OAKLAND — The euphoria of a three-game sweep quickly turned to sorrow with the stunning news that right-hander Matt Shoemaker will be out for the season because of a knee injury.
The hard-luck pitcher, who has persevered through many mishaps in the past, went three scoreless innings on Saturday here against the A’s, but left the game with what was thought to be a sprained knee when he was hurt during a rundown.
Turns out Shoemaker tore his ACL.
“That’s bad news,’’ said manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s not good for us. We just found out. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball. A tough loss for us. I feel bad for him because he was doing so great.”
A man of high character, the news following an MRI on Sunday was devastating to Shoemaker, who could barely contain his emotions.
“I was really hoping for a knee sprain,’’ he said in the immediate aftermath of Toronto’s 5-4 win on Sunday over the Athletics. “I knew what I felt. It didn’t feel right.”
The music inside the clubhouse was quickly turned off once news filtered of Shoemaker’s injury. As much as he tried to control his emotions, the human side kicked in and the veteran right-hander was wiping away tears. A true pro who has endeared himself to his teammates since signing the Toronto as a free-agent, Shoemaker didn’t deserve this, but he wasn’t feeling sorry for himself.
“You can’t put words to it,’’ said Shoemaker. “It’s extremely frustrating, but at the same time you have to stay positive. I know I’m really upset right now, but stay positive, keep fighting. Get this thing back and be ready when it’s ready to go.
“The biggest thing is that it’s frustrating. I can deal with this stuff. I know I seem pretty upset now, which I am, but I’ve had bumps in the road before and I’ll have to fight through it. That’s just who I am. It’s really frustrating right now.”
Given how news of the knee was made official following the final out, Shoemaker isn’t sure what the process involves.
“I’ll be talking with our team doctors in Toronto and then take that information and go forward with that,” he said.
The why-me question never crossed Shoemaker’s mind.
“As a human, you want to drift that way,’’ he added. “But you just have to stop it. When I get those thoughts, I tell myself to stop it and go the positive route. I know it’s crazy, and Happy Easter to everyone, but God has a plan for everyone. I truly believe that. It’s just really rough right now.”
Shoemaker, who spent five seasons with the Angels before signing a one-year free-agent deal with the Jays in December, exceeded expectations through his first five starts this season, going 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA and striking out 24 in in 28.2 innings.
What a way for a season to come to a crushing end, a pitcher felled by a knee injury on a rundown.
But given his mental toughness, Shoemaker will be back. It’s just that he won’t be back for the rest of the season.
Starter Aaron Sanchez threw 59 pitches and lasted four innings before he left Sunday’s victory with a split nail on his middle finger, some good news given the right-hander’s history with blisters.
“He split his nail and that’s why we had to take him out,’’ said Montoyo. “But we got him out before it got really bad. He should be OK for his next start.”
Turns out Sanchez first experienced the discomfort in the Twins series earlier this past week.
“It happened in Minnesota,’’ confided Sanchez, who was pitching at the Coliseum for the first time in his young career. “I think it was the cold weather. I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with a broken nail. It’s always been the skin and flesh. It kind of kept peeling up (Sunday), started bleeding later in the game.”
The next few days will likely determine if Sanchez won’t miss his next start.
“The good thing is we have a couple of off days this week (beginning Monday) and it’ll give me time to heal up,” he said. “That’s (not missing a start) definitely where my mind is at, where my head is at, with the outlook, but only time will tell with this.”
Shoemaker was lost on Saturday and then Sanchez on Sunday. At least Sanchez will be back.
“He’s been one of the leaders on our staff up ‘til this point,’’ Sanchez said of Shoemaker. “Obviously you’ve seen what he’s been doing. It sucks to have a guy go down who has done so well for us. It’s next man up. And we’ll see who is ready to come up and take that role.”
GALVIS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING
Freddy Galvis, author of that eye-popping bare-handed catch Saturday, also left Sunday with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
Earlier in the inning, he dove for a ball rolling up the middle, but lost the handle on it and hurt his leg scrambling to his feet to make the throw, a play Montoyo believes led to Galvis’ decision to pull himself from the game.
“When he dove for ball he felt something. He didn’t pull anything,’’ said the skipper. “It’s almost like a cramp. He tried to stay in the game, but he couldn’t move.”
Enter Richard Urena, who was called up from triple-A Buffalo to take the spot of Shoemaker on the 25-man roster. With the tying run on base, Urena made a great catch on a ball looped into short left field.
“That was not an easy play with a game on the line,’’ marvelled Montoyo, who added Urena didn’t get into the Bay Area until 4 a.m. “I think he was still waking up.”
HIGHLIGHT REEL LARCENY
A day after the Galvis gem, A’s centre-fielder Ramon Laureano outdid Toronto’s shortstop in the second inning to trigger one of the most unlikely, and downright incredible, double plays you’ll ever see.
With Teoscar Hernandez at the plate, the Jays’ left-fielder drilled a pitch to centre that carried right to the top of the wall and seemingly on its way out of the ballpark. Laureano jumped, leaned over the wall and caught the ball before turning to throw it in the direction of first base where Justin Smoak had reached on a leadoff single.
Laureano’s throw sailed toward the area occupied by the photographers where catcher Nick Hundley had backed up the play. Hundley caught the throw on a one hop and threw to second where Smoak was tagged out.
SMOKEY AND THE BANDITS
The Jays played some small ball by executing a double steal in the game’s early innings.
Long ball came courtesy of Smoak, who belted his 100th homer as a Blue Jay. Only Jose Cruz Jr., has hit more homers (122) as a switch-hitter in Blue Jays history.
Smoak, who has been on fire of late, went 4-for-5 to extend his hit streak to nine games and bump his average up to .313.
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