Game 1: Friday, May 5
Francisco Liriano struggled with his command all outing. He only threw 51 of 96 pitches for strikes, issued four walks in 3.2 innings, and allowed three runs on five hits. All three runs came in a bat-around 4th, which Daniel Robertson and Derek Norris started by hitting back-to-back solo homers with one out. After another out, Liriano allowed a single, a hit batsman and a walk to load the bases, and walked Steven Souza Jr. to bring in a run. Danny Barnes came in and got a strikeout to strand three.
The Blue Jays took one run back in the next inning, when Kendrys Morales led off with a double and Justin Smoak singled to score him. In the 7th, Russell Martin led off with a full-count walk, then Kendrys Morales homered to tie things up, and drive Tampa starter Chris Archer from the game. Things didn’t stay even for long, as Dominic Leone allowed a single in the bottom half to Evan Longoria, who eventually came around to score after an error, another single and a groundout.
That lead was short-lived too, as in the 8th Toronto broke out in a big way. Devon Travis led off with a double. Kevin Pillar doubled with one out to bring him in, and Martin worked his second walk of the game, again with a full count. Then Morales repeated himself, hitting a line drive home run to right field, his sixth of the season. The next batter, Justin Smoak, also hit a home run, putting the Jays ahead by four. Joe Smith struck out the side in the 8th, and Roberto Osuna pitched in a non-save situation to retire three in order, including a strikeout. The Jays only left three runners on base, compared to eleven for the Rays. Toronto had nine hits; Tampa had seven.
Game 2: Saturday, May 6
Jays lose, 1-6
Losing Pitcher: Marco Estrada
Ezequiel Carrera hit a solo home run in the top of the 1st, but it was basically downhill from there. Marco Estrada allowed two walks and a hit in the first two innings, and after stranding a runner on third each time, his luck ran out the next inning. After two quick strikeouts in the 3rd, he was one strike away from getting Evan Longoria too. Instead, Longoria singled and the next batter, Logan Morrison, homered. Morrison and Colby Rasmus were the only Rays to drive in runs but they both had three RBI. Longoria scored three times.
Rasmus hit a two-run homer following back-to-back doubles in the 6th. Estrada was done after that inning, having allowed five earned runs, on five hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. Jason Grilli walked two to start the 8th, then threw a wild pitch and almost got Rasmus out on a foul pop-up, until it was revealed that the ball had struck the roof of the building and was therefore not in play. Rasmus then reached on a fielder’s choice that drove in a run.
Jake Odorrizi, starting for the Rays, took the win after seven innings with Carrera’s home run as the only run allowed. Ryan Goins reached on an error in the 2nd, Devon Travis took his place when Goins was called out on runner’s interference, and Travis was caught stealing. The Jays only got three more hits (singles to Kendrys Morales in the 4th and Goins in the 8th, plus a Kendrys Morales double in the 7th), and nobody walked.
Joe Biagini, making his first career start in the majors, lasted 4 innings (he was on a 60-pitch limit). He retired the first seven batters, then Devon Travis bobbled a Kevin Kiermaier grounder in the 3rd, and didn’t recover in time to get the speedy Kiermaier at first. A groundout moved Kiermaier to second, then Corey Dickerson singled to score him. Biagini allowed just two hits, and had no walks.
Kevin Pillar led off the game with a single, but nobody else got a hit until Pillar came up again in the 6th and doubled. Russell Martin drove him in with a two-out single. Aaron Loup pitched the 5th and hit a batter, but stranded him at second, then Ryan Tepera pitched two innings, working around a two-out walk and stolen base in the 7th. Darwin Barney put the Blue Jays ahead in the 8th with his first home run of the year, on an inside fastball. The Blue Jays only tallied four hits against Cobb in eight innings, plus two walks.
Joe Smith pitched a perfect inning with a strikeout, and Roberto Osuna came in to close the game. He got a first-pitch flyout and a 3-pitch strikeout, then Steven Souza Jr. walked with a full count and Colby Rasmus singled on an 0-2 count, putting the potential winning run on first. Osuna finally struck out Daniel Robertson swinging to close out the game.
Joe Biagini will be making another start on Friday. That means they’ll only need one more spot-starter (for Tuesday). Mike Bolsinger will make that start.
Josh Donaldson is still on the disabled list, but he didn’t let that stop him from having some fun in the dugout. The broadcast caught some memorable antics from him, including this:
Kevin Kiermaier said something post-game on Friday implying that the pitch that hit him might have been intentional. I already discussed (after the last Rays series) how brutal and unnecessary I think retaliation-style pitches are to the game of baseball. But in rebuttal to Kiermaier’s comments about this particular series, I present the following:
I mean, seriously. Does this look like the pitch chart of a guy who had command this evening? pic.twitter.com/iHMxJYbGra
— Wade (@Every5thDay) May 6, 2017
There was already a man on base in that inning, and the HBP plus the walk that followed loaded the bases. Two runs had already scored. I’m pretty sure Liriano’s priorities were getting out of the inning, not revenge. Add to that the fact that he’d been all over the place all night (you can’t even distinguish the pitch that hit Kiermaier from that map above, it doesn’t stand out at all). I’m empathetic to Kiermaier being hurt. Implying that it was intentional and that he’s holding a grudge about it is unnecessary. If it sets up another beanball war, and someone else could very well get hurt worse from that. It’s irresponsible.
Saturday passed without incident, then Alex Cobb hit Steve Pearce in the 5th inning on Sunday, and in the bottom half of that inning Aaron Loup hit Daniel Robertson. Pearce was hit with two strikes (and two balls) in the count, so that doesn’t seem a logical time to intentionally hit someone. As for Loup, he has a bit of a reputation for hitting batters (often lefties, though Robertson is right-handed). But hey, maybe the hit batsmen aren’t always the worst thing for the Blue Jays…
Found the key to wins, the Jays are 5-1 when their pitchers hit at least one batter.
— James G (@james_in_to) May 7, 2017
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- Kendrys Morales is the first Blue Jay to ever have a 2-homer, 5-RBI game at Tropicana Field.
- Ezequiel Carrera extended his career-best hit streak to 12 games, before it was snapped with a pinch-hit strikeout on Sunday.
My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Biagini/Morales
In his first major-league start, Joe Biagini was terrific. He was on a limit of 60 pitches, and completed four innings using 52 pitches. His first two innings were perfect, including three strikeouts, then he hit the snag of the error and a single which led to an unearned run. After that, he regained control and only allowed one more baserunner (a 2-out Steven Souza single in the 4th). He also struck out four and didn’t walk anybody. 37 of his 52 pitches were thrown for strikes. As is his style, Biagini also gave an incredibly memorable postgame scrum.
Kendrys Morales was 5-for-11 with two doubles and a pair of home runs. He basically put the team on his back in Game 1, when he tied the game with a homer and then gave them the lead with another a few innings later. He drove in five that game, and scored three times. He also is now the proud owner of a .600/.615/1.160 career slash line in 25 at-bats against Chris Archer, which will definitely be something to watch for when playing Tampa in the future.
Where We Are Now:
Last in the AL East, 10.0 games back of New York
The bad news is that parts of the batting order are still struggling. They managed to scrape a win Sunday which was great, but they barely had any hits. Jose Bautista was 0-for-the series with seven strikeouts. There still isn’t a timetable as to when Josh Donaldson will be recovered from his injury, and no news on Troy Tulowitzki.
The good news is, they won another series! They also don’t have to play at Tropicana Field again until August! Aaron Sanchez will be making a minor-league rehab start this week, and if that goes well he’ll be in line to pitch next weekend at home against Seattle.
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