Blue Jays From Away
Game 1: Tuesday, April 11th
Jays lose, 3-4
Losing pitcher: J.A. Happ
For the sixth consecutive season, the Blue Jays lost their home opener, and for the third straight year it was a one-run loss. J.A. Happ only lasted 4.2 innings, but he had eight strikeouts in that span, and didn’t allow a walk. The Brewers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the 1st on a Keon Broxton solo homer, followed by a 2-out Travis Shaw triple that was cashed in by Domingo Santana.
The Jays got a run back in the bottom half of the frame, as Jose Bautista walked, moved to third on a Kendrys Morales single, and scored on a Troy Tulowitzki double. Happ allowed another run on a fielder’s choice in the 3rd, then stranded a pair of singles in the 4th. In the bottom of the 3rd, Devon Travis walked (after being down in the count 0-2), moved to third when Morales singled, then scored on a Tulowitzki sac fly. Happ gave up another home run, this one to Santana, in the 5th, then a double before he was removed. He’d allowed nine hits, four of them for extra bases.
In the bottom half, the Jays again narrowed the gap with a Morales single, cashed in by Tulowitzki’s second double of the night. Tulowitzki and Morales were the only Jays who had hits, going 2-for-3 and 3-for-4, respectively. A few others, including Bautista and Steve Pearce walked (Pearce twice), as did Ryan Goins, who was playing third base in the absence of Josh Donaldson. Justin Smoak was almost awarded a hit-by-pitch in the 8th, but that was then overturned on a replay. Donaldson pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th, but struck out. Russell Martin struck out three times, continuing his hitless streak, and Kevin Pillar was caught stealing.
After Dominic Leone stranded Happ’s runner in the 5th, the Jays bullpen continued to shut down the Milwaukee offense over four innings. First Joe Smith got three outs (including two strikeouts) on eleven pitches in the 6th, then Joe Biagini got two strikeouts of his own, sandwiched around a walk in the 7th. Jason Grilli made his fourth appearance of the year and stranded a two-out double, then Roberto Osuna made his first appearance of the year after a stint on the DL with a neck injury. Osuna got one strikeout, and gave up a single.
Game 2: Wednesday, April 12th
Jays lose, 0-2
Losing pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Brewers starter Chase Anderson held down the Jays’ offense, keeping them to just three hits over seven innings. Jose Bautista singled in the 4th (he was also the Jays’ first baserunner), then was stranded on third with the bases loaded after a Josh Donaldson walk and an intentional walk to Troy Tulowitzki. Steve Pearce reached on a ground ball in the 5th that barely went halfway up the third-base line, and was immediately erased on a double play. Russell Martin finally got his first hit of the year, a double in the 7th, but was left there when Pearce flew out to end the inning.
Marcus Stroman allowed the first run of the game in the second after a pair of doubles. He picked Jonathan Villar off second base in the 3rd, then Villar got revenge by hitting a solo home run in the 6th. The Blue Jays didn’t turn any double plays (unusual for a Stroman start), and ground into three, including one that ended the game.
I think the most frustrating part of this series (other than their record, and the fact that they got swept by the Brewers, a team who went 73-89 last year) was that at no point did it feel like they were truly out of it. A one-run loss and a two-run loss will do that. On Tuesday, every time the Brewers scored, the Jays scored in the same inning, but they stranded seven runners. The two runs in the 1st made the difference.
Then on Wednesday, they stranded the bases loaded. They weren’t hitting much off Milwaukee’s starter, but that deficit could have been made up easily, in theory. Six of their losses thus far have been a difference of one or two runs. It’s painful to watch when you know that just one hit at the right time could potentially reverse the result entirely.
Kevin Pillar made a pretty impressive diving catch in the 8th inning of Tuesday’s game, as well as a leaping grab over his head in the 9th on Wednesday. Another pretty impressive feat is that he has yet to strike out this season, after thirty plate appearances.
Josh Donaldson returned to the lineup on Wednesday, after having problems with a calf injury. He was the designated hitter, with Darwin Barney playing third base and Kendrys Morales handling first (quite capably!).
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
(I think these fall into the ‘dubious distinction’ category)
This is the first time in franchise history the Blue Jays have been 1-7 (or 1-6) to start a season
Russell Martin’s 0-for-20 streak is the longest hitless streak to start off the season for any Jays player ever.
Martin’s streak is also his personal worst to start a season, surpassing 2013 when he went 0-for-17 with the Pirates.
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Tulowitzki/Stroman
Prior to Tuesday, Tulowitzki had faced Brewers starter Wily Peralta more times than any of his teammates and was 4-for-13 with a double. On Tuesday, he got bumped up to cleanup hitter and went 2-for-2 against Peralta (and 2-for-3 overall), adding a pair of RBI doubles to his total, as well as a sac fly.
He drove in every run of that game, and then walked and was intentionally walked on Wednesday. Tulo now has an active 23-game streak of reaching base against the Brewers, which dates back to 2012. He also now leads the Jays in RBI, with nine.
Over here, with a textbook example of why the win-loss stat is misleading, we have Marcus Stroman. Stro needed just 100 pitches in his complete game (the second of his career), allowed seven hits and only one walk, and struck out four. He got fifteen groundouts, compared to three fly-outs. As solid as his previous start was, this one was even more impressive – yet he won that game, and took the loss here.