The Blue Jays kicked off the homestand with an exciting win over the team that eliminated them from the 2016 playoffs. Edwin Encarnacion made his first appearance in Toronto since signing in Cleveland, and received a big standing ovation in his first trip to the plate. Encarnacion had two singles and a walk, all against Marcus Stroman. Stroman held Cleveland scoreless for 6 innings, allowing six hits and two walks. Stroman had two runners on base four different times (with a runner on third three times) but got three inning-ending double plays. The fourth time, in the 6th inning, Kevin Pillar made a spectacular catch while running backwards to end things and prevent at least two runs.
For all but the first two innings, Stroman was pitching with a lead. In the 2nd, Devon Travis doubled off Trevor Bauer and Ryan Goins hit a two-run homer – his third of the season. Pillar singled to lead off the 3rd, then Kendrys Morales doubled and Justin Smoak cashed them both in with a one-out single. Smoak tried to advance to second and was thrown out, but his action drew the throw, allowing Morales to score safely.
Danny Barnes pitched a perfect 7th, but walked the leadoff man in the 8th, then allowed a double. Joe Smith took over and the first batter, Francisco Lindor, singled. Lindor got caught in a rundown between first and second, but he and Travis collided and Lindor was therefore called safe at second, with an error (obstruction) charged to Travis. Both inherited runners scored. Smith got a groundout for the first out of the inning, then struck out Edwin Encarnacion with a sweeping slider. He repeated the process with a sinker on Jose Ramirez, escaping the inning with a 4-2 lead intact and Lindor standing on third. Roberto Osuna got three quick outs on nine pitches to pick up the save.
Game 2: Tuesday, May 9
Jays lose, 0-6
Losing Pitcher: Mike Bolsinger
Mike Bolsinger, making his Blue Jays debut, was more than decent, but Carlos Carrasco was simply dominant. The Blue Jays managed just three hits off Carrasco in seven innings, all singles. He didn’t walk anybody, and struck out seven. Andrew Miller and Nick Goody each threw an inning; Kevin Pillar singled in the 9th but was erased on a double play. The Blue Jays grounded into two double plays. Their top three hitters – Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, and Jose Bautista – as well as Darwin Barney, were the only Jays hitters to reach base. All of their hits came with one out, except for Barney’s, which led off the 3rd inning.
Bolsinger pitched into the 6th and only really had trouble in two innings. The first of those was the 2nd, which started with a pair of walks, and one scored on a Lonnie Chisenhall double. Chisenhall was thrown out in a rundown when Yandy Diaz hit a fielder’s choice to short, but that out cost another run. Bolsinger’s 1st and 3rd innings were perfect; he allowed one walk in the 4th, then a single in the 5th but stranded them both. Dominic Leone replaced Bolsinger in the 6th with two outs and runners on second and third. He stranded both.
Bolsinger’s full line was 5.2 innings pitched, two earned runs on three hits, four walks, and four strikeouts. Leone was charged with a run in the 7th when he walked Yan Gomes and J.P. Howell allowed Gomes to score on a Francisco Lindor ground-rule double. Jason Grilli faced Edwin Encarnacion with two outs and men on second and third; he struck him out. Things really unravelled for the bullpen in the 8th when Aaron Loup hit Brandon Guyer with two outs, Abraham Almonte singled, and Gomes hit a three-run homer. The Cleveland team tallied six hits and six walks.
Game 3: Wednesday, May 10
JAYS WIN!!! 8-7 (walkoff)
Starting Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Winning Pitcher: Roberto Osuna
Things got off to a rough start for Francisco Liriano, who opened the game with a leadoff walk and a single before Jason Kipnis drove in both (before the first out) with a double. Kipnis was stranded, then the Blue Jays came back almost identically – Kevin Pillar leadoff walk, Ezequiel Carrera single, and Jose Bautista hit a line drive homer, just inside the left-field foul pole, for a 3-2 lead. Liriano didn’t allow a runner in the 2nd, and things looked promising when Devon Travis led off the bottom half with a double. But Travis was caught in a rundown on a ground ball to short, and Liriano started the 3rd with three singles and a pair of walks before getting pulled.
Dominic Leone replaced Liriano with two runs already in, no outs, and the bases loaded. Brandon Guyer cleared the bases with a double, then was thrown out trying to stretch for a triple. That would end up being a key play – not only was it the first out, but Yan Gomes doubled next and would have scored Guyer easily. Instead, Gomes was stranded two batters later, the score 7-3 Cleveland.
The Blue Jays chipped away at the lead in the bottom half with a Bautista walk, Justin Smoak double, and Steve Pearce sac fly. Smoak scored when Ryan Goins singled, and Danny Salazar’s night was over after 2.2 innings and 5 runs allowed. Darwin Barney led off the next inning with a double, then Carrera hit his third home run of the year to tie the game. The next five innings featured nine combined relievers, eight combined stranded baserunners, a Cleveland outfield error, two Cleveland double plays, Encarnacion getting hit with a pitch, excellent defensive plays from Travis and Pearce, a Travis sac bunt, and Luke Maile throwing out a base-stealer, but no runs.
The bottom of the 9th began, still tied, with a Carrera single, and hinged on a pair of two-out, full-count walks to Smoak and Pearce that loaded the bases. Goins slapped the first pitch from Cleveland closer Cody Allen down the right-field line, Carrera ran home, and the game was over. Both teams had eleven hits.
The series started out with bad news, as Russell Martin was added to the Disabled List with a nerve issue in his left shoulder prior to Monday’s game. Catcher Mike Ohlman was called up from Buffalo and made his MLB debut on Tuesday. Francisco Liriano got placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation after the conclusion of the series, meaning 3/5ths of the starting rotation is down. After leaving mid-Game 2 due to a pulled hamstring, Kendrys Morales sat on Wednesday and may be out for a few days, but hopes to avoid time on the DL.
The hero of Game 3 was also the one responsible for the last time the Blue Jays walked off Cleveland – on September 1st, 2015 in the 10th inning. Carrera was on base at the end of that game, too. Goins had an 8-game regular-season hit streak against Cleveland coming into this series, which ended at 9.
Game 3 marked the second time this season that Francisco Liriano has left the game early after allowing 5+ runs and the Blue Jays have come back to tie things up so he wouldn’t be charged with a loss. The other occasion, April 7th in Tampa Bay, he left after 0.1 innings having allowed five runs. The Blue Jays eventually caught up, and even took a 7-6 lead, but lost 8-10.
The Blue Jays have had numerous run-ins with umpire Vic Carapazza, most notably on Canada Day of last year, against this same Cleveland team. In that game, which went 19 innings, Carapazza’s strike zone was inconsistent and he ejected Edwin Encarnacion and John Gibbons in the 1st inning for pointing it out. In the bottom of the 13th inning, Russell Martin lost his temper over a strike call and received the same treatment. In this series, Carapazza was the home plate umpire in Game 3 and ejected pitching coach Pete Walker in the 3rd inning while Walker was returning to the dugout after a mound visit. While umpiring second base in Game 1, Carapazza created controversy again when he issued that obstruction call on Devon Travis during the Lindor rundown. John Gibbons, naturally, came out to argue it and was, naturally, ejected. Gibby had this to say about it post-game:
John Gibbons on an odd rundown play between Devon Travis and Francisco Lindor in the eighth — and the response of umpire Vic Carapazza pic.twitter.com/7AIb4700eM
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) May 9, 2017
Honestly, it’s a little tiring to have to fear a particular umpire every time he’s around. Carapazza’s strike zone was slightly inconsistent on Wednesday, but the calls were pretty evenly split between both teams. Despite seeming to have a quick trigger (when it comes to the Jays at least), he bizarrely hasn’t ejected another soul between this series and last Canada Day. He was also working Game 5 of the ALDS in 2015, and ejected a few Jays players who were on the bench in the midst of the confusion in the 7th inning. Notice a pattern here?
Gibby, Martin, EE
Saunders. Buehrle (Gm 5)
Turner Ward (Dbacks Coach), Dominic Leone
— James G (@james_in_to) May 11, 2017
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Goins/The Bullpen
In Game 1, Ryan Goins opened the scoring with a two-run homer, his third of the year. Coincidentally, every time he’s homered, Devon Travis (and only Devon Travis) has been on base. In Game 1, Goins also reached on a fielder’s choice and walked. He was hitless on Tuesday (along with about half the lineup), but rebounded on Wednesday to notch three hits and two RBI, including the game-winning single. For the series as a whole, he was 4-for-9 with two walks, a home run and four runs driven in.
Eight different Blue Jay relievers combined for 13.1 innings across thirteen individual appearances in this series. Only three of them – Aaron Loup, Dominic Leone and Monday Danny Barnes – were charged with runs. That includes seven straight scoreless innings split between five guys on Wednesday. Among the best performers were Ryan Tepera (two outings of 1 inning each, four strikeouts, no runs & no hits, just a hit batsman) and Joe Smith (a pair of one-inning outings, two hits allowed, no walks, and three strikeouts).
Where We Are Now:
Last in the AL East, 9.5 games back of New York and Baltimore
The bad news is, most of the lineup is still on the DL, and at this rate Morales might be headed there too.
The good news is, apparently this lineup can still win games without those key players! They’ve now won two series in a row, and three of their last four series. The bullpen has been aces for the most part, and even the spot starters (like Bolsinger) have been working out. Aaron Sanchez will be returning to start on Sunday against the Mariners, and Troy Tulowitzki is on his way to a rehab assignment – if that goes well, he will join them in Atlanta next week.
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