Game 1: Monday, July 4th
JAYS WIN!! 6-2
Winning Pitcher: Aaron Sanchez
At one point, it seemed like this would be a closely-contested game. That point was anytime before the bottom of the 7th inning. After leadoff man Ezequiel Carrera walked and came around to score in the 1st inning, the Jays only managed to get three more baserunners (all in the 4th). Edwin Encarnacion was thrown out at the plate to end the inning and the other two were stranded. Aaron Sanchez had a no-hitter two outs into the 5th before giving up a single to Cheslor Cuthbert. The only other baserunners he’d allowed to that point were on a walk and a forceout in the 3rd.
Sanchez again shut down the Royals in order in the 6th, but allowed a leadoff home run in the 7th, which tied the game at 1. But the offense had his back, as the Jays loaded the bases with no outs via a walk, single, and hit batter by Edinson Volquez to start the bottom half. Devon Travis walked to bring in the second Jays run, then Darwin Barney hit a two-run single, and Josh Donaldson drove in Travis and Barney with a one-out single of his own. Sanchez would end up going eight full innings and only allowed three hits, one run, and a walk. Brett Cecil pitched the 9th and gave up a solo home run to Eric Hosmer.
Game 2: Tuesday, July 5th
JAYS WIN!! 8-3
Winning Pitcher: R.A. Dickey
This was Dickey’s first win at home this year. Boy, did he earn it. The knuckleballer lasted seven innings and gave up two runs, both unearned after an error was charged to Michael Saunders on a fly ball that would have been the third out of the 4th inning. Dickey gave up a two-run homer to the next batter, Cheslor Cuthbert. Cuthbert (who has an excellent baseball name) drove in all three Royals runs, as he added an RBI double in the 9th off Joe Biagini. Dickey only gave up four hits, walked three and struck out eight.
Royals starter Chris Young had a far worse night, as he was removed 2.1 innings into the game after six earned runs on seven hits (four of them homers, two to Josh Donaldson and one to each of Ezequiel Carrera and Troy Tulowitzki). The Jays added a run each in the 4th and 7th, and ended the night with twelve hits total. Josh Thole was the only Blue Jays player without a hit.
Much like his buddy Aaron Sanchez did two days previously, Marcus Stroman came out on top in a hard-fought battle against the reigning World Series champs. He matched Sanchez with eight innings, three hits and one walk – but one-upped him by being perfect through the first five innings. A leadoff walk in the 6th would be his undoing, as the next batter tripled and broke up his no-hitter as well as the shutout. He also allowed a solo home run in the 8th.
The Blue Jays bats were quiet at the beginning of the game again, with just two hits in the first four innings. One of those hits was a Michael Saunders solo home run, the first run of the game. Junior Lake doubled in the 5th and scored, with Ezequiel Carrera driving him in. It wasn’t until the 8th that they really broke out, as with two outs Edwin Encarnacion doubled. Michael Saunders then drove him in with an double. Not to be outdone, Russell Martin followed up with a double of his own, scoring Saunders and adding a handy insurance run. The back-to-back-to-back doubles broke open the tie, and hung the loss on Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera.
How did they get so remarkably efficient all of a sudden in this series? The longest game was 2 hours 36 minutes, the shortest 2:10. The lack of a bottom 9th inning in each game would cut off some time, but not that much.
Hello there, much-feared Royals bullpen. You don’t scare us. I was actually kind of looking forward to a heated rematch of the ALCS from last year, but due to several factors (injury, trades, departing free agents) there were really only a few familiar faces from that series. The Jays also missed a start by notable petulant child Yordano Ventura. A tad anticlimactic, but I will absolutely take the sweep!
My favourite player(s) this series: Donaldson/Stroman/Sanchez
The same day he was announced as a representative in the All-Star Game, Josh Donaldson scored four runs in three plate appearances. He hit two home runs, then reached on a fielder’s choice, and walked. He also drove in two on Monday, and went 3-for-9 with three walks over the course of the whole series.
Sanchez needed just 96 pitches to get through his eight innings of work. He had four (non-consecutive) innings where he retired the side. He allowed just three hits. He only walked one. With his parents watching from behind home plate. While he had the flu.
Stroman has struggled as of late, but his start in Game 3 was as dominant as any. Not only did he keep the Royals hitless through five innings, but he settled down after their first run scored and retired the next three. He allowed just two more hits in the nect two innings, nicely handled a liner back to the mound, and only needed 85 pitches to retire 27 batters.
Where we are now:
2nd place(!) in the American League East, 2.5 games back of Baltimore and in full possession of the first wildcard spot
The bad news is….? Lacking, given the strong pitching and hitting performances this series. Other than some nerves about facing the Tigers next, I’m feeling very confident about this team.
The good news is, they swept the Royals. Enough said.
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