Series Sum-Up: Blue Jays vs. Twins
By Emily @JaysGirlEmily
Blue Jays from Away
Game 1: Monday, April 30
JAYS WIN!! 7-5
Winning Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Save: Roberto Osuna
After an early five-run advantage, the Blue Jays watched the Twins peck away at it while they struggled to increase their lead. They kicked things off in the second with a single and a double, then Lance Lynn chose to intentionally walk Kendrys Morales to load the bases with one out. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a ball that rolled 10 feet from home plate, down the third-base line. Instead of picking the ball up and tagging the runner charging past him, Twins catcher Mitch Garver chose to watch the ball and wait for it to roll foul (it didn’t) allowing the run to score. Curtis Granderson walked with the bases loaded to force in another run and put the Jays up 2-0.
After a six-pitch first inning, Aaron Sanchez loaded the bases in the second with two outs, thanks to a pair of singles and a hit batter. He got a force out to escape any damage. In the top of the fourth, Granderson walked again (he had three total in the game) and Teoscar Hernandez doubled. Granderson then scored on a passed ball. Justin Smoak hit a towering home run to right field, scoring two more to make it 5-0. In the bottom of that inning, Max Kepler led off with a triple and scored on a ground out, putting the Twins on the board.
Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) countered with a leadoff homer in the fifth, but Eduardo Escobar homered off Sanchez in the bottom half, cashing in a two-out walk to make it 6-3. After a leadoff double scored in the sixth (on a ground out which Aledmys Diaz handled nicely), Sanchez’s night was done, having allowed four earned runs on six hits and three walks. He only had two strikeouts, the third time he’d done that this season. Lynn was out of the game by the sixth, and Trevor Hildenberger held the Jays’ bats quiet for two innings.
Aaron Loup faced the first two batters in the seventh, one of whom singled and scored. Danny Barnes kept it a one-run game by stranding a pair. Tyler Clippard struck out all three batters in the eighth, and the Jays tacked on a run in the top of the ninth thanks to a fly ball that the left fielder dropped, an RBI single from Solarte, and a fielding error by Brian Dozier at second base. Closing out the game, Roberto Osuna allowed the tying run to get to scoring position, but didn’t let it score. Both teams had 10 hits and both left 10 runners on base.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 1
JAYS WIN!! 7-4 (10 innings)
Starting Pitcher: Marco Estrada
Winning Pitcher: Tyler Clippard
Save: Roberto Osuna
Minnesota got off to an early lead with a pair of runs in the first facing Marco Estrada. Joe Mauer hit his first home run of the year, and then Eddie Rosario doubled in a walk. The Jays couldn’t do much against Kyle Gibson their first time through. In the second, Kevin Pillar walked, and Kendrys Morales got his first hit in nine games (a single with two out) but nothing came of it. The Twins got the leadoff man aboard in the second and third innings, but stranded them both times. Estrada got a three-up, three-down inning for the first time in the fourth.
The Jays got on the board in the fifth, when Morales hit his second home run of the season. Luke Maile tied it after he reached on a single, avoided a double play, got to third on a force out, and then scored on a bloop single from Justin Smoak. The Jays stranded runners at the corners, but Gibson’s night was done. Morales homered again in the sixth, to almost the exact same spot as before, making it 3-2 in favour of Toronto.
In the 10th, Pillar led off with a double and stole third. Morales, intentionally walked with one out, stole second close behind him. After Luke Maile walked, Pillar scored on a wild pitch to take the lead. Aledmys Diaz then hit a ground ball that the third baseman dropped, Gift Ngoepe (the pinch-runner brought in for Morales) scored, and Maile got to third. The Twins changed pitchers, and Matt McGill got two outs to end the inning, but not before he’d thrown a wild pitch of his own and Maile scored on that. When the dust settled, it was 7-4 Jays. Roberto Osuna needed just six pitches (all strikes) to lock down his eighth save of the year.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 2 (Day game)
Jays lose, 0-4
Losing Pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Fernando Romero, making his major-league debut, held the Jays scoreless with four hits over 5 2/3 innings. Marcus Stroman pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits before Aaron Loup gave up another two runs. The first run off Stroman was an Eddie Rosario solo homer in the second. The Blue Jays got the leadoff man aboard four different times, but he was stranded twice (the other two times, he was caught stealing).
In the top of the third, John Gibbons was ejected for the first time this season when he protested a checked-swing strike call that led to a double play. Aledmys Diaz had walked, and was running to second base because the count was full for Teoscar Hernandez and it appeared to be a ball, but the call was that Hernandez swung and struck out, so Diaz was caught ‘stealing’.
In the bottom of that inning, Stroman loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. Max Kepler drove in a run with a ground out, but no more damage was done. In the fifth, Diaz doubled and Curtis Granderson was hit with a pitch, but the next batter ended the inning by grounding into a double play. Stroman allowed a leadoff double in the sixth but retired the next six batters to end his start. Aaron Loup pitched the eighth and loaded the bases with one out on three consecutive singles. After a sac fly scored a run, he walked a batter to load the bases again. Carlos Ramirez entered and walked a run in before recording the final out.
Randal Grichuk was placed on the disabled list before this series started on Monday with a right knee sprain, apparently caused by his diving catch in the final game of the Rangers series. It came as a surprise, as he hadn’t left the game at the time and there was no other indication that anything was wrong. Gift Ngoepe was called up to take his roster spot.
Steve Pearce had originally been in the lineup as designated hitter for Tuesday’s game, but shortly before game time he was taken out due to ribcage tightness. The move worked in the Jays’ favour as Kendrys Morales played DH instead and went 3-for-3 with two home runs, was intentionally walked twice, and stole a base (yes, you read that correctly). Pearce didn't appear in Wednesday's game either.
Wednesday’s loss was the first time the Jays had been shut out this season. That makes them one of the final five teams who avoided the goose-egg (and only three remain in the AL). Last season, they were shutout for the first time on April 12. In 2016, they fared slightly better, lasting until April 27, and in 2015 they were the last team standing when they got shut out on the second day in June.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- Kevin Pillar recorded his 100th career walk on Tuesday
- With his double on Tuesday, Pillar tied Adam Lind for the franchise’s 2nd-longest streak of extra base hits (10 consecutive hits)
My favourite player(s) this series: Stroman/Pillar
Marcus Stroman has had a pretty rough time this season – he entered Wednesday’s game with an ERA of 8.88. But he then went on to pitch his longest outing of the season, with seven innings, and only allowed two runs on six hits. He struck out five, and walked just one, tying his season low in that category. Stroman is normally a ground-ball pitcher, and it was a sign of concern that many of his outs early on came in the air, on deep fly balls to the outfield. One of those then landed in the bullpen for a home run, but Stroman got back to his old ways in the middle innings – from the fourth to the sixth, six outs were made on ground balls and the remaining three were strikeouts.
Kevin Pillar helped Stroman out defensively with those fly balls, making one of his trademark diving catches to end the seventh inning in Game 3. He also continued being productive at the plate, going 5-for-11 in the series with three doubles, two walks, two runs scored, and one driven in. He was briefly part of a four-way tie for the MLB lead in doubles (12) before one of his opponents, Eduardo Escobar, topped him on Wednesday.
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