a problem,” Travis said. “You’ve got to try and slow the game down a little bit. It’s fast enough and hard enough as it is. When you put a little extra on it, it doesn’t make things any easier.”
Travis has been taken under the wing of Troy Tulowitzki, the veteran shortstop, who has been counselling the second baseman all season on the finer points of defensive play.
He said Tulowitzki has emphasized sometimes less is more when it comes to maximizing your defensive abilities.
“I’m a guy who when I’m struggling, or not playing the way I feel, I always want to do more, do more, do more,” Travis said. “It’s at the point now where most of my mistakes are coming from just trying to be too quick.
“I just need to slow the game down, take deep breaths, walk around between pitches and stop being a statue sometimes out there. I like to try to be so perfect and do everything so right that sometimes that can be a little bit of a problem.”
Travis’s enthusiasm perhaps got the better of him in the Toronto third inning when he led off with a double.
When the struggling Josh Donaldson stroked a ground ball to Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts, Travis took off for third when he would have been better served to play it conservatively and stay put.
Instead, Bogaerts made the relay to third where Travis became the first out of the inning.
“Obviously, if I could do it again I probably wouldn’t go,” Travis said. “But I felt at the time it was probably the right decision. We’re up 2-0 and JD’s up there grinding, trying to get me over to third. And I thought I got a good jump.
“Obviously, I wouldn’t do it again because it was the wrong decision. But I’d rather make an error like that rather than something that can be avoided.”Report Typo/Error
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