What a way to start a road trip! After five and a half hours, fifteen combined pitchers, and each team stranding the bases loaded, the Blue Jays emerged victorious. Mat Latos was making a spot-start to replace the injured J.A. Happ. He threw five innings and allowed four earned runs – three in the 3rd, one in the 5th – on six hits and three walks. The run in the 5th was a Mike Trout solo home run.
Angels starter Alex Meyer fared slightly better, allowing two runs over 3.2 innings on two hits and four walks. Both runs were in the 3rd; Ryan Goins walked and scored on a wild pitch after Ezequiel Carrera drove in Chris Coghlan, who had also walked. The Jays left the bases loaded in the 4th, then inched closer when Troy Tulowitzki reached on an error from Yunel Escobar in the 6th, then scored after a single and another fielding error. The Jays took the lead in the 8th after Tulowitzki and Russell Martin walked, and both moved up on a wild pitch. Tulowitzki was removed from the game (Devon Travis pinch-ran) because he seemed to pull his hamstring sliding into third. Justin Smoak hit a double off Cam Bedrosian, scoring Martin and Travis, and making the score 5-4.
The Angels tied it up in the bottom of that inning with Dominic Leone pitching, after Danny Espinosa walked with two outs and scored on a double. Each team got a single with two outs in the 9th, but nobody scored, sending the game to extras. Each team got a pair of runners in the 10th, but the Jays stranded the pair and the Angels hit into a double play. Jose Bautista walked in the 11th but was stranded, then Russell Martin singled with one out in the 12th but was caught stealing (I know).
In the top of the 13th, the Blue Jays finally broke it open, getting back-to-back 2-out singles from Kevin Pillar and Carrera off Jesse Chavez. Then Jose Bautista hit his first home run of the year, a 3-run shot that gave the Jays a sizeable 8-5 lead. The drama wouldn’t end there, however, as Joe Biagini entered trying to close things out. Cameron Maybin reached on an error, moved up on a passed ball, Espinosa walked, and Juan Graterol reached on an error, loading the bases. Biagini got a strikeout, then Kole Calhoun hit an RBI single, Biagini hit Mike Trout (which brought in another run) and finally a strikeout and a long flyout preserved what had become a one-run lead.
Game 2: Saturday, April 22 (night game)
Jays lose, 4-5
Losing pitcher: Casey Lawrence
Casey Lawrence made his first career start and fared pretty well his first time through the Angels’ order. He allowed an unearned run when Mike Trout reached on an error in the 1st and later scored. Lawrence then stranded a leadoff single in the 2nd. But things fell apart for him in the 3rd, when he loaded the bases with two walks and a ground-rule double, then Andrelton Simmons hit a grand slam. Lawrence went 6.1 innings total and didn’t allow any more runs. He had eight hits allowed, two walks (plus one IBB) and four strikeouts. He handed off the bases loaded with one out to Leonel Campos in the 7th, but Ryan Goins turned a beautiful double play to get out of it.
The Blue Jays scored one run in the first inning when Darwin Barney walked and was driven in on two singles. The Angels tied it up in the bottom half then took the lead in the 3rd, while the Jays hit into three double plays between the 2nd and the 6th. In the 8th inning, they scored two runs when Goins doubled and Kevin Pillar hit him in with his second homer of the year. In the 9th, Justin Smoak led off with a home run, reducing the deficit to a run. But they hit into yet another double play, erasing a chance of a comeback.
Game 3: Sunday, April 23
JAYS WIN!!! 6-2
Winning Pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Things started out promisingly, as Ezequiel Carrera and Jose Bautista singled in the first inning. But Bautista was thrown out trying for extra bases and Carrera was stranded at third. Ryan Goins made a great play to start the bottom of the 1st, but then Mike Trout singled and stole second base – Devon Travis may have tagged him, but Gibbons took too long to ask for a review. Albert Pujols singled, but the inning ended on a double play without a run scoring.
Stroman got another DP in the 2nd. Pillar walked in the 3rd, but was caught stealing. The Angels got a run in the 3rd with two outs when Stroman supposedly quick-pitched Kole Calhoun (more about that later). Then Trout and Pujols singled, scoring Calhoun. John Gibbons was ejected for the first time this year after arguing about the quick-pitch. Stroman settled back in, and pitched five perfect innings – which included striking out the side on ten pitches in the 6th.
The Jays also struck out three-in-a-row in the 6th, but then had a bat-around inning in the 8th. Russell Martin led off with a walk, then two batters later Travis hit a home run to left (his first of the year), putting the Jays up 2-1. Kevin Pillar hit a solo homer to increase the lead, then Carrera tripled and scored on a Kendrys Morales single. Travis doubled in the 9th, and Ryan Goins drove him in with his first home run of the season. With that 6-1 lead, Stroman came back out and allowed one run on a Pujols double, a hit batter, and a single. He held on to get a game-ending double play, securing the win.
Game 4: Monday, April 24
Jays lose, 1-2
Losing pitcher: Francisco Liriano
In another night plagued with controversial umpiring calls, the Jays fell to the Angels in a light-hitting game. They had seven hits, LA had five, and each team left seven on base. Russell Martin scored the first run of the game on a solo shot (his second of the year) off Jesse Chavez in the top of the 4th. The game was tied when Mike Trout led off the bottom of the inning with a triple (Jose Bautista slipped trying to retrieve the ball, it may have been a double otherwise) and Albert Pujols drove him in.
The Angels scored their second and final run of the night in the 5th when Cameron Maybin singled and advanced to third on a walk and a sac bunt, then scored on a Yunel Escobar fielder’s choice which Devon Travis bounced on the throw to home. The play at the plate was reviewed (both whether Martin touched Maybin and Maybin touched the plate were in question) but it was upheld. Both runs were charged to Francisco Liriano, who lasted 5.1 innings, struck out two, allowed five hits and three walks (plus an IBB) and a hit batter. He left with the bases loaded with one out for Dominic Leone, after a walk and a single, plus an intentional walk to Cameron Maybin. Leone struck out two to end the inning.
The Blue Jays bullpen – Leone, Joe Smith & Jason Grilli – didn’t allow a runner in their combined 2.1 innings of work. Smith also had a strikeout. Chavez left the game after 6 innings, having only allowed one run and four hits. Two Jays hitters were caught stealing – Pillar in the 1st, then Carrera was picked off in the 8th. After two runners reached in the top of the 9th, Chris Coghlan struck out following a pair of unsuccessful bunt attempts. Travis then hit into a double play.
There’s been this weird trend this year where they give up a large lead to the other team, then try to catch up at the last second and fall just short. Saturday was the perfect example of that. And on that note:
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) April 25, 2017
A feel-good story happened between Albert Pujols and Devon Travis prior to the start of the series, when the veteran approached Travis at batting practice and gave him a pep talk. The full story is here, but the gist of it is that Pujols told Travis to have faith in his abilities and not get discouraged by his slow start to the season. Travis apparently took his words to heart, hitting his first homer of the year on Sunday (he also doubled in that game). He also only struck out once all series, meaning he’s making more contact and seemed to be getting more selective with his swings. After Travis’ success at the plate, Pujols congratulated him and said “Look, we are peers. We may be in a different uniform, but there’s so much more to all of this than the game.” Awww.
Pujols giving Travis some words of encouragement. pic.twitter.com/jaHArizlJ5
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) April 25, 2017
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- When Friday’s 13-inning ordeal ended, it was 3:47 a.m. on the East Coast, marking the latest that a Blue Jays game has ever gone in their home time zone.
- As of his first at-bat on Saturday, Jarrod Saltalamacchia had struck out in ten consecutive plate appearances, which is a Blue Jays franchise record. (That streak was snapped when he flew out in his second AB).
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Bautista/Tepera/Pillar/Stroman/Martin
It’s true, Jose Bautista collected all of one hit in the three games after his home run (he also walked thrice), but I sure wasn’t going to leave him out of this category. The team legend finally hit his first home run of the year, and couldn’t have picked a more dramatic time to do so. With two men on base and two out, at approximately 3 a.m. Toronto time, Bautista took a 1-1 slider from former teammate Jesse Chavez and sent it sailing over the CF wall to put the Jays up by three. His reaction upon returning to the dugout was nothing short of total relief.
— CBC Sports (@cbcsports) April 22, 2017
Kevin Pillar’s hit streak may be over, but the 11 games tied his career best, and represented the longest active streak in the AL (Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs had one longer). Over four games in LA, he had three hits (two home runs), two walks, scored three times, and drove in three. He also made that incredible diving catch in the 9th to help out Stroman on Sunday. Over the course of his streak, he batted .361, and is now hitting .303/.338/.487 for the season.
Marcus Stroman has already thrown his second complete game of the year, and it’s only April. Over nine innings he allowed just two runs, seven hits, one walk, and struck out five. He also had three double plays turned in his favour, and needed just 99 pitches to get through 33 batters.
After a terribly slow start to the year, Russell Martin’s bat has begun to heat up. He had a three-hit game Friday, hit a home run Monday, and was 5-for-11 over three games (he had Saturday off). He also took a walk in each game, and scored three times.
Where We Are Now:
5th place in the division, 8.5 games back of Baltimore
The bad news is, Tulowitzki is hurt now and they won’t be seeing the return of anyone else soon either. Latos and Lawrence will both be making starts in the next series in St. Louis, where they also won’t have the advantage of a DH.
The good news is, they didn’t lose a series for the first time, certain bats (Travis and Martin especially) are picking up somewhat, and three players hit their first home runs of the season in this series.
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