Game 1: Friday, July 21
Jays lose. 3-13
Losing Pitcher: Marco Estrada
It’s hard to believe, based on the final score, but the Jays held a lead for four and a half innings in this game. Jose Bautista started things off with a double, stole third and Kendrys Morales drove him in with a single. Ezequiel Carrera led off the 2nd with a double, and Ryan Goins scored him on a sac fly. After Marco Estrada allowed a leadoff home run to Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays took the run back with a Justin Smoak RBI double two outs into the 5th.
Then Estrada’s luck ran out. After a leadoff triple, a walk and an RBI single, he got one out before another walk, an RBI forceout, and a two-run Encarnacion double gave Cleveland the lead. Estrada left the game having allowed five runs on six hits and three walks over 4.2 innings. The 6th was uneventful, save for Steve Pearce getting hit with a pitch, but the 7th was where things really fell apart.
Aaron Loup walked one and got a flyout, then Jeff Beliveau hit Michael Brantley. Encarnacion then singled to bring one in, Jose Ramirez doubled to score another, Carlos Santana singled to score Encarnacion, and Abraham Almonte hit a home run to put Cleveland up 11-3. Beliveau was pulled after walking the next batter. He’d faced six batters and allowed five runs (plus one scored by the inherited runner) without getting any outs. Cesar Valdez took over and the onslaught continued with a double, a two-run single to Bradley Zimmer, and another double before finally getting a pair of outs.
Marcus Stroman was solid, holding Cleveland to a single run over 7.2 innings. Unfortunately, his offense didn’t do him any favours. The Cleveland starter, Danny Salazar, lasted 7.0 scoreless innings himself. Salazar faced the minimum number of hitters – a leadoff single to Kevin Pillar in the 3rd was eliminated on a double play, and that was the only baserunner he allowed. Salazar struck out eight Blue Jays.
Stroman kept pace with Salazar for three innings – he had a single and a double play in the 2nd – but walked Francisco Lindor with one out in the 4th. After Lindor moved to third on a single, Edwin Encarnacion grounded out to drive him in. He allowed five hits total, walked five (one intentionally) and struck out seven. After Andrew Miller replaced Salazar in the 8th, Justin Smoak hit a leadoff home run to tie the game and take Stroman off the hook for the loss. Stroman left the game with two out and men at first and second in the bottom of the 8th. Ryan Tepera struck out Carlos Santana to strand the inherited runners.
Both teams had a walk in the 9th, but no hits and no runs. In extras, the first two Blue Jays reached base – Josh Donaldson on a fielding error, then Smoak walked – but both were left there. Danny Barnes was called upon to take care of the 10th, and Lindor was the first batter he faced. After Barnes got ahead in the count 1-2, he threw a ball outside and then Lindor fouled off two pitches before hammering a high and centred fastball for a no-doubt walkoff home run.
Game 3: Sunday, July 23
Jays lose, 1-8
Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ
The first three batters to face J.A. Happ all singled, resulting in a run before he even got the first out. After that, he issued a walk to load the bases and Brandon Guyer cleared them with a double. Meanwhile, Corey Kluber was mowing down the Blue Jays in order (including three on strikeouts in the 2nd). Kevin Pillar ended that trend with a leadoff home run in the 3rd, but then Kluber picked right back up where he left off and set down the next three batters.
Josh Donaldson made an error in the 3rd which put two Cleveland runners on with no out, but Happ escaped the jam. The Jays stranded a pair in the 4th, and Francisco Lindor hit an RBI single to cash in Giovanny Urshela, who’d also singled and then advanced on a wild pitch. It was 5-1 Cleveland at that point. Happ set down three in order in the 5th, but then gave up a two-run Michael Brantley homer the next inning. His replacement, a fresh off the DL Joe Smith, gave up another run on a pair of two-out hits. Chris Smith pitched the 8th and allowed a hit and a walk but stranded both.
Kluber’s day was over after walking Donaldson with two outs in the 8th, and the Jays got but a single in the 9th off of Cleveland’s bullpen. They ended the game with six hits and two walks, having struck out fifteen times and hit into two double plays. Meanwhile Cleveland had twelve hits – nine against Happ, and three combined facing the Smiths.
Stroman admitted following his start that he had been dealing with a sore spot on his finger. That caused him to change the way he was putting pressure on the ball, which in turn caused a loss in command. Naturally, that led to all the walks – five is his season high, and although one was intentional, he’s only walked four one other time.
Aaron Sanchez was placed on the disabled list for the fourth time this year on the 22nd. At the same time, they designated Jeff Beliveau for assignment, then activated Joe Smith from the disabled list and recalled Chris Smith from the minors.
Late in the day on Sunday, the team made a trade, picking up utility player Rob Refsnyder from the Yankees in exchange for prospect Ryan McBroom. Refsnyder has been up and down a bunch of times with New York already, hitting .135/.200/.216 in 37 at-bats over 21 games. In the minor leagues, however, he’s been hitting .312/.390/.464 in 138 AB.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- The Blue Jays have been on the losing end of a walkoff eight times this season, more than any other team in the major leagues
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Stroman/Smoak
Marcus Stroman was dominant for 7.2 innings of one-run ball. He allowed five hits and five walks (including one IBB) and struck out seven. 73 of his 117 total pitches were strikes, in spite of the pain in his finger that was previously mentioned, he remained in the game and gave his team a good chance to win. He also set off a double play in the 2nd inning, erasing the only baserunner he’d allowed up to that point.
This was not a strong offensive series for anyone, but Justin Smoak had three hits in nine at-bats, plus three walks, meaning he reached base exactly half of the times he came up. He also drove in two and hit a game-tying home run late in the game on Saturday. That homer reminded me of Canada Day last year, when he did the same thing against the same team, and they went to extras. The Jays lost both games, 2-1, but at least they didn’t have to go 19 innings this time!
Where We Are Now:
Last place in the AL East, 10 games back of Boston
The bad news is, getting swept is pretty demoralizing and it looks like the team will be sellers at the trade deadline yet (not that I’m open to speculating about what their specific moves will be). Sanchez is hurt again.
The good news is… I’m having a hard time finding any. Sorry.
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