Things may have looked bleak for the last little bit, but hey, at least we’re not the Minnesota Twins. The Twins, who have the worst AL record at 10-29, and have been swept seven times so far (seven!), helped the Blue Jays snap their own losing streak at five games. Marco Estrada pitched a brilliant eight innings, allowing three hits and one walk and one earned run (a second run was due to a Jimmy Paredes error). The defense helped – Kevin Pillar caught Joe Mauer trying to take an extra base, Troy Tulowitzki robbed Mauer of a hit, and Josh Donaldson made a nice snag on a foul liner. Estrada retired the last eleven consecutive batters he faced, striking out nine along the way, but was wound up with a no-decision.
Trailing 0-2 in the 5th, the Blue Jays tied the game on an Edwin Encarnacion two-run homer. They were only able to hang four hits and two walks on Twins starter Ervin Santana, who also went eight innings and struck out five. The Jays stranded a double each in the 9th and 10th (from Michael Saunders and Paredes, respectively). Roberto Osuna pitched two perfect innings, and the Jays took the lead in the top of the 11th, when Tulo drove in pinch-runner Ezequiel Carrera with two outs.
Joe Biagini came in in the bottom of the inning to close out the game and allowed one hit, to Danny Santana. Santana had reached base twice earlier in the game, and stolen second both times. Biagini was prepared for that, and when Santana tried a third time, Biagini whirled around flawlessly to catch him. Biagini then struck out Brian Dozier to end the game and earn his first career save.
Game 2: Friday, May 20th
JAYS WIN!! 9-3
Winning Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
I do not envy the Minnesota Twins pitchers right now. For the second time this year, the Blue Jays clobbered four home runs, scoring two on a Josh Donaldson drive in the 3rd, three from Jose Bautista in the 6th, and one each from Michael Saunders and Darwin Barney in the 7th and 8th. For Donaldson, it was his first home run since May 1st, and his 10th for the season.
Only two of the Blue Jays’ 9 runs came on something other than a homer, and both were in the 5-run 6th inning. Troy Tulowitzki drove in Michael Saunders with a double, and then Jimmy Paredes pinch-hit a two-out single which scored Tulo and moved Ezequiel Carrera to 2nd (Carrera had been hit with a pitch). Bautista then drove in Carrera and Paredes. The Blue Jays ended the game with 14 hits and one walk.
Sanchez went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and no walks. He also struck out seven. Drew Storen pitched the 8th and allowed one hit. The third Twins run was charged to Chad Girodo in the 9th, a solo homer off the bat of Robbie Grossman.
Game 3: Saturday, May 21st
Jays lose, 3-5
Losing Pitcher: J.A. Happ
If only games were seven innings long, instead of nine… The Blue Jays looked to have this one in the bag through 7, as Happ kept the Twins scoreless with just one hit and two walks. Pillar and Barney turned a spectacular double play in the top of the 4th which served to erase the only hit, an Eduardo Nunez leadoff double. Jose Bautista had brought in the only Jays runs at that point, on a 2-run homer in the 3rd.
But then in the 8th, Happ allowed a leadoff single, followed by a walk. He caught a popped-up bunt from the next hitter, but then Danny Santana drove in both runners with a double, leading to a tie game and Happ’s removal. Gavin Floyd was brought in, hit the first batter he faced, and then gave up a 3-run homer to Eduardo Nunez. The Blue Jays managed to get one run back on a Michael Saunders solo homer in the 9th, but the final out was recorded the same as the final score, 5-3 Twins. Since Santana was Happ’s responsibility, and he scored the go-ahead run, Happ was tagged with the loss.
Game 4: Sunday, May 22nd
JAYS WIN! 3-1
Winning Pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Save: Roberto Osuna
Having two runs before the first out is even recorded is fun, isn’t it?? After being ejected from Game 3 (more on that later), Josh Donaldson wasted little time in making his presence known, as he homered back-to-back with Jose Bautista in the 1st. This is the second time this season that the Jays have gone back-to-back, and only the second time in team history that a road game has begun in that manner. They added a third run in that inning, after Tulo drove in Michael Saunders with a double. Those three runs would be all they got, in spite of nine hits total, one walk and one error. They left one runner on base in each of seven innings.
Marcus Stroman was dominant, as he went seven and two-thirds innings. Like Happ the day before, he allowed just one hit through the first 7 innings, then allowed the first two batters in the 8th to reach. However, Stroman got lucky where Happ didn’t – they turned a double play and Roberto Osuna came in and didn’t allow the inherited runner to score. Osuna then pitched a perfect 9th, striking out two, to earn the save. The defense was not to be overlooked either, as Donaldson made several nice plays and Kevin Pillar pulled yet another Superman move.
Is there going to be a conflict with the Twins now, too? Josh Donaldson was ejected in the first inning of Game 3, under very strange circumstances. He claimed someone in the Twins dugout was chirping at him after he grounded out, and he turned around and yelled at them – as he just so happened to be passing the home plate umpire. The umpire, apparently thinking Donaldson was cursing at him, kicked him out on the spot.
Then on Sunday, Donaldson homered in the first and glared at the Twins’ dugout. In a later at-bat, Phil Hughes narrowly missed him with both of the first two pitches. Donaldson took offense to that, and John Gibbons came out to defend his 3rd baseman, earning himself an ejection for his troubles. This is the third consecutive series in which Gibby has been ejected – bringing his season total to four, and the total number of Blue Jays ejections for the season to ten. They lead MLB in ejections, although to be fair they had six (three player, three coach) ejections in one game in Texas, so that kind of explains it.
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- The Jays have eight losses this season when leading through 6 innings, the most in the AL.
- Jose Bautista has the most home runs at Target Field ever by a visiting player, with 14.
My favourite player(s) this series: Tulo/Estrada/Bautista/Saunders/Donaldson/Stroman
I have too many favourites, I know. But everyone performed so well in this series that it was hard to choose! Well done everybody!
Tulo had 5 hits (including two doubles) and 3 RBI, including the game-winner on Thursday. He has begun making much harder contact, instead of striking out as frequently as he was earlier in the season. He had several long flyouts that would have been extra-base hits in a different park, or with a different center fielder.
Marco Estrada didn’t earn the win, but he went eight innings and allowed just one earned run, struck out nine, and only walked one. I’ll take that from my starting pitchers every time, please! Similar reasoning for Marcus Stroman – he went seven and two-thirds, allowed one earned run, and walked two. Both allowed just three hits.
Jose Bautista loves hitting in Minnesota, and with three home runs in three consecutive games, you can see why. He had five hits, scored four runs himself, and drove in six. He also walked twice.
Michael Saunders had the most hits on the team in this series, with seven. Two of them were home runs, and two were doubles. He also drove in two runs and scored four.
In the three games in which he actually played, (I’m ignoring the one at-bat on Saturday) Josh Donaldson had three hits, two of them homers, and had three RBI and as many runs scored.
Where we are now:
4th place, 6.0 games back of the Orioles (following the off day)
The bad news is that a series against the last-place team in the AL should have been far easier to win than it was. There was really only one game in there where the offense came alive as predicted, the others were all low-scoring. Also they still haven’t won a game in which their opponent passes the four-run mark.
The good news is that the poor starting pitching performance during the Rays series seems to have been a blip, as they returned to their trend of allowing few hits and going deep into games.
They are only half a game back of the Yankees, who are their next opponent. This coming series should be a good opportunity to climb a spot in the division rankings, as the Yankees have been struggling all season, although they might be getting better lately (going 7-3 in their last 10 games). Some more great news is that Devon Travis is progressing well through his rehab assignment (you can read my profile on him here), and will return soon!
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