Game 1: Tuesday, April 18th
Jays lose, 7-8
Losing Pitcher: Marcus Stroman
The Jays quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 1st on four hits, then they stranded the bases loaded in the 2nd. They lost the lead equally quickly on four hits in the 3rd, which put the Red Sox up 3-2. Justin Smoak hit his second home run of the season in the bottom half, which tied the game, but then four more Red Sox hits in the 5th scored three runs and drove Marcus Stroman from the game.
Both starters faced 25 batters. Stroman lasted 4.2 innings with six earned runs on eleven hits, and Brian Johnson pitched five full innings, allowed four runs on seven hits, including solo home runs to Smoak and Russell Martin. Martin’s blast, his first of the year (and first RBI) was in the 5th. Boston got another run in each of the 7th and 8th innings, then Toronto made things interesting in the bottom of the 9th – they scored 3 runs on a walk and 2 hits, including a 2-run pinch-hit home run from Ezequiel Carrera. That put the game within a run, but the last batter, Devon Travis, lined out to shortstop.
Kevin Pillar, riding a 6-game hit streak, hit three doubles. Every Blue Jays batter reached base – Jose Bautista and Travis didn’t get hits, but they both walked twice. Mookie Betts scored three times, including a 7th-inning leadoff homer off Joe Smith. Former Texas Ranger Mitch Morland got three hits including a double and drove in three. Pablo Sandoval had three hits and reached base the first four times he came up (though he was thrown out stealing once). Travis finally robbed him of a hit with a sliding play in the 9th.
Game 2: Wednesday, April 19th
Francisco Liriano pitched 5.1 shutout innings, and Darwin Barney drove in two runs in the Jays’ third win of the season. Liriano allowed four hits and one walk, while striking out six. Boston starter Rick Porcello was not charged with any earned runs, as the first two batters in the 2nd (Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin) both reached on errors, then scored on a Barney single. Three batters later, Barney scored on an Ezequiel Carrera single.
The Blue Jays only had six hits, three of which belonged to Kevin Pillar. The Red Sox also hit six. Pillar singled with one out in the 7th, then stole second and third base, but was left there, the last of Toronto’s six stranded runners. The Red Sox also stranded six runners and had six hits – but hit into double plays in the 5th and 6th innings when they’d had two men on. Liriano also managed to end Mookie Betts’ streak of 129 plate appearances in the regular season without striking out – the last time he’d struck out was September of last year.
Game 3: Thursday, April 20th (Day game)
Boston’s brand-new starter Chris Sale was at the top of his game Thursday, throwing eight shutout innings on 102 pitches, 80 of which were strikes. 13 of the 29 Blue Jays hitters who faced him struck out. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jose Bautista both had four-strikeout afternoons. Devon Travis was the first to get a hit against Sale, lacing a single through to left with one out in the 3rd. Travis was called safe at second after Ryan Goins reached on a fielder’s choice (the play was reviewed, and confirmed), and the Jays looked poised to break out, but then Kevin Pillar and Bautista both struck out.
Marco Estrada was the lone thing keeping the Jays in the game, as he didn’t allow a hit until the 3rd and only allowed three total in six innings. He struck out seven, including Mookie Betts twice, and stranded five runners. Sale walked Steve Pearce on four pitches in the 4th, putting runners on first and second with one out, but they stranded a pair after a fielder’s choice and another strikeout. They only got two more hits against Sale. Pillar extended his hit streak with a single in the 8th.
In the top of the 9th, Roberto Osuna allowed a two-out double to Mitch Moreland, then he scored on a single from Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts was thrown out by Bautista when he tried to advance to second, but the damage was done. Craig Kimbrel came in to close out the game for Boston – but then Kendrys Morales hit a leadoff homer to tie things and blow Kimbrel’s save.
In the 10th, Jason Grilli came in and got an out, then walked Sandy Leon, Brock Holt singled, and after another out Grilli walked Andrew Benintendi to load the bases. Mookie Betts got his revenge for striking out three times by driving in three runs with a double. Kimbrel stayed in the game and struck out Saltalamacchia, Travis and Chris Coghlan to prevent a chance of a comeback.
In the last series, it was noted that Russell Martin stole the team’s first base of the season in a game against the Orioles. A few days later, the official scorers changed that to defensive indifference, meaning Pillar’s swiping of 2nd on Wednesday in this series is the team’s first official stolen base.
Aaron Sanchez had a procedure which sounded really gross, removing a portion of his fingernail to alleviate pressure on the finger where he keeps getting a blister. He might be back as soon as next week when they’re in St. Louis.
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Pillar/Estrada/Smith
Since being made the leadoff man on April 14th, Kevin Pillar has been hitting at a .461 pace, with an 8-game hit streak. In this series alone, he was 7-for-13 (.538) with three doubles, a run scored, and two stolen bases. Tuesday was the first time in his career he hit three doubles in one game.
In true Marco Estrada fashion, only two of the eighteen outs he recorded came on a ground ball. He also had seven strikeouts, just three hits and two walks over six innings. He didn’t allow any runs in this start or his previous one – a total of 13 scoreless innings between the two.
Joe Smith did allow a run in this series (a solo homer to the first batter he faced on Tuesday), but I wanted to highlight him because he’s been phenomenal so far this year. He pitched twice in this series – an inning each in Tuesday’s and Thursday’s games – and had four strikeouts between them. The home run to Mookie Betts was the only hit he allowed, and he didn’t walk anyone. So far in seven innings this year he’s allowed only four hits and one walk, as well as 12 strikeouts – a K/9 pace of 15.00. He’s allowed two runs so far, giving him an ERA of 3.00.
Where We Are Now:
Last place in the AL East, 7.5 games back of Baltimore
The bad news is that after a few days of big offense, they are back to not hitting much again. They did manage to keep all three games pretty close, but that almost makes it more frustrating to watch. They’re also 5 games behind the 4th-place team (Tampa) and keep losing games to their own division, which is never good.
The good news is now they’re headed on a road trip, which is always fun and interesting – first to Anaheim to play four games against the Angels, then three games in St. Louis to pay former Blue Jay Brett Cecil a visit. Both those teams have losing records so hopefully they’ll be able to win a few on the road?
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