Series Sum-Up: Rangers vs. Blue Jays

 Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar clubbed three home runs in the last two games of the series against the Texas Rangers. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Toronto Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar clubbed three home runs in the last two games of the series against the Texas Rangers. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By Emily @JaysGirlEmily

Blue Jays from Away

Game 1: Friday, April 27
Jays lose, 4-6
Losing pitcher: Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman had a rough first inning, when he allowed four runs on two singles, a walk, and a two-run homer to Joey Gallo. He struck out four consecutive batters after the home run, and pitched four clean innings in a row, allowing just two additional hits until the sixth. He also made a play at first base in the third on which he lost a cleat. In that time, his team battled back to tie the game, thanks in part to some wild pitches from Mike Minor.

It began in the first when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, and then advanced on a wild pitch. He scored on a Justin Smoak single, and with two outs Kevin Pillar doubled, but Smoak was thrown out trying to score. In the second, Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) led off with a double, then moved to third on a wild pitch, avoiding being tagged with a slick swim move. The call was reviewed, and ruled in the Jays’ favour, as did a challenge when Aledmys Diaz was hit with a pitch. Both Martin and Diaz would score on a Steve Pearce double. Pearce advanced to third on an error by the shortstop, where he was stranded.

The Jays scored their final run of the game in the third, which started off with back-to-back singles from Smoak and Yangervis Solarte. Smoak was thrown out trying to go first-to-third on Solarte’s single, but Solarte then scored when Pillar hit his second triple of the season. That tied the game at 4. Minor stayed in until the sixth, but only allowed one more hit – a Smoak double. Smoak went 4-for-4 in total, with one double and an RBI.

Stroman allowed two more runs when the first two hitters singled in the sixth, then were bunted over. Ronald Guzman singled, driving in both, and Stroman left the game. His final line was 5 1/3 innings with six runs allowed on eight hits and a walk, with four strikeouts. Tyler Clippard finished that inning, walking one and stranding a pair. Aaron Loup and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) also made appearances, with the latter going two innings. The Blue Jays got two men aboard in the seventh, but didn’t capitalize. Both teams had 10 hits.

Game 2: Saturday, April 28
Jays lose, 4-7
Losing Pitcher: Jaime Garcia

For the second game in a row, the Rangers got out to an early lead. This time, the Jays couldn’t catch up. After Jaime Garcia struck out the first four batters for the first time in his career, he walked one in the second and gave up back-to-back home runs to Jurickson Profar and Robinson Chirinos with two out. That put Texas up 3-0, a lead they would never relinquish. Garcia allowed two more runners in the third, but despite a pair of wild pitches they didn’t score.

Bartolo Colon set down the whole lineup in order his first time through. Curtis Granderson ended that when he led off the fourth with a double, by which point the Jays were down 5-0 because of a two-run Shin-Soo Choo double in the top half. That ball could have been caught to end the inning, but Granderson and Kevin Pillar miscommunicated and the ball dropped between them. Pillar put the Jays on the board with a homer leading off the fifth.

Garcia was done after five innings, with five earned runs allowed on five hits and four walks. Seung-Hwan Oh pitched the sixth and allowed a homer to Chirinos (his second of the game). Teoscar Hernandez led off the bottom of that inning with a triple and scored on a ground out. Ryan Tepera got a double play to erase a leadoff single in the seventh, and then Lourdes Gurriel Jr. led off the bottom half with a home run, the first of his MLB career.

John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) pitched around a walk to strike out the side in the eighth, but the Rangers added to their lead with a double and two singles off Roberto Osuna in the ninth. Pillar then hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the ninth, the only hit for Toronto off two innings’ worth of the Rangers bullpen.

Game 3: Sunday, April 29

JAYS WIN!!! 7-2
Winning Pitcher: J.A. Happ

The Jays snapped a four-game losing streak to avoid a sweep. J.A. Happ gave the bullpen a much-needed break, pitching seven innings with two runs allowed. Randal Grichuk made an unbelievable catch in the first to help out Happ, then turned a double play that ended the inning. The first Rangers run was a Renato Nunez home run in the secnd, but the Jays tied it and took the lead shortly after with a leadoff home run from Yangervis Solarte, followed by a Kevin Pillar walk (he advanced on an infield single, and a double-play ball that Joey Gallo dropped) which Grichuk cashed in on a sac fly.

Happ stranded a leadoff single in the third, and Teoscar Hernandez added to the Jays’ lead with a homer. Pillar led off the fourth, and capitalized on the fact that nobody caught a foul pop-up – he homered two pitches later. A loaded-bases situation led to disappointment when Steve Pearce lined into a double play to end the inning. Martin Perez left the game after that inning and took the loss, with four earned runs on five hits. Delino DeShields led off the sixth with a double and scored on a groundout, making it 5-2.

Then Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) led off the bottom half, and reached on an error. He scored on a force out, and Grichuk was immediately picked off of first base. That inning ended on a controversial replay of a foul fly out – it appeared that Ryan Rua had trapped the ball, but the reviewers upheld the ‘out’ call. The Jays added to their lead in the seventh with a leadoff walk from Pearce, a double from Hernandez, a Justin Smoak sac fly, and an RBI single from Solarte. Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup closed it out with a scoreless inning apiece.

Overall Notes:

John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) had been on the bereavement list since April 23, but was activated on Friday. Tim Mayza was sent back down to triple-A Buffalo. Ahead of Sunday’s game, reliever Carlos Ramirez was called up and Devon Travis was optioned to Buffalo. Josh Donaldson is still progressing in his rehab assignment, with no clear date set for his return.

My favourite player(s) this series: Happ/Solarte/Hernandez/Pillar

J.A. Happ pitched a strong start of seven innings, with five hits and two runs allowed. For his second start in a row, he didn’t walk anybody. He also continued a five-start streak of striking out eight or more, whiffing nine batters in Sunday’s game. Considering the first two games of the series had required a combined 7 2/3 innings of work from the bullpen, Happ’s start offered the relievers a much-needed break.

Yangervis Solarte went 3-for-12 but also homered, drove in three runs, and scored twice. His total of seven home runs is well ahead of his teammates (second place on the leaderboard is a group of players tied with four). Solarte was also the subject of a very interesting article on the Sportsnet site this week, detailing his early life and the motivation he has to keep playing, including a grudge against the Rangers.

Teoscar Hernandez and Kevin Pillar both had extra-base hits in all three games of this series, with Hernandez going 4-for-12 overall with two doubles, a triple and a home run, as a well as a walk, four runs scored, and an RBI. Pillar is off to his usual hot start in April, and he launched three homers in this series, plus a double, a triple, and a walk. He’s currently leading the team in hits (with 31) and doubles (with 9). Here’s hoping he can sustain these numbers after April ends!

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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.