After Luke Maile caught Andrew Benintendi stealing second base to erase one of two walks in the 1st, Jose Bautista singled, Josh Donaldson was hit by a pitch, and Justin Smoak hit his twenty-second home run of the year to give the Jays an early three-run lead. Both teams had a pair of strikeouts in the 2nd, then Marco Estrada walked the first three batters in the 3rd inning (throwing just two strikes between them). What happened next almost seemed like a magic trick – he got two pop-ups before striking out Mitch Moreland with a high fastball. Not a single Boston player crossed home.
The Jays then also stranded the bases loaded after a two-out Donaldson double, an intentional walk to Smoak, and a Kendrys Morales infield single. Estrada’s magic ran out in the 4th when he walked the leadoff batter Deven Marrero, then Mookie Betts singled to Donaldson, and Dustin Pedroia doubled with one out to bring them both home. Estrada’s night was over after 4.1 innings with two runs on two hits and seven walks. This led him to remark postgame that “every pitch sucked”. Danny Barnes came in and got the two remaining outs.
The Jays then failed to bring in a pair of walks, and Barnes lost the lead in the next inning after a Jackie Bradley doubled and scored on a Marrero single. Marrero scored on a Benintendi double after Jeff Beliveau entered the game. With Doug Fister done after five innings, Troy Tulowitzki homered to lead off the bottom of the 6th, tying the game against Heath Hembree. 4-4 was where the score would remain through the 9th, even though the Red Sox had four baserunners over that period and the Blue Jays had three.
In the top of the 10th, Aaron Loup walked pinch-hitter Chris Young, then intentionally walked Betts with one out, and Pedroia with two out. Moreland grounded out to strand the bases loaded. But Loup allowed the winning run on a leadoff double and a pair of singles in the 11th. Boston sealed the deal when Glenn Sparkman replaced Loup and (in his MLB debut) allowed both inherited runners to score. After a pair of singles and a walk, Sparkman got a double play to end the inning. The Blue Jays didn’t even get a baserunner in extra innings, as Craig Kimbrel got the save for Boston. The game took four hours and forty-four minutes to play.
Game 2: Saturday, July 1
Jays lose, 1-7
Losing Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
On Canada Day, in his fourth loss of the season, Francisco Liriano gave up five runs on seven hits in 6.0 innings. The first two runs came courtesy of a Jackie Bradley double in the 1st inning, which cashed in a walk and a double, then a single, a walk, and Dustin Pedroia double brought in another pair in the 2nd. The Blue Jays got the leadoff man aboard in each of the first two innings against Chris Sale, but didn’t score. Sale would go on to strike out eleven before his 7-inning start was over.
Liriano settled in for the 3rd and 4th, setting the side down in order both times. He then walked Mookie Betts in the 5th, and Betts stole second, advanced on a groundout, and scored on a Xander Bogaerts sac fly. Meanwhile Sale had settled into a groove of his own – after hitting Steve Pearce to lead off the 2nd, he shut down twelve of the next thirteen Blue Jays, including seven strikeouts. A 4th-inning Troy Tulowitzki single was the lone interruption to that streak. Sale then hit Russell Martin in the foot leading off the 6th. Justin Smoak also doubled that inning, but both were left on base. Martin got hit again, in the helmet, in the 8th inning.
Lucas Harrell made his Blue Jays pitching debut with a hitless 7th inning, before giving up two hits in the 8th. He then got the third out of the inning at home, when a ball got away from Martin and Hanley Ramirez tried to score from third; Martin threw to Harrell, covering the plate, and Ramirez was out. Harrell then allowed two runs on three hits and a walk (despite two strikeouts) in the 9th, thus forcing Jeff Beliveau to come in and get the final out. Pearce scored the lone Blue Jays run with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 9th. The Jays had six hits and left nine runners on base.
Game 3: Sunday, July 2
Jays lose, 1-15
Losing Pitcher: Joe Biagini
Joe Biagini got the first two outs of the game but then walked a pair and allowed a Hanley Ramirez single to open the scoring. He held them to one more run on a triple and a single in the 2nd, then his own team lessened the deficit to 1-2 on a hit, a walk, and a Steve Pearce sac fly. Darwin Barney led off the 3rd with a fielding error by left fielder Andrew Benintendi, and got to second, but after Jose Bautista walked and Russell Martin lined out, Josh Donaldson hit into a double play. Biagini stranded a pair in the 3rd, but the wheels came off when he gave up a three-run homer to Mookie Betts in the 4th.
Martin hit into another double play to end a potential rally in the 5th. After another home run – again to Betts – in the 6th, Biagini was done. He’d allowed seven runs on ten hits and two walks over 5.1 innings. Aaron Loup got the last two outs, then Glenn Sparkman worked the 7th. Sparkman loaded the bases on three consecutive singles before getting a strikeout, then ground-rule double, a single, and back-to-back doubles plated five runs. Jeff Beliveau came in to try and stop the bleeding, but one out later allowed a two-run homer to Hanley Ramirez.
Nothing much else happened, other than a pair of double plays, and Kevin Pillar reaching back to make a stumbling catch in the 9th. The Jays tallied five hits while the Red Sox embarrassed them with twenty-one.
Between Joe Biagini’s 7-run start, and Glenn Sparkman’s two appearances with nine combined hits allowed, this wasn’t exactly a banner series for Rule 5 guys. In fact, it was announced after this series that Sparkman would be designated for assignment – meaning that the Jays have to offer him back to the Royals.
It was also announced on Sunday that Jason Grilli was traded to the Texas Rangers. But hopefully his remaining teammates will take his parting words to heart.
Parting message for one & all… pic.twitter.com/TN4Uxy0Ptr
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) June 27, 2017
I missed it in my last series sum-up, but on June 28th the team signed former Blue Jays outfielder (and current Canadian) Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal! Saunders missed all but nine games of 2015 after a knee injury, and was elected to the All-Star Game last year before rapidly declining at the plate. He signed with the Phillies in the offseason, and hit .205/.257/.360 with six home runs and fifty-one strikeouts in 200 at-bats before the Phillies released him last week.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- He obviously didn’t accomplish it alone, but when Justin Smoak homered in the 1st inning of Friday’s game, it was the 1,070th home run in MLB in June. That set a new record for home runs in a single month, eclipsing the mark of 1,069 set in May 2000 (the total would eventually reach 1,101 before June was over).
- The 14 walks issued by Blue Jays pitchers in Friday’s game tied a franchise record (although it should be noted the game which set the record lasted 19 innings; this one lasted 11). With half of those walks, Marco Estrada set a new career high of seven BBs.
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Smoak
Justin Smoak was the most productive hitter in this series, going 5-for-11 with two doubles, a home run, and three RBI. Plus, thanks to all of you who voted, Smoak will be the starting first baseman for the American League team in the All-Star game on July 11th in Miami!
Where We Are Now:
Last place in the AL East, 9.5 games back of Boston
The bad news is, this sweep, against the division leader, is about as depressing as this season can get. The rotation isn’t looking good, and the batters still all seem to be slumping at once.
The good news is, Justin Smoak is a first-time All-Star! Aaron Sanchez is beginning a rehab assignment in Buffalo, so he’ll probably be back to the big leagues soon!
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