Series Sum-Up: Twins vs. Blue Jays

 Justin Smoak was 4-for-11 in the Toronto Blue Jays' recent three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Justin Smoak was 4-for-11 in the Toronto Blue Jays' recent three-game series against the Minnesota Twins. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By: Emily (@JaysGirlEmily)

Canadian Baseball Network

Game 1: Friday, August 25th
Jays lose, 1-6
Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ

J.A. Happ stranded leadoff singles in each of his first two innings before running into trouble in the top of the 3rd. With one out, Happ issued his first walk of the game to Brian Dozier, then Joe Mauer singled and Dozier got to third. Byron Buxton scored Dozier with a bunt that Happ couldn’t field properly. A double from Jorge Polanco scored Mauer and Buxton.

Facing Bartolo Colon in the bottom of the 3rd, Justin Smoak homered to put the Blue Jays on the board. However that would be the lone Jays' run of the night, as Colon would last 6 2/3 innings with nine hits and one walk allowed and without striking out anybody. The Jays had their next best chance in the 4th, with two men in scoring position and one out. Kevin Pillar hit a single, and Norichika Aoki followed with another. Pillar turned for third on Aoki’s hit, sliding in safely, and Aoki reached second on the throw. The two would be stranded as Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney both flew out to centre field.

In the meantime, the Twins had scored another run in the 4th after a leadoff triple and a sac fly, followed by another run scored on another sac fly in the 5th. The Blue Jays got another pair of hits in the 6th, but Kendrys Morales pinch-hit and grounded out to end the inning. Happ left after the 6th, and the bullpen allowed another run on three hits in the 9th. The Twins had the leadoff man reach in seven of their nine innings at bat. They totaled 13 hits while Toronto had ten.

Game 2: Saturday, August 26th
JAYS WIN!! 10-9
Winning Pitcher: Marco Estrada
Save: Roberto Osuna

The final score was nail-bitingly close, considering the Jays were ahead 8-2 at one point in this game. Kendrys Morales started things with a home run leading off in the 2nd. Jose Bautista hit a sac fly in the 3rd to bring in one run after the bases were loaded on a trio of singles. Marco Estrada surrendered just a walk and a single over the first four innings, before Eduardo Escobar hit a two-run homer in the 5th to tie the game.

But the Blue Jays rallied in the bottom of that inning, beginning with a single and a two-run Josh Donaldson home run that chased Dillon Gee from the game. A walk and two singles loaded the bases for Kevin Pillar, who hit an RBI single to make it 5-2 Jays. The next batter, Ryan Goins hit a sac fly to score another – the first out on the seventh batter of the inning. Raffy Lopez then drove in two with a single of his own. Six runs scored on six hits in an inning which saw 11 Blue Jays go to the plate.

The Twins scored another run on two hits and a sac fly in the 6th, and Danny Barnes replaced Estrada for the 7th. Barnes had a clean inning, but the Twins had a rally of their own in the 8th against Tim Mayza and Ryan Tepera. Mayza got the first two outs, but allowed a Joe Mauer double and a single. Tepera replaced him and hit the first batter, loading the bases, before Max Kepler hit a grand slam. Suddenly Toronto’s massive lead was reduced to a single run.

After Tepera got the last out, the bats went back to work. Donaldson doubled, bringing in a Carrera leadoff walk. Donaldson moved up on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch, making it 10-7 in favour of the home team. In the top of the 9th, things again got dicey with Roberto Osuna into the game. After Zack Granite* led off with a single, Justin Smoak made his second error of the season, allowing Escobar to reach and Granite to get to third. Granite scored on a Dozier single, and then Escobar scored when Mauer hit into a double play. Osuna - who had started the DP - then got a ground out to end the game.

*Yes, I swear that’s a real person

Game 3: Sunday, August 27th
Jays lose, 2-7
Losing Pitcher: Joe Biagini

Joe Biagini, freshly called up from the minors, made his eleventh start of the season and didn’t fare much better than his last start. He allowed three hits and a walk in the first, and was spared from more than one run scoring when Joe Mauer was thrown out at home. The Blue Jays tied it on a Nori Aoki single in the 2nd, but Minnesota again took the lead after sending eight batters to the plate in the 3rd. With two on, Byron Buxton hit into a fielder’s choice that resulted in a 5-2-5-1-6-2 putout of Jorge Polanco, but both runners advanced during the rundown. Biagini walked the next batter, loading the bases. Kennys Vargas hit a two-run single to put the Twins up 3-1, before Biagini got a strikeout to strand the bases loaded.

Josh Donaldson was picked off of first base after taking a leadoff walk in the 3rd. Joe Mauer tripled on a ball that bounced past Nori Aoki to start the 4th, and Buxton hit a home run, after which Biagini’s start was over. Aoki hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th, making it 5-2. He had a three-hit game, but was no match for the one-man wrecking crew of Buxton, who would go on to homer in the 7th, off Matt Dermody, and again in the 9th, off Tim Mayza.

The Blue Jays had exactly half of the Twins’ 14 hits, all off Kyle Gibson. Gibson went 6 2/3 innings, allowing both Jays runs with one walk and seven strikeouts. Biagini lasted only 3 2/3, with five earned runs on nine hits, three walks, and four strikeouts. However, the Toronto pitchers combined for 17 strikeouts – Aaron Loup struck out four in an inning and a third, Dermody worked two innings and struck out four, Dominic Leone struck out a pair and Mayza collected three strikeouts after the Buxton homer.

Overall Notes:

Nick Tepesch was optioned to the Bisons before the series began. In order to call up Biagini for Sunday, T.J. House was designated for assignment.

Byron Buxton’s three-home-run game came on the anniversary weekend of Josh Donaldson accomplishing the same feat in 2016. Edwin Encarnacion also hit three home runs in one game the year before, on August 29th. Interestingly, Donaldson’s three-homer game was against the Twins – and the same pitcher, Kyle Gibson, started both games for Minnesota.

This series was Player’s Weekend, a special event MLB introduced for the first time this season. The teams’ jerseys were designed to look like those worn at the Little League World Series. Players got to customize their cleats, batting gloves and bats for the weekend, as well as wear their nickname on their back and write the names of people who inspired them on a patch on their sleeve.

I really enjoyed the bright colours (though some teams’ looked nicer than others). One thing I noticed was that several teams – the Royals, Cubs, and Dodgers – had the exact same colour combination as the Jays, with only the logo on the front changed. A few times I briefly glimpsed highlights from the Royals’ games this weekend and was incredibly confused because they were playing Cleveland, who had the exact same colours as Minnesota! Maybe a little more variety next year would be nice. Also the Jays’ logo was left off the uniforms entirely, the shirts just said “Blue Jays” and the caps had a maple leaf on them. I understand the simplistic look they were trying for, but I would have liked to see the bird included somewhere.

Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

·         With his 35th homer of the season, Justin Smoak set a new franchise record for home runs in one season by a switch-hitter.

My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Smoak/Aoki

Justin Smoak had a three-hit game on Friday, hitting a triple shy of the cycle and scoring the only Jays run. On Saturday, he didn’t record a hit, but walked twice and scored. He was 4-for-11 with a double, a home run, and two walks for the series as a whole.

Nori Aoki hit .500 in the two games he played this weekend, including a three-hit game on Sunday, a home run, and two RBI (he drove in both of the Jays’ runs). His OPS is now .721 for the season, and .888 since joining the Blue Jays.

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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit the Handbook page for more information!