Game 1: Monday, August 29th
JAYS WIN! 5-1
Winning Pitcher: Marco Estrada
It was vintage Estrada from the mound in the series opener, as the Blue Jays starter lasted 7.0 innings, allowed just four hits, one earned run, and only one walk. The lone Baltimore run was a J.J. Hardy solo homer in the 3rd. Three of Estrada’s innings were perfect, including a nine-pitch 6th. In the 7th, a leadoff walk was erased when Matt Weiters lined into a double play. Estrada started the 8th, but was pulled after allowing a leadoff single. Joe Biagini stranded the single, and then Joaquin Benoit threw a clean 9th in which he struck out two.
Wade Miley kept the Blue Jays hitters off the basepaths until there was one out in the 4th. Then Josh Donaldson homered, tying the game and giving himself a five-game streak with runs driven in. It also meant he had hit home runs in four of his last five at-bats. A walk and two singles combined for another run to give the Jays the lead. Jose Bautista added a run with a solo homer in the 6th, and two more scored in the 9th from a walk, back-to-back singles, and a Devon Travis groundout.
Happ had a strong start to his outing, as he kept the Orioles scoreless for four innings in spite of some hits and a walk. He had a one-run lead in the second, after a Michael Saunders double and a Kevin Pillar RBI single. The only runs he allowed came in the fifth, on a pair of home runs. Saunders tied the game in the 7th with a two-run shot of his own. Happ left with the game tied, having given up six hits and two walks. He also had three strikeouts, including the one-thousandth of his career.
Joe Biagini replaced Happ, hit a batter but then stranded him at third. Jason Grilli pitched the 8th and gave up a two-out walk and a home run to Matt Weiters which gave the Orioles the lead. Each team had seven hits, but the Blue Jays stranded one in each of the eighth and the ninth.
Game 3: Wednesday, August 31st
JAYS WIN!! 5-3
Winning Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Jose Bautista wasted no time, hitting a home run on the first pitch of the game. Yovani Gallardo retired the next two hitters, but walked Michael Saunders before giving up another home run to Russell Martin. The two home runs in the inning gave Aaron Sanchez a three-run lead before he’d even set foot on the mound.
For the third game in a row, the Jays got a strong performance from their starting pitcher. In the bottom of the 3rd, the home plate umpire was removed from the game after being hit in the facemask with a foul ball. It caused a 12-minute delay, but he proved to be alright and it didn’t break Sanchez’s concentration. He kept the Orioles scoreless for four innings, helped out by some slick defense from Devon Travis. Sanchez only allowed one unearned run in the 5th when a two-out run scored on a Josh Donaldson error. The bases were left loaded that inning, then the 6th started with an eleven-pitch strikeout to Pedro Alvarez. Sanchez was removed due to a high pitch count after six innings, having given up five hits and three walks, but stranding eight baserunners in the process.
The Jays got three more hits off Gallardo, but grounded into a double play in each of the 2nd and 3rd innings and wouldn’t score again until the 7th. Dioner Navarro (starting at DH for the first time since he’d been dealt from the White Sox) singled with one out, and Devon Travis doubled, scoring Navarro all the way from first.
Navarro’s first-to-home was the greatest thing Saunders has ever seen. pic.twitter.com/1moz5kvpUT
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) September 1, 2016
Michael Saunders added an insurance run in the 8th with his 23rd home run of the year (and 7th against the Orioles), a two-out solo shot to right. Joaquin Benoit, Brett Cecil and Scott Feldman combined for two scoreless innings out of the Jays’ bullpen, and then Roberto Osuna came on in the bottom of the 9th. He ended up allowing a two-run homer to Jonathan Schoop, but closed it out with no further damage.
Dioner Navarro was greeted by his teammates in his first series back with his batting helmet from last year – apparently it had been kept all this time (it was totally Estrada who kept it, wasn’t it).
Of the 22 runs scored this series (9 Baltimore, 13 Toronto) only six weren’t driven in by a home run.
My favourite player(s) this series: Saunders
Michael Saunders has been in a pretty bad offensive slump since the All-Star break, but you wouldn’t have known it from this series. He played in Games 2 and 3, went 3-for-5 and walked twice (once an intentional walk). All of his hits were for extra bases as he had a double and two home runs, scored four times and drove in three.
Where we are now:
First place in the AL East, 2.0 games above Boston
The bad news is, aside from one six-game road trip out West, the rest of the season will be spent within the division. The pressure is on now more than ever, and it’s a little scary.
The good news is, now that we’re in September the roster expands to give them some more help (especially in the bullpen area) and the lineup is back at full health. Plus Navarro is a welcome addition to the lineup, and definitely to the dugout (see Michael Saunders’ reaction above)
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