I was at this game, the Jays’ Home Opener, which you can read about here. Something I noticed watching Stroman is that he does a little bounce on the mound before he turns to set up for the pitch. I’ve never seen that on TV before, it was only noticeable because I was actually there to see him do it!
Kevin Pillar nearly got hit in the head with a pitch (it hit the brim of his helmet). Between that and his close call with the wall in Tampa, I can’t help but be worried for him, but he’s certainly one tough dude. Josh Donaldson hit a grand slam on the very next pitch, the second of his career. Brock Holt of Boston answered with his own grand slam in the 6th, and also had an RBI double in the game.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 9, 2016
Russell Martin played third base in the 9th (to replace Darwin Barney, who had been pinch-hit for) so that was unusual and rather entertaining. He also broke his 0-for-13 hitless streak with a single during the bat-around 4th inning. But the bullpen just kept giving up runs, and the Jays couldn’t manage to score after the grand slam, so they took the loss.
Game 2: Saturday, April 9th
Jays lose 4-8
Losing Pitcher: R.A. Dickey
The knuckleball can be unpredictable, and that’s exactly what happened in this game. John Gibbons said afterwards that it was probably one of the best he’s seen, but that’s why Josh Thole had problems catching it. And boy, did he have trouble catching it. He had two passed balls, one of which allowed a runner to score, and three dropped third strikes, one of which resulted in the batter reaching safely. Not a banner day for Thole, who also went 0-for-3 at the plate.
Jose Bautista had his first two homers of the season. Both were of the two-run variety (considerately allowing an injured Josh Donaldson to jog his way around the bases both times), but those were the only runs they got.
Estrada made his first start of the season (the 100th of his career) and was phenomenal, lasting seven shutout innings and striking out 8. Ryan Goins had an amazing day both offensively, with a single, ground rule double, and a walk in 3 plate appearances, and defensively – he made a long, perfect relay throw to get Dustin Pedroia out at the plate in the 3rd, and also turned a double play in the 8th inning.
Josh Donaldson scored two of the 3 runs in the game. He singled in the first and then scored after a throwing error on a bases-loaded ground ball from Edwin Encarnacion. I had a terrifying moment of deja vu, with Bautista running to second and a double play nearly being made, but there was no review. Donaldson also hit a solo home run in the eighth to widen the lead.
There’s something that I noticed, not only in these games, but in the series leading up to it as well – there’s a lack of tension when they play. The dropoff from playoff baseball to the beginning of the regular season is a steep one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still exciting, but the whole world is no longer riding on every pitch, every at-bat, every play – or even every game. (And with a 4-game losing streak, let’s be thankful for that!)
In each of their 4 losses, they didn’t score a single run after the 4th inning – and in two of them, their last run was scored in the 3rd. That’s so unusual for a team as offense-heavy as the Jays. I think Josh Donaldson has completely spoiled us fans, in that we just kind of expect a walk-off in every single close home game now. That was definitely my feeling (on Friday, at least. Saturday, a little less so).
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- Josh Donaldson became the first Blue Jays player to ever hit a grand slam in the Home Opener
My favourite player(s) this series: Biagini/Donaldson/Estrada
Joe Biagini made his MLB debut on Friday, pitching a full inning without allowing a run. He struck out David Ortiz and battled back the count back full from 3-0 on Hanley Ramirez before getting him to ground out. On Saturday, he again pitched a full inning and didn’t allow a run, getting three straight outs after a single and a walk. He’s also pretty hilarious (his cat is named The Cat!), and I look forward to his interviews if he sticks around for the rest of the season.
The MVP didn’t let an injured leg stop him from blasting two home runs this series (his third and fourth of the season). He had five hits, including those two homers and a double in the series, and scored every time he got on base.
Marco Estrada was on the DL to start the season (an off-day last week meant they didn’t really need 5 starters right away) and came back in peak form. In seven innings he allowed five hits, two walks, and no runs. He also struck out eight, and had two separate innings where he threw less than ten pitches each. He may have gone even deeper into the game were it not for a pitch limit placed upon him because of his injury. It was very nice to see how warmly the Toronto crowd welcomed him, after his success in the playoffs last year, and he definitely seemed happy to be back.
Where we are now:
4th place, 3 games back of Baltimore, who remain undefeated through 5 games (yuck)
The bad news is, they’ve had a pretty tough time against their division thus far, and that’s not going to let up yet – three games against the Yankees this week, followed by four more in Boston over the weekend.
As for the good news, well there’s this:
Josh Donaldson says his calf’s feeling a lot better; he’s confident he’ll be ready to play third in Tuesday’s opener vs New York #BlueJays
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) April 10, 2016
Having the MVP back at 3rd means Edwin can go back to DH, Barney can be backup again, and Justin Smoak or Chris Colabello will be at first. Although, to his credit, Barney did reach base all three times up (via two hits and a walk) on Friday and had another hit and a stolen base Saturday. Not bad for a defense-first backup infielder!
And oh, yeah. It’s still extremely early.
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