How could this happen? It was 7-3!
Here’s how it happened: The Blue Jays tied the game 3-3 in the 3rd, and rallied for four more runs on four hits off Oakland starter (and weird mustache-haver) Daniel Mengden in the top of the 4th. Marcus Stroman then gave up a run on two singles and a passed ball in the bottom half, then three more on back-to-back home runs in the 5th. The second of those caused his removal from the game, after 4.2 innings, nine hits, one walk, and six earned runs (and one unearned). The winning run would eventually score on a disputed call in the 7th, after three consecutive batters reached base off Brett Cecil.
However, the fact that the Blue Jays stranded at least one runner on base in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings didn’t help matters. A walk in the 8th was erased on a double play, and they had just one hit after their 4-run rally. The Athletics out-hit them 12-7, and right fielder Josh Reddick was impossible to get out – he homered, hit a single, and walked twice – scoring all four times.
Game 2: Saturday, July 16th
Jays lose, 4-5
Losing Pitcher: R.A. Dickey
One-run games are truly the worst. Like the day before, the Blue Jays held a lead at one point, but it was short-lived, as they scored two in the top of the 2nd (Josh Thole drove in both with his first double of the season) and the A’s countered with four in the bottom. All five Oakland runs came via a homer – Khris Davis to lead off, rookie third baseman Ryon Healy drove in three with his first-ever big-lead hit, and then Davis hit another, solo, in the 6th. The Toronto bullpen also hit two batters with pitches, contributing to a bases-loaded situation in the 7th.
Edwin Encarnacion had a solo shot of his own in the 3rd, and Justin Smoak got the Jays one run closer in the 9th as he added a leadoff home run. Unfortunately they couldn’t add on, and in spite of having more hits (7-6), they fell to the Athletics for a second day in a row.
This game certainly had it in for pitchers. First the A’s starter Rich Hill left the game after five pitches, when a blister on his finger made it too painful for him to continue. He hadn’t retired a single batter, as Andrew Triggs took over in the middle of the at-bat against Devon Travis. Triggs took a Josh Donaldson ground ball off his foot in the same inning, and Donaldson scored on an error by left fielder Khris Davis. The next pitcher for the A’s was Sean Manaea, who threw five innings and escaped unscathed, injury-wise. But Manaea gave up two runs in the 4th, on a Russell Martin double and a Troy Tulowitzki homer.
Next on the list of casualties was J.A. Happ, who was struck in the arm with a batted ball during the 5th inning. He had shut out Oakland until then, allowing only two hits. His first three innings were perfect. After being hit with the ball, he stayed in the game and started the 6th, but gave up a home run, got hit by another ball (in the rear end this time) and left two runners on base with two outs. Both runners scored after Jesse Chavez allowed a double to the first batter he faced, tying the game. Chavez eventually got his one out to escape the inning, stranding the bases loaded.
The game stayed tied until the top of the 9th, when Josh Donaldson came through against his old team with a two-out double that scored pinch-runner Andy Burns (in place of Justin Smoak) and Junior Lake. The Blue Jays left the bases loaded, but Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect inning to earn the save and avoid the sweep. Defense was all over the place, as there were several near-collisions on pop-ups – including the final out of the game – but there were also some stellar moments. Russell Martin made a ridiculously quick-handed play on a slow-rolling ball, and Happ had a similar one two innings later.
This series was nerve-wracking for many reasons – the tight games, the runners stranded – but the worst was that it contained not one, but two moments which induced flashbacks of season-ending injuries. Devon Travis took a ground ball off his shoulder on Friday, much like the bounce in Cleveland last season that forced him to have two surgeries on his shoulder. Luckily for the second baseman, it was his right side this time, not the left. Then on Sunday, J.A. Happ was hit hard with a comebacker that called to mind the time he was hit in the head by a line drive in Tampa in 2013.
It was announced this weekend that Justin Smoak was signed to a two-year contract extension. While I’ll be the first to admit that Smoak isn’t really my favourite player, there’s no denying that he’s had his moments over the course of the season, and I’m relieved to have one fewer free agent to say goodbye to come 2017.
My favourite player(s) this series: Donaldson/Tulowitzki
Nobody had a particularly great series, from either a pitching or hitting perspective. But in the only game they won, these two played a big part. Tulo had a hit and a run scored in each game, including his two-run homer on Sunday. He also doubled on Saturday, and had 3 RBI.
Donaldson drove in the winning run on Sunday, scored two runs and walked twice.
Where we are now:
3rd in the AL East, 2.5 games back of Baltimore (following the off-day Monday)
The bad news is, this was not the great start to the second half we were hoping for. Also it’s clear the bullpen still has some issues to work out.
The good news is, they didn’t get swept by a team currently tied for last in their division. Hooray!
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