Blue Jays From Away
Game 1: Thursday, April 13th
Jays lose, 1-2
Losing pitcher: Francisco Liriano
In a reversal of fortunes from his last outing (five runs allowed in a third of an inning in Tampa), Liriano threw a gem of a start, pitching into the 7th inning with 10 strikeouts along the way and two walks. Both runs were his, after he struggled his way through a four-hit 5th inning. The first out of that inning was on luck – Jonathan Schoop lined an RBI double into center, scoring Welington Castillo. Trey Mancini tried to follow suit, but was thrown out at the plate. Then a J.J. Hardy single scored Schoop, after which Liriano finally got the other two outs, including a spectacular Jose Bautista catch at the wall.
Outside of that inning, his only other runners allowed were a double in the 3rd and a pair of walks. His final out was the second out of the 7th, a called strikeout of Schoop after falling behind in the count 3-0. Joe Biagini then threw an inning and a third with two strikeouts, and Joe Smith struck out the side in order in the 9th. Neither allowed a runner.
The Jays, facing Kevin Gausman for the second time this season, scored a lone run in the 6th on back-to-back one-out doubles from Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson. The run came at a price, however, as Donaldson re-aggravated his calf injury rounding first base, and subsequently left the game. Through the first five innings, they’d had just four baserunners (one per inning from the 2nd-5th). Those were a single which was erased on a double play, a Kevin Pillar leadoff double that was stranded at third base, a walk and another single.
After going down in order in the 7th and 8th, they made things interesting against Zach Britton in the 9th. Troy Tulowitzki hit a one-out single, then Russell Martin walked. They both advanced on a wild pitch – the winning run was in scoring position with one out – but they couldn’t capitalize. Pillar grounded out and Steve Pearce flew out to end the game.
Game 2: Friday, April 14th
Jays lose, 4-6
Losing pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Once again, the home run was their undoing. Four Orioles players hit one out of the park – three off Aaron Sanchez, one off Jason Grilli. J.J. Hardy’s 2-run shot in the 5th put Baltimore ahead and that’s where they would remain. To that point, the Jays had scored two in the 2nd on three hits and an error. The O’s had already scored one in the top of that frame, with Chris Davis scoring on a wild pitch. Justin Smoak added a run in the 4th with a solo home run, his first of the year (and second RBI of the game).
Then Jonathan Schoop led off the 5th with a solo homer, followed by Hardy’s blast. Davis led off the 6th with another home run, and Sanchez left the game with one out and a man on in that inning. He’d allowed five runs on seven hits and a walk, and struck out three. Dominic Leone, Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera followed him, with Leone being the only one to allow a hit. Then Jason Grilli gave up a two-out homer to Seth Smith in the 9th.
Zach Britton reappeared and allowed one run on three hits. Russell Martin led off with a single, stole second base, then scored on Devon Travis’ single. That snapped an 0-for-29 streak for Travis, which stretched back to the Tampa series. Kevin Pillar then singled, bringing Steve Pearce to the plate with two outs as the potential winning run. Pearce struck out swinging. For the first time in seven games they had double-digit hits (ten, the Orioles had nine) but stranded seven.
Game 3: Saturday, April 15th
JAYS WIN!! 2-1 (WALKOFF!)
Starting Pitcher: Marco Estrada
Winning Pitcher: Roberto Osuna (blown save)
Marco Estrada threw seven innings with no runs allowed, but after two Jays runners got on base in the 1st (Kevin Pillar got a single, and Kendrys Morales walked), Alec Asher faced the minimum for five innings. Jose Bautista did get a leadoff single in the 4th, but then got out on a double play.
Bautista would be the next baserunner the Jays got, when he was hit with a pitch to start the 7th. He moved up when Troy Tulowitzki singled, and very nearly got doubled off when he strayed too far from the base on a fly ball to center, but second baseman Jonathan Schoop wasn’t paying attention and the Jays got lucky. Then Darwin Barney pinch-hit and slapped a single to center, bringing in the first run of the game.
With Estrada out of the game, Manny Machado led off the next inning against Joe Biagini and reached when Barney made a throwing error. Then Tulowitzki and Ryan Goins executed a flawless double play, erasing Machado, and Biagini got out of the inning with seven pitches total.
Roberto Osuna was handed his first save opportunity of the season, but Welington Castillo led off with a single that Osuna depleted, then pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second, advanced on a flyout, and scored on a sac fly. The run relinquished, Osuna got the last out with the game tied. It didn’t remain tied for much longer, as Kendrys Morales led off the 9th with a no-doubt home run to right center field to end the game on the first pitch he saw. The Jays finally got their second win.
Game 4: Sunday, April 16th
Jays lose, 4-11
Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ
In his third start of the season, J.A. Happ lasted four scoreless innings (despite two errors) before allowing a run on a leadoff double and a fielder’s choice in the 5th. He left with one out in that inning because he felt something strange in his elbow. Joe Biagini took over and threw 0.2 innings, then Ryan Tepera allowed four runs on three hits (including a three-run Trey Mancini home run) and a walk in the 6th. Tepera only got one out before being replaced with Dominic Leone. Leone allowed one run before the inning ended, then threw a scoreless 7th.
Matt Dermody took over in the 8th, and the correct term for his appearance would be ‘yikes’. He faced six batters, and got one out – the other five scored. He allowed three home runs (including Mancini’s second of the game), a walk, and a single. Aaron Loup came in and finished the game without allowing another run.
The Jays stranded four over the first six innings, without getting a run. Then they led off the 7th with a pair of singles, and Chris Coghlan hit a sac fly to drive one in, but they stranded another pair. Two more would be left on base in the 8th, after Justin Smoak tripled (the second of Smoak’s career; it was deflected by Adam Jones) and Troy Tulowitzki drove him in. Then in the 9th, Kevin Pillar hit his first home run of the year, a two-run shot that also scored Ryan Goins. The Jays had twelve hits, the Orioles fifteen. Jays hitters also struck out nine times. Happ took the loss in spite of only allowing one run – but the implosion was really on the bullpen, especially Tepera and Dermody.
Friday was a day of firsts. Smoak’s home run was the Blue Jays’ first at home this year – they’d gone 30 innings at the Dome without one. In addition, that game was the first time in four games in Toronto that they’d had a lead. They hadn’t stolen a bag all year yet either, until Russell Martin swiped second in the 9th.
Home plate umpire Dale Scott was hit in the head with a Mark Trumbo foul ball in the 8th inning on Thursday. He was removed from the game on a stretcher, taken to the hospital, and didn’t return for the rest of the series.
Josh Donaldson was placed on the 10-day Disabled List, after pulling his calf muscle on his double Thursday night. He’d already missed most of the Home Opener (before pinch-hitting), and was used as the DH in Tuesday and Wednesday’s games. Chris Coghlan was called up to replace him, and Juan Graterol was designated for assignment to make room for Coghlan on the 40-man roster. This is Donaldson’s first trip to the DL in his career. He’s expected to be out two to four weeks.
Aaron Sanchez joined him on the disabled list on Sunday. A blister on his throwing hand has returned, which potentially had a negative effect on his command. J.A. Happ then left the game on Sunday after experiencing some pain in his elbow, got an MRI and also went to the DL. Matt Dermody was called up to replace Sanchez, then optioned Monday and Danny Barnes was called up. Infielder Ty Kelly was called up Tuesday.
With their walkoff win Saturday, the Blue Jays have now won all but three of the games they played on Jackie Robinson day since its inception in 2004. They won the first one, lost in 2005 and 2006, then won every year between 2007-2015 and lost 2016, before winning this year.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
Friday was the second time in Jays history that they struck out 15 or more times (in a 9-inning game) without walking at least once.
My Favourite Player(s) of the weekend: Estrada/Pillar/Morales
Marco Estrada threw seven shutout innings, gave up four hits, walked three and struck out eight. He also escaped three different innings with a pair of runners left on base, without the assistance of a double play.
His streak of no strikeouts might be over, but Kevin Pillar was 6-for-17 (.353) over the four games, including two RBI and his first extra-base hits of the season – a home run and two doubles.
Kendrys Morales may well be the only reason the Jays have won any games this season – his grand slam lifted them over the Rays on the 6th, and he was responsible for the walkoff on Saturday. He only had two hits and three walks over the entirety of the series, but I think the walkoff is reason enough that he gets a spot here (especially compared to the rest of this underperforming lineup).