Series Sum-up: at Tampa Bay, April 3-6


Welcome to a brand-new season! The Blue Jays are back, and I’m starting something new: series recaps! I’ll likely fiddle around with the format over the course of the season, and any feedback is much appreciated!


Game 1: (Opening Day) Sunday, April 3rd
Winning Pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Save: Roberto Osuna


Troy Tulowitzki hit the first home run in the Blue Jays’ 2016 season – in fact, the first of the entire MLB 2016 season – which makes this the fourth time in his career he’s hit a home run on Opening Day. Funny enough, when I was watching it go out in left field, I couldn’t remember who’d been at the plate. The bottom part of this lineup has been shuffled around so much (Russell Martin‘s batting eighth!), all I could think was ‘it’s whoever is after EE’ – but I had no clue who that was. The Jays chased Chris Archer – who last season seemed invincible – after 5 innings, with as many hits off him.


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Game 2: Monday, April 4th
Winning Pitcher: R.A. Dickey
Save: Osuna


Josh Thole (of all people!) had a home run on Monday that may have been fan-interfered, but with all the plays of that variety going against us last year, we’ll take it. Michael Saunders and Josh Donaldson also homered. Kevin Pillar made a diving catch that was just bananas (as he is wont to do) but then he ran headfirst into the wall. I was definitely concerned, as was Saunders, but Pillar appeared fine to play the next day. He also gave a post-game interview that was amazingly sarcastic.



Game 3: Tuesday, April 5th
Jays lose 3-4
Starter: Aaron Sanchez
Losing Pitcher: Brett Cecil


I don’t want to talk about Game 3… The only game in which no Blue Jay homered, everything was going so well until the bottom of the 8th. Everyone, especially Sanchez, did things they should be proud of. But the first implementation of the ‘Chase Utley rule’ in a regular season game cost the Jays, by one run. (You can read my thoughts on Gibby’s post-game comments here.)


Poor Brett Cecil. Someone should go give him a hug. He’d literally just the night before tied an MLB record, and was on his way to beating it, before a 2-run Logan Forsythe home run (more on that later). But don’t worry, Brett, as my dad always says, the day after a streak ends is the perfect time to start a new one!
This was also my first time trying to score an MLB game while watching it live on TV, and I think this says it all:



Game 4: Wednesday, April 6th (day game)
Jays lose 3-5
Starter: J.A. Happ
Losing Pitcher: Arnold Leon


Donaldson was up to his old heroics on Wednesday, hitting a 3-run homer that drove in every single Jays run of that game. But he limped out of the batter’s box later in the game, and immediately left the game with a sore calf. Apparently it’s been bothering him since the Montreal series, and he later blamed it on playing four games on the Tropicana turf. (Weird, I thought you could only blame the turf for things that happened in Toronto?) The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. was the villain of that game, as he went 4-for-4 with the winning runs coming on his own 3-run homer in the 8th. He also hit a solo shot in the 6th.


Other notes: 

Kevin Kiermaier, the Rays’ CF who (much like our Kevin) is known more for his defense than his hitting, continues to be a pain in the rear end of Jays’ pitching. In Game 1 he had a single, an RBI, and would have had two hits, had Chris Colabello‘s stumble-tag not been ruled an out on replay. Game 2, he went 3-for-3 with a walk. In Game 3 he was hit by pitch and scored, and then finally was vanquished in the 4th game, aside from a lone walk.


In the 9th inning of Wednesday’s game, Colabello finally ended his 0-for-10 streak with a single, but then was promptly doubled off along with Russell Martin (who’s now 0-for-12). I think their position counterparts got all their hitting luck this week (Justin Smoak is 1-for-4 with a walk, Thole’s slugging 1.000?!*). Smoak also stole a base for the first time in something like four years. Have I mentioned this was a really weird series? Bautista hit his 17th-ever triple, Martin threw out two runners, which is always fun, and Chris Colabello did some hilarious defending at first.


Troy Tulowitzki’s ancient glove may have finally worn out, as he swapped it out during Game 3, or not, as it was rumoured to have returned to the dugout later in the same game. It also let him down at one point when a ball got stuck in the webbing and he couldn’t get a grip on it – but Tulo, ever the professional, blamed himself instead.


While it’s clearly the smallest of sample sizes (and Marco Estrada isn’t back yet), the rotation seemed solid their first time through, albeit against the traditionally light-hitting Rays. Drew Storen, Jesse Chavez, Franklin Morales and the highly-touted Gavin Floyd all made their first appearances out of the bullpen as Jays this week. They all were decent. Arnold Leon, decidedly less so.

* This sentence should be read with utmost sarcasm. 


Weirdly specific record alert:

These are one of my favourite things about baseball. It’s opening week, so we have a ton.

  • Brett Cecil tied the record for ‘longest streak of games appeared in without an earned run’ (38) set by Craig Kimbrel in 2011.
  • Closer Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher ever in MLB history to save a game on Opening Day.
  • R.A. Dickey is now the oldest starting pitcher in Blue Jays history to win a game (surpassing Dave Steib). This one is kind of fun, because with each game he wins this season, that record will keep going up.
  • Donaldson & Thole became the ‘first two players named Josh in Jays history to homer in the same game’.


My favourite player(s) this series: Stroman/Sanchez

Lost in the furor surrounding the end of Game 3 was how awesome Aaron Sanchez had been up to that point. He lasted a full seven innings, didn’t walk anyone, and set a new career high of 8 strikeouts.


Stroman was even better on Opening Day, when he went into the 9th inning (but then was pulled in favour of Osuna after allowing a home run). He only walked one batter, and induced a lot of ground balls, which the infield made short work of.


Where we are now:

1 game back of the Orioles (who have only played 2 games, so this is meaningless)


The bad news is, Donaldson might be hurt (he’s listed as day-to-day) and the last-minute way in which those last two games were lost was really disappointing. Also everyone seems to be striking out a lot, what’s up with that?


The good news is, it’s a long season. We’re literally four games in. Winning two games at the Trop is something that doesn’t happen very often, so yay for that! Despite all the strikeouts, everyone was grinding out each at-bat and tiring out the opposing pitchers. And most importantly – THEY’RE COMING HOME!!!!! In less than 36 hours, I’ll be sitting at the Dome watching them play a game in Toronto, and I’m betting a lot of you will be there as well!


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