Series Sum-Up: Yankees vs. Blue Jays

 Justin Smoak was 6-for-11 in the Toronto Blue Jays' recent three-game series against the New York Yankees. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Justin Smoak was 6-for-11 in the Toronto Blue Jays' recent three-game series against the New York Yankees. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By Emily @JaysGirlEmily

Blue Jays from Away

Game 1: Friday, July 6
JAYS WIN!!! 6-2
Starting Pitcher: Sam Gaviglio
Winning Pitcher: Joe Biagini

In one of Sam Gaviglio’s shortest starts of the year, he benefited from a great cleanup appearance by Joe Biagini, and an even shorter start from Sonny Gray. The Blue Jays had already took a 5-0 lead in the second, when Gray allowed a leadoff double to Randal Grichuk, three singles, and a three-run Justin Smoak homer. Devon Travis and Curtis Granderson drove in the other two runs. Gaviglio allowed two hits and a walk through the first two innings, before allowing a solo homer from Aaron Hicks that put the Yankees on the board in the third.

Gaviglio got into trouble with a pair of singles in the fifth, then Aaron Judge reached on a fielding error by the third baseman, loading the bases. The last batter Gaviglio faced, Hicks, walked to force in a run. Joe Biagini came in with one out, froze Giancarlo Stanton on an outside fastball after working his way back from a 3-0 count, and got Didi Gregorius to line out to left, ending the threat.

David Hale replaced Gray in the third inning, and pitched five scoreless before the Jays got the better of him in the eighth. Aledmys Diaz led off with a double, and then Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-out double to plate Diaz. The Blue Jays’ bullpen didn’t allow a run, with John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) and Tyler Clippard each pitching an inning.

Game 2: Saturday, July 7
Jays lose, 5-8
Losing pitcher: J.A. Happ

J.A. Happ had thrown just five pitches when the Yankees took a 2-0 lead. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge hit back-to-back homers in the first inning, with Gardner’s bomb coming on the very first pitch of the game. After that, Happ walked a pair, got two strikeouts, and then gave up a two-run double to Brandon Drury. Curtis Granderson made an impressive catch in left field to end the inning and spare further damage. The Yankees loaded the bases in the second on a pair of two-out walks, and an infield single that hit Happ. He then struck out two to get out of it. The Blue Jays cut that lead in half thanks to a two-run Kevin Pillar homer in the second.

Happ threw 84 pitches total and didn’t make it out of the third. Jake Petricka allowed two inherited runners to score on a triple from Gardner. Gardner eventually scored on a passed ball. Luis Severino hadn’t given up multiple home runs in a game all season, until Pillar and Randal Grichuk each took him deep. Grichuk’s homer (a solo shot in the fourth) made it 7-3. Severino was done after five innings, and Justin Smoak hit a leadoff double in the sixth off his replacement, Jonathan Holder. Smoak advanced on a single, and scored on a Pillar sac fly.

Petricka finished two more innings before turning things over to Luis Santos, who also pitched two clean innings, then was lifted after Kyle Higashioka hit a leadoff single in the eighth. Aaron Loup came in, but was pulled after the next batter reached on a pop-up to the mound that nobody caught, and the batter after that reached on a bunt fielder’s choice (Luke Maile fired to third in time to get the lead runner). Rhiner Cruz finished the inning, but allowed a run on two hits in the ninth and then exited the game, injured, with two outs. Aroldis Chapman was brought in by the Yankees but also left injured after striking out Grichuk to start the inning. Aledmys Diaz hit a two-out home run off Chasen Shreve to put the Blue Jays three runs back, and Shreve struck out the pinch-hitter Teoscar Hernandez to end the game.

Game 3: Sunday, July 8
Jays lose, 1-2 (10 innings)
Starting Pitcher: Ryan Borucki
Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard

Once again, Ryan Borucki faced one of the league’s toughest lineups, and once again, he delivered. In his third career start, the lefty went seven innings and allowed only one run. That run scored in the first inning as part of a Yankees rally begun by an Aaron Judge single, continued with a Giancarlo Stanton double, and ended with a Miguel Andujar ground out that scored Judge from third. Russell Martin ended the inning with a catch in foul territory, while looking directly into the sun. Borucki stranded a pair of singles in the second, one more in the third, and got a double play to erase a leadoff walk in the fourth.

The Blue Jays’ best chance to take the lead came in the bottom of the fourth, when Justin Smoak led off with a single before two fly outs, and then Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and Randal Grichuk took back-to-back walks. Domingo German struck out Lourdes Gurriel Jr. swinging to strand the bases loaded. After Borucki ended the fifth with another double play, Devon Travis reached base on a ball hit to Greg Bird which Bird dropped, then scooped to German, who also dropped it. The error was charged to Bird, but Travis would not move past second. Kendrys Morales led off the sixth with his 10th home run of the season, and the 200th of his career, tying the game at one run apiece.

That score held, despite a leadoff Gurriel double in the seventh and a one-out single from Morales in the eighth. Morales was replaced with Aledmys Diaz as a pinch-runner; Diaz was then picked off by Adam Warren as he took second on an attempted hit-and-run. After two scoreless innings from Seunghwan Oh that sent the game into extras, Tyler Clippard pitched the 10th. He hit Bird with a pitch on a full count, then Austin Romine laid down a sac bunt to move the runner. Brett Gardner hit an RBI single before Clippard struck out a pair to end the inning. The Blue Jays couldn’t get a runner aboard, as David Robertson picked up the save for New York.

Overall Notes:

The Blue Jays made two roster moves during this series: Rhiner Cruz had to be placed on the DL with a groin strain on Saturday, so Tim Mayza was called up.

There were multiple unusual ejections in this series. First, in the third inning of Saturday’s game, C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees was ejected (while sitting on the Yankee bench) because he objected to a strike three called on one of the Yankees batters. John Gibbons was later ejected in the same inning, for arguing balls called against J.A. Happ, after a brief conversation with the home-plate umpire while he was making a pitching change.

Then on Sunday, the umpires took issue with Seunghwan Oh’s interpreter, Eugene Koo, being on the mound when Oh came into the game. It’s pretty standard for translators to go out to the mound when a manager or pitching coach needs to speak to a non-English speaking player, but apparently there’s a rule barring him from being out there when it’s only the catcher (or other position player) and the pitcher speaking. He must be accompanied by a manager or other coach. What I don’t understand is this:

1) Why has this never been a problem prior to Sunday? It’s in the rule book, yet you’re telling me nobody has ever bothered to enforce it? This was Oh’s 42nd appearance of the year, plus over 100 with the Cardinals, so I’m fairly confident there have been other times when Koo was out there with him and a coach wasn’t. Apparently this is the only umpiring crew that cares about this particular rule.

2) Why on earth would it be necessary for a coach to also be present, if it’s just a catcher relaying information? Like Gibby said in the post-game scrum, “I don’t know what kind of state secrets he’s giving away out there”.

3) How is Russell Martin or Luke Maile supposed to communicate with Oh, then, since they don’t speak the same language? A team gets six mound visits per game, but only one from a coach or manager per inning (other than for a pitching change). If Martin needs to communicate something to Oh when a manager has already been out there in that inning, what is he supposed to do? Is it special circumstances as long as Gibbons is just ushering Koo out to the mound, and isn’t actually involved in the conversation?

4) Further to that point, why was the umpire’s initial reaction to order Koo off the field, rather than tell Gibbons or Pete Walker that they had to join him? It was pretty clear that the players wanted/needed Koo there, why not ensure the rule’s being followed without making it more difficult for the catcher and pitcher to communicate?

5) Catchers are also allowed to ask for an exemption from the mound visit limit for themselves, if there’s been a miscommunication about signs. But Koo would likely have to be present to clear up that miscommunication. Mixed signals can be dangerous for everyone involved (including, ironically, the umpire).

6) Because Oh came out to start an inning, should a rule for ‘mound visits’ really even apply in this case? It wasn’t taken off their tally of mound visits remaining, because it wasn’t mid-inning. It was during a break in the game. At that point, he’s just another member of team personnel on the field.

In any event, first-base coach Tim Leiper objected to the umpires’ interruption, and he was ejected from the game. I don’t know why he took it so personally, but I’m glad he was standing up for his player’s needs. At one point, he appeared to be yelling “common sense.” Yes, the umpire followed the rule to the letter, but the spirit of the rule is definitely questionable. MLB doesn’t require a manager to chaperone a mound visit with anyone who speaks English. I wonder if Martin will try to pick up a few Korean phrases now, just to circumvent that nuisance.

Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

- Kendrys Morales’ home run on Sunday was the 200th of his career. That makes him one of five Cuban-born players to hit 200 MLB home runs.

- Ryan Borucki has 13 strikeouts so far in the first three starts of his Blue Jays career. That's tied for the second-most of any rookie pitcher in team history.

My favourite player(s) this series: Borucki

Ryan Borucki’s teammates seem incapable of giving him run support. In each of his three starts, he has gone six innings or longer, and hasn’t allowed more than two runs, but he’s still looking for his first career win. In seven innings on Sunday, he allowed one run on seven hits, walked two and struck out five.

Justin Smoak had two hits in each game this series, going 6-for-11 overall with a walk, two doubles, and a home run that brought in three runs. He also scored three times. He's now slashing .318/.400/.591 for July, after starting the month 1-for-11.

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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.