Blue Jays From Away
Game 1: Monday, April 3rd (Afternoon game)
Jays lose, 2-3 (11 innings)
Starting pitcher: Marco Estrada
Losing pitcher: Jason Grilli
The Blue Jays out-hit the Orioles 11-9, but fell to them after an 11th-inning Mark Trumbo solo homer in the season opener.
Devon Travis, Steve Pearce and Kevin Pillar got base hits (all singles) in their first plate appearances of the season. Travis collected two hits, and was deprived of a third by a diving Manny Machado, while Pearce would end up 3-for-5 against his former team. Ezequiel Carrera had two hits, including an RBI double, Josh Donaldson went 3-for-5 with a walk, and Russell Martin walked twice. Troy Tulowitzki was the only Jays starter not to reach base at leas
A few fluky things went against the Jays early on – a potential double-play ball bounced off Marco Estrada in the 1st , and some miscommunication between Pillar and Carrera in the 2nd allowed a fly ball to drop and become a double. Luckily, neither play would result in a run. The first Baltimore run would instead be the result of a Seth Smith leadoff double in the 3rd. Smith was driven in by Chris Davis, who was then thrown out by Jose Bautista as he tried to take second. Baltimore added another run in the frame to take a 2-0 lead, then Estrada set down 10 in a row. He lasted six innings, allowed five hits and two walks, and had four strikeouts.
Pillar led off the 4th with a walk (not a typo) and came around to score the first Jays run of the season after Kendrys Morales took a 2-out, bases-loaded walk. Carrera drove in Pearce in the 5th, but appeared to roll his ankle rounding second. In the 8th, Pillar lost two bats into the stands on two consecutive swings. He then ground into a double play, one of two that went against the Jays.
J.P. Howell and Joe Smith both made their Blue Jays debuts on Monday. Howell got one out in the 8th, then Smith allowed one hit over 1.2 innings, which was erased when Jose Bautista made a dramatic diving catch and doubled off the runner at first.
Toronto stranded thirteen runners to Baltimore’s six. Four were in the last three innings. Then came Trumbo’s home run off Jason Grilli, with two outs in the 11th.
Game 2: Wednesday, April 5th
Jays lose, 1-3
Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ
In this speedy event (2:23 from start to finish), Happ only allowed five hits in seven innings – the problem was, two of them were home runs. Adam Jones hit a two-run bomb in the 3rd, then Chris Davis a solo shot an inning later. Happ didn’t walk anybody, and struck out nine, but it wasn’t enough. The Blue Jays had seven hits overall, three of them back-to-back-to-back singles in the top of the 3rd, which allowed Devon Travis to drive in Justin Smoak as the first run of the game.
The Jays didn’t even get a baserunner in five of their seven trips to the plate against Baltimore starter Dylan Bundy. Like Happ, Bundy didn’t walk anyone, and struck out eight. The only other hit he allowed was a Josh Donaldson single in the 6th. A leadoff Justin Smoak double in the 8th inning was stranded at third base.
They got a rally going in the 9th against Zach Britton – Jose Bautista and Kendrys Morales both singled to start things off, then Troy Tulowitzki struck out (on a checked swing, which he argued). Russell Martin walked to load the bases, and Steve Pearce had a chance to be a hero against his former team. Pearce’s at-bat lasted seven pitches, the first of which would have been an RBI groundout had it not rolled foul. He fouled off three more before eventually grounding into a double play to end the game.
Despite what the 2016 Wild Card game might have led some to believe, Zach Britton is still with the Orioles, and is apparently allowed to enter a tie game. He threw two innings Monday, and allowed three hits and a walk but no runs. On Wednesday, he threw another inning, allowed two more hits and a walk, but escaped a bases-loaded jam with a double play and got yet another save.
Two games is a microscopic sample size, obviously, but so far the pitching hasn’t been awful (longball aside) and the defense has been pretty sharp. I was particularly encouraged by the two outfield assists. The only hiccups were Pillar and Carrera’s miscommunication and a Josh Donaldson throwing error in Game 2 which narrowly missed Smoak’s glove at first.
On the offensive side of things, Martin and Tulowitzki are still hitless, though Martin does have a trio of walks to his name. Both of them started off rather slowly last year as well, with Martin 0-for-13 to start off the season. Martin was hit in the throwing hand with a Mark Trumbo foul ball in the 6th inning on Wednesday. He stayed in the game, but only after a lengthy discussion with trainers. I have a feeling we’ll be getting our first look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia sooner rather than later.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
The thirteen runners left on base Monday was a team record for Opening Day
My Favourite Player(s) this series: Pillar/Carrera/Smoak/Donaldson/Pearce/Travis
Kevin Pillar had two hits, a walk, and scored a run. He also made a few nice defensive plays in Game 2 – leaving a dent in the OF wall as he chased down a fly ball, then nabbing Welington Castillo who was trying to take an extra base in the 4th.
Everyone else is hitting .300 or higher so far: Carrera is 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, Smoak is 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored, Donaldson is 4-for-9 with a walk, Pearce is 3-for-9 with a walk, and Travis is 3-for-10. Not much else to talk about yet.