Series Sum-up: at Minnesota, April 30-May 2


Game 1: Monday, April 30th
JAYS WIN!! 7-5
Winning Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
Save: Roberto Osuna


After an early five-run advantage, the Blue Jays watched the Twins peck away at it while they struggled to increase their lead. They kicked things off in the 2nd with a single and a double, then Lance Lynn chose to intentionally walk Kendrys Morales to load the bases with one out. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a ball that rolled 10 feet from home plate, down the third-base line. Instead of picking the ball up and tagging the runner charging past him, Twins catcher Mitch Garver chose to watch the ball and wait for it to roll foul (it didn’t) allowing the run to score. Curtis Granderson walked with the bases loaded to force in another run and put the Jays up 2-0.



After a six-pitch 1st inning, Aaron Sanchez loaded the bases in the 2nd with two outs, thanks to a pair of singles and a hit batter.  He got a forceout to escape any damage. In the top of the 4th, Granderson walked again (he had three total in the game) and Teoscar Hernandez doubled. Granderson then scored on a passed ball. Justin Smoak hit a towering home run to right field, scoring two more to make it 5-0. In the bottom of that inning, Max Kepler led off with a triple and scored on a groundout, putting the Twins on the board.


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Russell Martin countered with a leadoff homer in the 5th, but Eduardo Escobar homered off Sanchez in the bottom half, cashing in a two-out walk to make it 6-3. After a leadoff double scored in the 6th (on a groundout which Aledmys Diaz handled nicely), Sanchez’s night was done, having allowed four earned runs on six hits and three walks. He only had two strikeouts, the third time he’d done that this season. Lynn was out of the game by the 6th, and Trevor Hildenberger held the Jays’ bats quiet for two innings.


Aaron Loup faced the first two batters in the 7th, one of whom singled and scored. Danny Barnes kept it a one-run game by stranding a pair. Tyler Clippard struck out all three batters in the 8th, and the Jays tacked on a run in the top of the 9th thanks to a fly ball that the left fielder dropped, an RBI single from Solarte, and a fielding error by Brian Dozier at second base. Closing out the game, Roberto Osuna allowed the tying run to get to scoring position, but didn’t let it score. Both teams had 10 hits and both left 10 runners on base.


Game 2: Tuesday, May 1st
JAYS WIN!! 7-4 (10 innings)
Starting Pitcher: Marco Estrada
Winning Pitcher: Tyler Clippard
Save: Roberto Osuna


Minnesota got off to an early lead with a pair of runs in the 1st facing Marco Estrada. Joe Mauer hit his first home run of the year, and then Eddie Rosario doubled in a walk. The Jays couldn’t do much against Kyle Gibson their first time through. In the 2nd, Kevin Pillar walked, and Kendrys Morales got his first hit in nine games (a single with two out) but nothing came of it. The Twins got the leadoff man aboard in the 2nd and 3rd innings, but stranded them both times. Estrada got a three-up, three-down inning for the first time in the 4th.


The Jays got on the board in the 5th, when Morales hit his second home run of the season. Luke Maile tied it after he reached on a single, avoided a double play, got to third on a forceout, and then scored on a bloop single from Justin Smoak. The Jays stranded runners at the corners, but Gibson’s night was done. Morales homered again in the 6th, to almost the exact same spot as before, making it 3-2 in favour of Toronto.


That lead didn’t last long, as the Twins leadoff hitter in the bottom half doubled and Rosario launched a 2-run homer. Estrada was replaced with Seung-Hwan Oh before he could even get the first out. After Smoak led off the 7th with a walk, Yangervis Solarte doubled and a Pillar sac fly scored Smoak, tying the game again at 4. Two runners were stranded that inning. John Axford allowed a single on a ball back to the mound in the 7th, but got a strikeout and a double play, so every member of Toronto’s bullpen faced just three batters. The Jays got a walk and a single against closer Fernando Rodney in the 9th, but both were stranded.


In the 10th, Pillar led off with a double and stole third. Morales, intentionally walked with one out, stole second close behind him. After Luke Maile walked, Pillar scored on a wild pitch to take the lead. Aledmys Diaz then hit a ground ball that the third baseman dropped, Gift Ngoepe (the pinch-runner brought in for Morales) scored, and Maile got to third. The Twins changed pitchers, and Matt McGill got two outs to end the inning, but not before he’d thrown a wild pitch of his own and Maile scored on that. When the dust settled, it was 7-4 Jays. Roberto Osuna needed just six pitches (all strikes) to lock down his eighth save of the year.



Game 3: Wednesday, May 2nd (Day game)
Jays lose, 0-4
Losing Pitcher: Marcus Stroman


Fernando Romero, making his major-league debut, held the Jays scoreless with four hits over 5 2/3 innings. Marcus Stroman pitched 7 innings, allowing two runs on six hits before Aaron Loup gave up another two runs. The first run off Stroman was an Eddie Rosario solo homer in the 2nd. The Blue Jays got the leadoff man aboard four different times, but he was stranded twice (the other two times, he was caught stealing).


In the top of the 3rd, John Gibbons was ejected for the first time this season when he protested a checked-swing strike call that led to a double play. Aledmys Diaz had walked, and was running to second base because the count was full for Teoscar Hernandez and it appeared to be a ball, but the call was that Hernandez swung and struck out, so Diaz was caught ‘stealing’.


In the bottom of that inning, Stroman loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk. Max Kepler drove in a run with a groundout, but no more damage was done. In the 5th, Diaz doubled and Curtis Granderson was hit with a pitch, but the next batter ended the inning by grounding into a double play. Stroman allowed a leadoff double in the 6th but retired the next six batters to end his start. Aaron Loup pitched the 8th and loaded the bases with one out on three consecutive singles. After a sac fly scored a run, he walked a batter to load the bases again. Carlos Ramirez entered and walked a run in before recording the final out.


Overall Notes:

Randal Grichuk was placed on the disabled list before this series started on Monday with a right knee sprain, apparently caused by his diving catch in the final game of the Rangers series. It came as a surprise, as he hadn’t left the game at the time and there was no other indication that anything was wrong. Gift Ngoepe was called up to take his roster spot.


Steve Pearce had originally been in the lineup as designated hitter for Tuesday’s game, but shortly before game time he was taken out due to ribcage tightness. The move worked in the Jays’ favour as Kendrys Morales played DH instead and went 3-for-3 with two home runs, was intentionally walked twice, and stole a base (yes, you read that correctly). Pearce didn’t appear in Wednesday’s game either.


Wednesday’s loss was the first time the Jays had been shut out this season. That makes them one of the final five teams who avoided the goose-egg (and only three remain in the AL). Last season, they were shutout for the first time on April 12th. In 2016, they fared slightly better, lasting until April 27th, and in 2015 they were the last team standing when they got shut out on the second day in June.


Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

  • Kevin Pillar recorded his 100th career walk on Tuesday
  • With his double on Tuesday, Pillar tied Adam Lind for the franchise’s 2nd-longest streak of extra base hits (10 consecutive hits)


My favourite player(s) this series: Stroman/Pillar

Marcus Stroman has had a pretty rough time this season – he entered Wednesday’s game with an ERA of 8.88. But he then went on to pitch his longest outing of the season, with seven innings, and only allowed two runs on six hits. He struck out five, and walked just one, tying his season low in that category. Stroman is normally a ground-ball pitcher, and it was a sign of concern that many of his outs early on came in the air, on deep fly balls to the outfield. One of those then landed in the bullpen for a home run, but Stroman got back to his old ways in the middle innings – from the 4th to the 6th, six outs were made on ground balls and the remaining three were strikeouts.


Kevin Pillar helped Stroman out defensively with those fly balls, making one of his trademark diving catches to end the 7th inning in Game 3. He also continued being productive at the plate, going 5-for-11 in the series with three doubles, two walks, two runs scored, and one driven in. He was briefly part of a four-way tie for the MLB lead in doubles (12) before one of his opponents, Eduardo Escobar, topped him on Wednesday.


Where we are now:
17-13, .567
3rd place in the AL East, 5 games back of Boston


On Thursday, the Jays are headed to Cleveland, where they’ll play a double-header to make up for the abbreviated series earlier in April. Josh Donaldson will join the team there, as he is likely to be activated from the DL for the double header. Thankfully, they won’t have to face Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Following that, they’re off to Tampa to play the Rays for the first time this season. The Rays are 13-16 and had an eight-game win streak recently.


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