Game 1: Tuesday, April 25
Russell Martin was the starting third baseman for the Blue Jays, and that was somehow the third- or fourth-craziest thing that happened in this game. The Cardinals took a 1-run lead in the 1st after a Dexter Fowler double and a Jedd Gyorko single. The Jays didn’t get their first hit until the 3rd – a Ryan Goins double. They scored a pair in the 4th on two singles, a throwing error which allowed Jose Bautista to reach third, and a groundout which scored Bautista. They loaded the bases with two outs that inning, but Marco Estrada was the hitter and he struck out.
In the bottom half, they relinquished the lead on back-to-back doubles and an RBI single from Yadier Molina which tied the game. The Cards also loaded the bases but Estrada got a strikeout and a groundout to shut down that rally. In the 6th, Martin was hit by pitch but nothing else happened. In the 7th, Chris Coghlan pinch-hit for Estrada, and walked with one out. Kevin Pillar hit a ball to deep right field, but Coghlan held up in case it was caught. It wasn’t, so he took off for home. The throw came in and took the catcher Molina up the line and Coghlan, determined to score, did something you might have only seen in movies before now – he dove (flipped, really) over the catcher.
Pillar got to third in the chaos and it was ruled a triple; he then came in to score when Ezequiel Carrera reached on an error. 4-2 Blue Jays. In the bottom half of that inning, with Joe Biagini pitching, the Cardinals got a single and then Jose Martinez hit a home run which tied the game. Toronto got ahead in the 9th, but St. Louis tied it again with two singles and a sac bunt against Roberto Osuna. Neither team got a baserunner until the 11th, when Marcus Stroman (you read that right) pinch-hit in place of the pitcher with one out, and doubled. After one more out, Steve Pearce hit a ground ball to short, which was thrown beyond the reach of the first baseman, and Stroman ran home. In the bottom of the inning, Ryan Tepera allowed one single, then a forceout, but a passed ball put Randal Grichuk on second with one out. Tepera got a strikeout and a groundout to end the game, three hours and 45 minutes after it had began.
The Cardinals made four errors, all of which cost them – RF Stephen Piscotty’s throwing error on Bautista’s single in the 4th, which bounced off Carrera’s helmet; the one in the 6th when Gyorko dropped the ball and Pillar scored; one from Brett Cecil on a pickoff attempt in the 9th which allowed Pillar to get to third, he later scored; and one by Aledmys Diaz in the 11th which allowed Pearce to reach base and Stroman to score. The Jays had ten hits, the Cardinals thirteen. The Blue Jays stranded nine runners – the Cardinals, seven.
Game 2: Thursday, April 27 (Double-Header Game 1)
Jays lose, 4-8 (11 innings)
Starting Pitcher: Mat Latos
Blown Save: Roberto Osuna
Losing Pitcher: Ryan Tepera
What a mess. The Blue Jays had a 4-run lead, then squandered it in the 9th before losing in extras. They took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning against Carlos Martinez when Russell Martin led off with his third home run of the year. The Jays collected two more hits in the 3rd but didn’t get another run until they loaded the bases with three walks in the 6th. Ryan Goins hit a two-out single that plated a pair of runs. In the 7th, they loaded the bases again, with a Kevin Pillar leadoff single, a walk, and a Jose Bautista HBP. With nobody out, Justin Smoak hit a sac fly, scoring Pillar. But then Martin and pinch-hitter Darwin Barney struck out, stranding two.
Mat Latos, making his second start of the year, threw six scoreless innings, allowing three hits and four walks. Two of the hits were doubles, but Kolten Wong‘s was erased in the 5th when Martin picked him off. Then in the bottom of the 7th, Joe Biagini entered and allowed two hits – one of whom scored. Randal Grichuk drove in Jose Martinez, but was thrown out taking extra bases. By the end of the afternoon, the Toronto bullpen had allowed ten hits, while the offense had nine of their own.
Joe Smith took over pitching in the 8th, gave up a leadoff double to Dexter Fowler, then a single to Matt Carpenter which scored Fowler. Then in the 9th, Roberto Osuna entered to close the game, but gave up a leadoff double to Yadier Molina, then a two-out home run to Grichuk that tied the game at 4. In the 10th the Blue Jays went down in order and Dominic Leone stranded the bases loaded following two singles and an intentional walk of Molina. In the 11th, Kendrys Morales singled but was erased with a double play. In the bottom half, Ryan Tepera gave up a leadoff triple to Wong, intentionally walked Grichuk and Fowler, and then left the game with one out for J.P. Howell. Howell, facing Carpenter, got a full count before Carpenter hit a grand slam to right center field. Game over.
Game 3: Thursday, April 27 (Double-Header Game 2)
Losing Pitcher: Casey Lawrence
St. Louis had a three-run 1st off Casey Lawrence, making only his second career start. They scored one on two singles and a groundout, then Greg Garcia stole third base. Toronto should have reviewed the play, as Chris Coghlan tapped Garcia on the head before his hands reached the base, but the Jays never challenged. That would cost them, as Garcia scored on a sac fly, and then another run scored when Matt Adams doubled with two outs. The Cardinals scored one run in each of the next three innings, on ten hits total against Lawrence.
The Blue Jays got the bases loaded in the 2nd, with one out and Lawrence batting. He hit a ground ball to the pitcher, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia was out on a forceout at the plate, but Lawrence was called safe at first on the attempted double play. After review the call stood, but Kevin Pillar flew out anyways. The Jays got all four of their runs in the top of the 5th, via a Darwin Barney leadoff double, a Kevin Pillar RBI single, a Chris Coghlan double and a Kendrys Morales three-run homer.
In the 6th a Cards batter stepped on home plate while trying to bunt, which should have resulted in him being out and the runner going back to first. The point was rendered moot, however, as he was out on the sac bunt and the next batter walked (which would have forced the runner to second base anyways).
The Jays got all of one baserunner after that – a Devon Travis single in the 7th. Travis stole two consecutive bases, but was stranded on third. That same inning, Jose Bautista pinch-hit and then played third for the first time since 2013. He made a quick play on a grounder in the 8th which caught Dexter Fowler out at the plate. He’d made a similar play on the previous pitch, which was then called foul.
Casey Lawrence was optioned to Buffalo following his start, and Matt Dermody was brought up to take his place. Danny Barnes, who had pitched a scoreless inning in the evening game Thursday was also returned to Buffalo, as he was called up as the ’26th man’ for the double-header.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was designated for assignment on Friday. He hit 1-for-25 (.040), with one walk and a run scored. He also struck out sixteen times, or in 62% of his plate appearances. As a catcher, he threw out zero of nine base-stealers. The Jays brought up Luke Maile to take his place. Maile is a former Ray, and the Jays claimed him off waivers at the beginning of April.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- Marcus Stroman’s double in the 11th inning on Monday was the first pinch-hit extra-base hit by an AL pitcher since 1971 (before the DH rule was implemented).
- It was also the first pinch-hit from a Blue Jays pitcher in franchise history.
- Kendrys Morales reached his 600th career RBI with his three-run homer in Game 3.
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Coghlan/Stroman/Latos
Coghlan gets a spot here for the most obvious reason – the headfirst dive over Yadi Molina to score a run, possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on a ball diamond – but he made the most of his limited time at the plate, too. In 6 at-bats, he had two hits, one of them a double, and scored twice. He also walked once, which then set up his memorable dive. The best part about that moment was the absolute disbelief from everyone – Molina, the umpire, his teammates, the fans, and those of us watching at home – that we’d actually just seen that. The only one who didn’t appear surprised in the moment might have been Coghlan himself.
He made a point postgame that it was quick thinking and seemed like the only option, because you’re not supposed to mow down the catcher anymore, and he didn’t want to hurt Molina even though he technically had the right to. It wasn’t planned, it was almost a reflex (he apparently didn’t know that Molina had the ball) and he somehow pulled it off so perfectly, landing right on home plate and rolling over his shoulder onto his feet. I don’t know if we’ll see other players trying to imitate him in the future, but that’s one of those where-were-you-when plays that I’m sure all Jays fans will remember for a long time. In a season light on memorable moments so far, this was certainly a big one.
Marcus Stroman has a knack for coming up in big moments and the first hit of his MLB career certainly came at a huge one. With the game tied in the 11th, and his team out of bench bats, Stroman eagerly volunteered to step up to the plate and smacked a double down the left-field line. He trotted home on an error to score the go-ahead run with a huge smile on his face. Naturally, he had to show off with his mentor, ‘Papa’ Mark Buehrle in the stands.
Latos quietly had an excellent second start with the Jays – he didn’t allow a run over six innings, only gave up three hits, walked four, and also struck out four. It was exactly the kind of start they needed, which should have left many arms fresh for the second game of the double-header – but unfortunately the bullpen squandered the lead, they went to extras, and used six relievers.
Where We Are Now:
Last in the AL East, 9.0 games back of Baltimore
The bad news is their record, obviously. They’re returning home after this, but it’s to face the Rays who are always a thorn in their side. Also, to the chagrin of everyone who thought we just needed the hitting to pick up, the bullpen now seems to be falling apart. With three blown saves in two games, that’s not what you want to see the few precious times they’ve had a lead. Roberto Osuna, one of their most consistent relievers the past two years, seems to have something going wrong. He spoke to John Lott at The Athletic about it (the article isn’t behind a paywall, so it’s available to everyone).
The good news is Aaron Sanchez is on track to be returning for a start on Sunday against the Rays. Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki will be heading to Florida to finish their rehab after the weekend. And for those of you who enjoy watching the Buffalo Bisons, or want another outfield option:
@HumandChuck I’m a lot better! Got to swing a bat and throw for the first time today! 👍🏼
— Dalton Pompey (@DaltonPompey) April 28, 2017
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