Series Sum-Up: Blue Jays vs. Tigers

By: Emily (@JaysGirlEmily)

Canadian Baseball Network

Game 1: Monday, June 6th
Jays lose, 0-11
Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ

Let’s not talk about this game. This game was unpleasant. The Blue Jays had only three hits in this game. Two of them came from Darwin Barney. They also had four walks and six strikeouts, as Michael Fulmer (and the Tigers bullpen) shut them out. Happ lasted five innings, allowed six runs on six hits  – four in the 2nd alone – including two home runs. He had perfect innings in the fourth and fifth, but his pitch count was too high.

Then Gavin Floyd managed to give up three additional runs in two-thirds of a nine-batter inning. Floyd gave up five hits and a walk before John Gibbons replaced him with Joe Biagini, who needed just one pitch to get the third out. Jason Grilli made another mop-up appearance, throwing a full scoreless inning with two hits and three strikeouts. To add insult to injury, Drew Storen threw the eighth and allowed two more runs when everyone just wanted it to be over already. Do you see why I didn’t want to talk about this game?

Game 2: Tuesday, June 7th
Jays lose, 2-3 (10 innings)
Starting Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Losing Pitcher: Joe Biagini

Poor, poor Aaron Sanchez. He pitches eight shutout innings of one-hit ball, only walks one, and strikes out a whole boatload of Tigers, then gives up two hits in the ninth and Roberto Osuna allows them both to score. That would have been fine if this were the 2015 Blue Jays, because they would have given Sanchez more than two measly runs of support (both scored by Kevin Pillar, after a home run and a double) and he still would have won the game after Osuna stranded Cameron Maybin to end the ninth.

But these are the 2016 Blue Jays, and they stranded the bases full of their own players in the top of the ninth, then went into the 10th inning in a 2-2 tie and couldn’t score. The Tigers loaded the bases via a single, walk, and bunt single on Joe Biagini, who couldn’t even get an out before being walked off by Ian Kinsler.

The Jays only got three hits off Tigers starter (and former Blue Jay) Matt Boyd over 5.1 innings. But Boyd also walked five, and in total the Blue Jays stranded eleven base runners – with five hits, a pair of fielders’ choices, and nine walks (one intentional).

Game 3: Wednesday, June 8th (day game)
JAYS WIN! 7-2
Winning Pitcher: R.A. Dickey

Finally! Some runs! ‘Beware the wind’, they told us. ‘The ball will leave this park when there’s wind’. Justin Smoak illustrated that perfectly in the 1st when he drove in Josh Donaldson with his sixth homer of the year. In the bottom of the 1st the Tigers evened the score with a two-run homer of their own, off the bat of Nick Castellanos. Those were the only two runs Dickey gave up, as he threw five and a third innings. That included a four-pitch fourth, and picking a runner off. He jokingly referred to the pickoff as his ‘best pitch of the game’, as he gave up nine hits, but only walked one.

Donaldson was in true MVP form as he homered in the third to score three and retake the lead. He wound up with three hits – a double shy of the cycle – after a single in the first and a triple in the fifth, and he came around to score each time. That was one of two triples hit in the inning – the other came from Kevin Pillar, and drove in Donaldson and Encarnacion. Those seven runs were all hung on starter Jordan Zimmerman, and they only got one more walk and one hit after chasing him from the game.

Overall Notes:

This Tigers team was in fourth place in their division as recently as a week ago, before sweeping the Royals and winning two against the Jays. They’re currently in second, behind Cleveland. If that’s what the recently-fourth-place team looks like, I really don’t want to play the rest of the AL Central…

They can’t beat Matt Boyd, but they’ll tee off on AL Pitcher Of The Month (April)Jordan Zimmermann. Baseball is weird.

Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

Aaron Sanchez becomes the first pitcher to ever strike out Victor Martinez three times in one game

My favourite player(s) this series: Sanchez/Pillar/Donaldson/Saunders

Aaron Sanchez threw a standing-ovation-worthy gem on Tuesday, and was let down by his bullpen and a lack of offense. He hit a new career high in strikeouts, with twelve (his previous best was nine).

He showed remarkable control, poise, and endurance (still throwing 96 mph in the eighth!), and it while it would have been nice to see him earn the win or throw a complete game, this is still a performance he can be proud of. After all, you know you’re doing something right when the active career leader in hits has this to say about you:

Kevin Pillar misread a ball in Game 1, allowing a double. He went on to redeem himself with his bat in the rest of the series. I already mentioned he scored both runs on Tuesday, with a home run and a double, but that home run in the fourth was also the first Blue Jays hit of the game. He added two more hits, including a two-run triple on Wednesday. Plus he walked(!) twice.

Josh Donaldson has been showing amazing plate discipline of late – his four walks in this series show that. But his bat is obviously not to be overlooked, with his three-hit, three RBI performance on Wednesday making him the clear star of that game. He also showed off his glove, making an impressive snag to rob Miguel Cabrera of a hit.

As for Michael Saunders, I know what you’re thinking: “Hold on, Emily, he only played in the two losses, and went 2-for-6 with a pair of walks. What’s so special about that?”. Well there wasn’t a lot to be happy about in either of those games, but he gave me a good laugh on Monday, when he tripled with two outs in the ninth, down by eleven runs, and still hustled all the way to third.

He’s probably never done anything more futile in his life, but still put in the effort. Then on Tuesday, he made a ridiculous catch, nearly snatching the ball off the grass to end the inning. Another highlight from what would turn into a heartbreaker. So thanks for that, Michael.

Where we are now:
32-29
.525
3rd place, 4.5 games back of the Orioles

The bad news is, apparently the offense is narcoleptic – it can fall asleep for no reason, and without warning. They’re facing the Orioles next, for four games at home, and the O’s are on a four-game win streak after sweeping the Royals.

The good news is, they didn’t get swept! This coming series will be a good indication of what to expect, as they play the O’s next week as well. After engaging in a brawl with Royals pitcher and notable petulant child Yordano Ventura, Orioles star Manny Machado may be suspended for part of those two series – which would be a lucky break for the Jays.

Troy Tulowitzki seems to be progressing well in his rehab in Dunedin, and could be recalled from the DL June 12th at the earliest. Speaking of injuries, Josh Donaldson’s thumb problem from last week has clearly healed up quite nicely!