Series Sum-Up: A's vs. Jays

 Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Kendry Morales made his major league pitching debut, tossing a scoreless inning on Sunday. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Kendry Morales made his major league pitching debut, tossing a scoreless inning on Sunday. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By Emily @JaysGirlEmily

Toronto Blue Jays

A few years ago, when I started writing these sum-ups, I used to include a cute animal video to cheer people up if a series went particularly badly. I've decided to do that again now, because this series was pretty painful. So here's a puppy!

Game 1: Thursday, May 17
Jays lose, 5-10
Losing Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez

Aaron Sanchez left the game after throwing 100 pitches. However, that only took him into the fifth inning. He threw 29 in the first inning alone, when two walks and a single loaded the bases for the Athletics. Sanchez got a strikeout to end the inning, and the Jays took a 1-0 lead in the second when Kevin Pillar hit a leadoff double, advanced on a fly out, and scored on a fielder’s choice. Sanchez needed a further 27 pitches to get through the third, when Matt Joyce singled, Jedd Lowrie doubled to score him, and Khris Davis hit a two-run homer.

Andrew Triggs, the Athletics’ starter, left the game in the third inning due to some numbness in his fingers. He had just walked Josh Donaldson on four pitches with one out. In the fourth, Pillar singled and Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) walked with nobody out, but Kendrys Morales hit into a double play. Sanchez walked the first better of the fifth and then was pulled. Seunghwan Oh faced seven batters, and the first three reached: a single by Davis, a three-run homer from Matt Olson, and a Matt Chapman double. Chapman then scored on a Dustin Fowler single to put Oakland ahead 7-1. After a two-out walk, Aaron Loup ended the inning.

In the bottom of that inning, the Jays rallied for three runs thanks to three hits, a walk, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. But the hope was short-lived, as Oakland widened the lead with a two-run Chapman homer off John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) in the next inning. In the eighth, Toronto loaded the bases with two outs and Curtis Granderson walked to force in a run. Josh Donaldson ended that rally by grounding out. The A’s got that run back too, as Marcus Semien singled in the ninth, advanced on a passed ball, and scored on a single from Joyce. The Jays had half as many hits (seven) as their opponents, and left nine men on base.

Game 2: Friday, May 18
Jays lose, 1-3
Losing Pitcher: Marco Estrada

Marco Estrada was outstanding through the first six innings of his start, with the lone blemish being a home run to Dustin Fowler in the third. Estrada also stranded doubles in the second, fourth, and sixth innings – those were his only other baserunners allowed up to that point. Oakland’s starter, Brett Anderson, had to leave the game after just one inning with a sore shoulder. The Blue Jays couldn’t take advantage of the bullpen, and after three innings from Josh Lucas they’d struck out six times and gotten one baserunner (Josh Donaldson walked to lead off the fourth).

Lucas began the fifth, gave up a Luke Maile double and a Gio Urshela RBI single to tie the game at 1 run apiece, and was then removed. Donaldson walked again in the sixth, again leading off, and again on four pitches, but nothing came of it, even after he stole second. They got two men on in the eighth, but Kevin Pillar struck out, ending that rally. Blue Jays batters racked up fifteen strikeouts, and had just six hits.

 

Game 3: Saturday, May 19
Jays lose, 4-5
Starting Pitcher: Sam Gaviglio
Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard

 

This one was a heartbreaker for Toronto. After a phenomenal spot-start for Sam Gaviglio, and a four-run rally in one inning, the A’s came storming back to overtake the lead, also in one inning. Sean Manaea was facing the Jays’ lineup, and they got two aboard in the second thanks to a walk and an error on a force attempt. Kendrys Morales even stole second, but they were stranded. Yangervis Solarte took a leadoff double in the fourth, and Kevin Pillar walked behind him, but Russell Martin hit into a double play.

The Jays put up a four-spot in the fifth after the leadoff man Dwight Smith Jr. was hit with a pitch, and Gio Urshela hit a two-run homer. With one out, Josh Donaldson walked and Justin Smoak singled. Solarte doubled to score Donaldson and Pillar hit a sac fly that scored Smoak. Manaea was gone after that inning, then Morales doubled to lead off the sixth and was left there.

Gaviglio only allowed one walk, and it was to the last batter he faced. He’d allowed six hits total, two of them doubles, and stranded them all. He left with one out in the sixth and two men on base. Seung-Hwan Oh came in and walked a batter before he stranded the bases loaded. Oh also pitched the seventh with no trouble. Then John Axford started the eighth, walked one, gave up a single, got a strikeout, and allowed an RBI single. Tyler Clippard was brought in to limit the damage, and walked the pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie to load the bases. Then Chad Pinder hit a grand slam, erasing Toronto’s lead in an instant. The Jays got a walk in each of the eighth and ninth, each with two outs, but couldn’t manage anything more than that.

Game 4: Sunday, May 20
Jays lose, 2-9
Losing Pitcher: Joe Biagini

It was a close game until the fifth. Luke Maile had kept it that way by throwing out a pair of baserunners. Joe Biagini allowed an unearned run on a double, a wild pitch, and a Josh Donaldson error in the second. Meanwhile, Daniel Mengden was nearly untouchable. The Blue Jays only had four hits, by two batters, and just two of them were off Mengden. Yangervis Solarte singled on a shallow pop-up in the second, but was thrown out trying to stretch a double.

Next, the Jays wasted a two on, nobody out opportunity in the third. Leading off, Kendrys Morales almost flew out in foul territory, but Chad Pinder fell into the seats and didn’t make the catch. Morales singled two pitches later, and Luke Maile walked behind him. Richard Urena laid down a sac bunt to move the runners. Then Curtis Granderson struck out and Donaldson grounded out, ending the inning. They wouldn’t get that chance again, because Granderson and Donaldson were the first of 14 consecutive batters retired by Mengden.

Biagini has struggled in the fifth inning in all of his starts this season, and Sunday was no exception. He began the inning with a walk, an infield single that Donaldson bobbled, and an RBI single. Danny Barnes replaced him with nobody out, and after an RBI ground out Marcus Semien hit a two-run homer, making it 5-0 for the visitors. The top of the sixth was even more of a mess, as Jake Petricka only got one out but all three runs he allowed were unearned. After a leadoff Matt Chapman single, Richard Urena made a fielding error on a force attempt, Jonathan Lucroy got an RBI on an infield single, a forceout put runners at the corners, Aaron Loup came in to pitch, Dustin Fowler hit a would-be sacrifice fly that was dropped by Teoscar Hernandez, which scored two runs and resulted in Fowler getting to third, then Fowler scored on a sac fly by Simien.

Deck McGuire then pitched the seventh and stranded the bases loaded after a double and two walks. He also pitched the eighth and stranded Jed Lowrie, who reached on another error charged to Urena. With Mengden out of the game after seven scoreless innings, the Blue Jays finally got their third hit of the game, a Kendrys Morales single. That single, and a Maile walk, would be left on base. Morales then provided the highlight of the game for the Blue Jays as he was brought in to pitch the ninth inning. He walked one, and got three fly outs. The Jays avoided a shutout with two outs in the bottom half, thanks to a Hernandez walk and a Solarte homer, his team-leading tenth of the year.

Overall Notes:

Jaime Garcia was placed on the disabled list on the 18th (backdated to the 16th) with inflammation in his left shoulder. Deck McGuire was called up in his place, and this necessitated two spot starts over the weekend; Joe Biagini took Garcia’s slot in the rotation on Sunday, and Sam Gaviglio took Marcus Stroman’s on Saturday.

It seemed like there was a shift in weaknesses in this series – after a few weeks of taking losses due to the struggling rotation, they had three pretty good starts (all but Sanchez) and then the bullpen allowed piles of runs. Two different relievers (Tyler Clippard on Saturday and Danny Barnes on Sunday) inherited a pair of runners and then allowed them to score on a home run. The hitters also didn’t help, considering there were two games in which the Oakland starter left with an injury and they couldn’t touch the bullpen; then on Sunday, with the bullpen likely to be worn out, they couldn’t get to the starter at all.

Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

- Richard Urena had the first sacrifice bunt of the season for the Blue Jays in the third inning on Sunday. They were the last team in the majors yet to execute one.

My favourite player(s) this series: Gaviglio/Morales/Urshela

Sam Gaviglio made his first start of the season and did everything that you could ask for from a spot-starter. He went 5 1/3 scoreless innings, allowed six hits and one walk, and struck out six. It took him 88 pitches to complete his start. He also threw a first-pitch strike to nearly every batter (20 out of 23) that he faced.

Kendrys Morales has been in a slump pretty much all season long, and he did go 4-for-12 in the series with a double (hitting .333) because he only played in three games. However, his reason for being on this list is more for entertainment value than actual contributions to the game. He pitched a scoreless inning on Sunday and didn't even allow a hit. It's always funny to see a position player pitching, even if your team is getting blown out. So thanks for the laugh, Kendrys!

Gio Urshela also hit .333 in the series, albeit in a smaller sample size. He was 2-for-6 in three games, two he started and one he pinch-hit in. He also drove in three runs, including the only run on Friday. His two-run homer on Saturday started off the four-run rally, and was his first of the season.

Where we are now:
22-25, .468
4th place in the AL East, 10 games back of New York & Boston

After falling below .500 for the first time since the first series of the year, the Jays have now slipped below Tampa Bay in the standings. They’re still maintaining a healthy 7.5-game lead on the last-place Orioles.

They are off on Monday (even though it’s a national holiday, whose idea was that?) and then the Angels come to town for three games. At 26-21, the Angels are third in their own division. J.A. Happ will face off with Garret Richards on Tuesday. Thursday is a day game, with a 12:37 Eastern start time. Shohei Ohtani is not scheduled to pitch in this series, but we’ll likely see him as a hitter.

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Emily

Emily is a Communications student who grew up with a Roy Halladay poster on the back of her door. A baseball history nerd, she played softball for nine years and changes her favourite Blue Jay on a regular basis. She fondly remembers going to her first Jays game at age six with her father, and spending the whole time staring at the elevators going up the CN Tower.