Game 1: Friday, August 26th
JAYS WIN! 15-8
Winning Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
The offense that was lacking in the last two games of the previous series returned in abundance in the series opener. Russell Martin and Justin Smoak each had 5-RBI games, including a home run each. Liriano went five innings, and gave up four runs (three earned) on four walks and just two hits. One of the hits was a Trevor Plouffe solo home run in the 1st, and the other was a double in the 4th that drove home two walks. An unearned run, due to Liriano’s own fielding error, also scored in the 3rd on a sac fly. Joe Biagini had a rough 6th, allowing a run on two singles, a forceout, a hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice fly. This tied the game.
The Blue Jays got five runs in the 2nd with a pair of homers – Smoak broke his 0-for-29 slump with a three-run shot, and Josh Donaldson hit his 30th of the year, scoring two. Three consecutive two-out singles in the 3rd scored another – Smoak got the RBI – and Minnesota starter Pat Dean was removed from the game after three innings. Toronto went down in order in the 4th and 5th before breaking the tie in a big way in the 6th and 7th. They sent nine hitters to the plate in each inning. Darwin Barney led off the 6th with a home run, then an error and two walks loaded the bases for Martin, who cleared them with a double.
Barney also led off the 7th and doubled, then scored on Smoak’s single. Jose Bautista doubled, and Josh Donaldson singled, scoring Smoak. Edwin Encarnacion ground into a forceout, erasing Donaldson at second but scoring Bautista. Then Russell Martin, the only Blue Jay yet to score a run in the game, stepped up to the plate again and drove a ball to center field for a two-run homer. With the game 15-5, Aaron Loup came in to pitch the 8th. He allowed two runs on three hits and a sac fly, then another run in the 9th, but thankfully the Jays’ lead was decisive enough for that not to matter.
Stroman’s outing was a roller coaster. He threw six innings, and the leadoff hitter reached base safely in four of them. The first batter of the game, Brian Dozier, singled, stole second and scored on a wild pitch. The Twins got two more hits in the 3rd, but ground into a 1-6-3 double play. The Jays ended up down 5 runs in the 4th when Stroman walked the first hitter, then gave up two singles and a double before getting the first out. Another double scored the third and fourth runs of the inning.
Toronto got a run back in the bottom half, on a Michael Saunders RBI double. They continued to chip away at the lead, with an Edwin Encarnacion two-run homer in the 6th, but didn’t really get to Minnesota starter Ervin Santana until the 7th when he left the bases loaded after two walks and a forceout; Ryan Pressly then gave up singles to Josh Donaldson and Encarnacion which scored all three inherited runners. Unfortunately, Bo Schultz had already allowed a two-run homer to Trevor Plouffe in the top of the 7th, so the Twins still had a 7-6 lead.
That changed in the next inning, when Melvin Upton Jr. drove in Kevin Pillar, and then himself, on Little-League home run, although it was technically scored a triple and an error by right fielder Max Kepler. Either way, the unusual event was thrilling for the team and the fans in attendance. Roberto Osuna picked up the save by pitching a clean inning and striking out two. Jason Grilli threw the 8th and also struck out a pair.
The Jays took to the field wearing red jerseys for Canada Baseball Day (although apparently nobody told R.A. Dickey that’s what they were for). Jose Bautista doubled in the 1st and scored on an Edwin Encarnacion sac fly. Josh Donaldson didn’t have a great start to his day – in the 1st he fouled a ball off his own knee, but refused to leave the game. Then he made a throwing error in the 3rd that contributed to a bases-loaded situation, and eventually a Twins run.
Donaldson’s luck began to turn in the bottom of the 3rd, when he lifted a solo homer to right, retaking the lead 2-1. But Dickey ran into trouble in the 5th, loading the bases again on a one-out single and two walks. A groundout and two singles later, it was 5-2 Twins. In the 6th, Troy Tulowitzki hit a leadoff home run, his 22nd of the year. Kevin Pillar doubled, and Devon Travis drove him in with an opposite-field single to bring Toronto to within a run. Brett Cecil began the 7th, and after a single and a strikeout was replaced by Scott Feldman. Feldman got a double play to end the inning.
Still down a run, Bautista led off with a single, and Donaldson homered off Minnesota reliever Pat Light to put the Blue Jays ahead. Tulowitzki singled, Pillar walked, and they both became insurance runs when Melvin Upton doubled. Donaldson wasn’t finished yet, as he came up with two outs in the 8th and launched a line drive to center for his third home run of the day. As had happened exactly a year ago when Edwin Encarnacion accomplished the feat, hats rained onto the field, and Donaldson was greeted with cheers from his teammates in the dugout. Roberto Osuna gave up a run on three hits in the 9th, but closed out the game on a strikeout of Miguel Sano, stranding a pair and preserving a three-run lead.
Former Jays catcher Dioner Navarro was re-acquired from the White Sox on Friday. Navarro caught all of Mark Buehrle‘s starts last year, and most of Marco Estrada‘s. However, he may be remembered best for this moment after ALDS Game 5:
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) August 26, 2016
I didn’t know how to work it organically into the game recap, but I want to include this video of a crazy juggling catch Devon Travis made in Sunday’s game. The coordination (or lack therof) is amazing – it bounced off him at least three different times!
Weirdly Specific Record Alert:
- Russell Martin broke the all-time record for home runs by a Blue Jays catcher in one month when he hit his 8th on Friday
- Martin also tied the team’s one-month RBI record for a catcher, with 20.
My favourite player(s) this series: Donaldson
It’s hard to believe with all the home runs he’s hit in his career (41 last year, 33 so far this season) that Josh Donaldson has never had a ‘hat trick’ before. But Sunday wasn’t his only good game – he was effective in the whole series. He went 6-for-10 with four walks, four homers, a double and nine RBI. He also scored six times.
— Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) August 28, 2016
Where we are now:
First place in the AL East, 2.0 games up on Boston.
The bad news is… I can’t think of any! It’s a sweep! The pitching giving up eight, seven, and then six runs isn’t ideal, but hey! Who cares! They still won!
The good news is, it was a sweep! They’re in first! Donaldson homered three times! Everything is great!
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