Anyone who paid close attention to the Jays’ games early in the season would recognize this formula. Score a bunch of runs early in the game (say, five in the first 4 innings), then let your opponent chip, chip, chip away at that lead until they overtake you. In the meantime, gallantly keep your own hitters off the bases. If they do somehow manage to get there (be it via a walk, bunt single, or HBP) make sure they stay put. As a bonus, use as many relief pitchers as possible. Five is good. Have Aaron Loup give up a game-tying homer to the only batter he faces. Get Roberto Osuna to allow a leadoff double in the 9th, then make sure it scores. If you can execute all these elements, you’ve got yourself a Toronto Blue Jays One-Run Loss (TM).
What started off so strong for the Blue Jays hitters turned into a disappointing loss, as they tagged Tyler Wilson for seven hits (including three doubles and a triple) over 5.2 innings. All five Blue Jay runs were charged to Wilson, and Marcus Stroman gave up just four in his 5.1 innings, in spite of eight hits. Both starters earned no decisions. Stroman allowed one run in the 1st, but it could have been much worse as Manny Machado made a baserunning gaffe that allowed Jose Bautista and Darwin Barney to throw him out at the plate. (Machado is playing while appealing his suspension for his role in the Baltimore-Kansas City brawl)
Bautista had a great night, going 2-for-2 with a pair of walks, an RBI and two runs scored, but was pulled in the 6th in favour of pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera after experiencing right thigh tightness.
After his last start, in which he no-hit the Red Sox for 7.1 innings, expectations were high for Marco Estrada. In spite of three perfect innings to start the game, and a 4th where he walked two but didn’t allow a hit, he didn’t quite live up to those expectations. In the 5th, three straight hits began with a Jonathan Schoop homer for the first Orioles run. At this point, the Jays were up 2-0 following a failed pickoff in the 1st and a home run of their own, off the bat of Michael Saunders.
Estrada managed to strand two in the 5th, but walked the first batter of the next inning and then Chris Davis (as he tends to do) hit a home run. Estrada was done after that inning, allowing three earned runs on four hits and as many walks. He also struck out eight. The Blue Jays tied the game in the bottom of the 6th, when Russell Martin drove in a Justin Smoak leadoff double. Jesse Chavez pitched two clean innings, allowing one walk, and Roberto Osuna followed with a perfect inning. The game still tied, they went to the 10th. Drew Storen also had a perfect inning, and then in the bottom of the 10th, the first batter – Edwin Encarnacion – went opposite-field on the 7th pitch of the at-bat. It should be noted that this was almost exactly a year to the day Encarnacion walked off the Marlins last season.
Game 3: Saturday, June 11th
JAYS WIN! 11-6
Winning Pitcher: J.A. Happ
One thing you don’t necessarily expect to see is two consecutive pinch-hitters in the 6th inning. But if your team is trailing 4-3, and the positional counterparts for both are on the bench, why not?? John Gibbons‘ strategy paid off when, with two on and no outs, he replaced Ryan Goins with Devon Travis, then used Russell Martin in place of Josh Thole. Travis hit a sac fly which tied the game, then Martin walked and would eventually score when Edwin Encarnacion hit a three-run homer. That five-run inning (Josh Donaldson drove in another run with a sac fly) would put the Blue Jays on top for good.
Happ earned the win after 7.0 innings with four earned runs allowed on eight hits and no walks. He also struck out five. All of the runs he allowed came on homers from the top of the Orioles’ lineup. Joe Biagini allowed two more runs in the 8th as he faced four batters and didn’t retire any of them. Three singles and a walk led to him being pulled from the game, then Gavin Floyd came in and got a sac fly and double play to minimize the damage and end the inning. But the Blue Jays got two runs back in the bottom of the 8th, as Encarnacion and Michael Saunders homered back-to-back, and the team reached double digits in runs for the first time since May 28th.
How, you might ask, does one team give up five home runs (to Pedro Alvarez, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and Jones again) and still win? Apparently the answer is to score five runs off the other starter in the first inning and chase him from the game with only one out. The shortest start of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s career netted him the loss, even though his team got extremely close to tying the game multiple times.
The first four Orioles home runs came off Aaron Sanchez, who allowed six earned runs on ten hits in 5.0 innings of work. The fifth one was off of Pat Venditte in the 8th and made the score 10-8. Jason Grilli then allowed a hit and a walk in the 9th, one of which scored. But the Blue Jays hit two homers of their own – Kevin Pillar‘s fourth of the year, and a 3-run shot for Russell Martin – which helped them hang on to the lead. In total, they had fourteen hits and four walks, including a season-high seven doubles.
Winning three games while two of your key players (Bautista and Tulo) are hurt is a good sign, isn’t it? Great job, backups!
The Blue Jays now have the most walkoff wins in the AL, with five. They’ve also been walked off five times.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- Edwin Encarnacion set a new Blue Jays record for number of walk-off home runs hit, with four.
- Marco Estrada set a new franchise record as he had his 9th consecutive start of six or more innings allowing five or fewer hits.
My favourite player(s) this series: Encarnacion/Saunders
In spite of what certain Baltimore pitchers might have to say (seriously, you guys can’t even give credit where credit is due?), Edwin is heating up like crazy and the Blue Jays are reaping the benefits. He snapped an 0-for-19 streak in a big way, as he reached base in seven consecutive plate appearances. Three home runs, two doubles six hits, eight RBI, six runs scored, and a stolen base (!) later, he proved that he’s an important part of this team for a reason. His walkoff homer on Friday was also his 600th RBI as a Blue Jay.
The continually-underrated Michael Saunders was 9-for-17 in this series. He had three doubles, a pair of homers, scored a run in every game, and drove in four. He continues to beat up on same-handed pitching, and leads the Blue Jays everyday players in every percentage-based hitting stat.
Where we are now:
3rd place, 2.5 games back of the Orioles/Red Sox
The bad news is, Troy Tulowitzki has had a setback in his rehab and is therefore going to be out for an indeterminate length of time. We also don’t know how much longer Bautista’s leg will continue to affect him (he sat out the final three games of this series).
The good news is, they’re moving up in the division, just won three excellent games over a division rival (even the loss was a close one) and the bats were on fire! I know I’ve said that numerous times before *knocks on wood* but it seems like some key players are finally out of their slumps.
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