Series Sum-Up: Braves vs. Blue Jays

 Left-hander J.A. Happ pitched 8 1/3 innings on Wednesday to lead the Blue Jays to a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Left-hander J.A. Happ pitched 8 1/3 innings on Wednesday to lead the Blue Jays to a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By Emily @JaysGirlEmily

Blue Jays from Away

Game 1: Tuesday, June 19
Jays lose, 4-11
Losing Pitcher: Jaime Garcia

Their streak of seven consecutive home wins snapped, the Jays took a beating in the opener with Atlanta. They came close to scoring in the bottom of the first, with two men in scoring position and two outs, but Kevin Pillar made the third out of the inning on a deep fly ball to left-centre field that sent Charlie Culberson careening off the wall to make the catch. After a quick first inning, Jaime Garcia allowed a two-out double that bounced over Teoscar Hernandez’s head in the second. He then walked a pair, loading the bases for Johan Camargo, who hit a grand slam.

The Blue Jays’ first four hits off Calgary native Mike Soroka were all doubles, three of which led off an inning, but only two scored. Luke Maile drove in Randal Grichuk with a ground out in the second, then drove in Pillar with a single in the fourth. In the top of the fourth, Culberson had added to the Atlanta lead with a leadoff home run. Garcia then allowed a pair of singles, leaving the game with five runs allowed in three-plus innings, five hits and three walks, two men on and nobody out. Danny Barnes retired three batters on four pitches to strand the runners.

The Atlanta hitters beat up on Barnes in the next inning, scoring three runs on three hits and a walk, and Joe Biagini had to be brought in for the final out. Despite a two-run double from Yangervis Solarte, it was pretty clear the Blue Jays weren’t going to catch up. Soroka didn’t make it out of the fifth, having allowed four runs on eight hits and a pair of walks. Biagini pitched a clean sixth inning despite a Freddie Freeman triple, and Preston Guilmet allowed a run on two hits before stranding the bases loaded in the eighth. Aaron Loup then allowed three doubles in ninth while striking out the side, adding another pair of runs for Atlanta.

Game 2: Wednesday, June 20 (Day game)
Jays win, 5-4
Winning Pitcher: J.A. Happ
Save: Ryan Tepera

The Blue Jays avoided a sweep by winning this early-afternoon game that was broadcast on Facebook. J.A. Happ pitched into the ninth inning, as he took the win. The Jays had taken a 2-0 lead thanks to a Kendrys Morales homer in the first inning, hit on his birthday (and the fourth time in his career he’s done so). Kurt Suzuki and Peter Bourjos hit solo homers in the second and third innings, respectively, to tie the game.

Toronto retook the lead in the fourth when Anibal Sanchez walked a pair and Randal Grichuk doubled to score one, and Aledmys Diaz hit a sac fly to score the other. Sanchez avoided further damage in the fifth (after Yangervis Solarte and Morales reached with two outs) by getting Kevin Pillar to ground into a forceout on the first pitch. That was the last pitch of Sanchez’ start. Meanwhile, Happ retired 13 batters in a row before Charlie Culberson broke that streak with a two-out single in the seventh.

Devon Travis led off the bottom half of that inning with a line-drive double, on which he was nearly tagged out at second base. He later came around to score on a single from Solarte. Happ, at 104 pitches, went out for the ninth inning, aiming for the team’s first complete game of the season. He got the first hitter to ground out, but then allowed back-to-back singles to Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis, and left the game. Ryan Tepera came in and allowed an RBI single to Kurt Suzuki that was deflected by Solarte at third. With two outs, Markakis scored on an infield single that Travis couldn’t field in time. With the tying run at second base, and the go-ahead run at first, a high fly-ball on the first pitch to Johan Camargo settled into Pillar’s glove to seal the win for the Jays.

Overall Notes:

Sam Gaviglio went on the paternity list before this series started, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was brought up to take his place.

Before this season, Luke Maile had 24 career RBI. As a backup catcher, he didn't see much playing time, but that's in 284 career at-bats. In this season alone, he's already driven in 18 runs in 108 at bats. His previous high in one season was 15, in 2016. Though his batting average is starting to come back down from the lofty .315 where it sat as recently as May 20, he's still bringing in runs. He's batting .167 for the month of June, but still has 4 RBI (only one of which was a homer) in that time.

The bottom of the order has been an ongoing problem for Blue Jays’ pitching this year. In Tuesday’s game alone, the 7-, 8-, and 9-hitters for Atlanta went a collective 9-for-13, with nine runs driven in. In both games, the last man in the lineup homered (Johan Camargo in Game 1, Peter Bourjos in Game 2). So far this season, Blue Jays’ opponents have set a historically high pace for slugging from the 9-hitter. If the .471 mark holds for the rest of the season, it would be the highest since at least 1908.

Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

- J.A. Happ is the only pitcher in MLB this year with four starts where he had eight or more strikeouts and no walks.

My favourite player(s) this series: Happ

I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but J.A. Happ has been really good. He’s the first pitcher to even make it into the ninth inning, and although he allowed four runs, he was doing really well until Ryan Tepera let the inherited runners score. He didn’t walk anybody and allowed six hits and struck out eight. He’s also one of the Blue Jays most likely to be traded mid-season, so let’s just appreciate the guy while he’s still here.

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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.