Series Sum-Up: vs New York Yankees, Sept 23-26

Jose Bautista


Game 1: Friday, September 23rd

JAYS WIN!! 9-0
Winning Pitcher: Francisco Liriano


Francisco Liriano may have been done after just six innings with 100 pitches, but he deserves much of the credit for shutting out the Yankee offense. He nearly got into some two-out trouble in the 1st when a Gary Sanchez ground-rule double and two walks loaded the bases, but he struck out Chase Headley to end the threat. That was the second of six strikeouts he’d have on the night. He got the lead on a two-run Troy Tulowitzki single in the bottom of the 1st inning, and held onto it. Brett Gardner reached on a Tulowitzki error leading off the 3rd, and then Jacoby Ellsbury singled, but Liriano shut down the next nine Yankees in order.


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In the bottom of the second, Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera each singled, and Devon Travis dropped a sac bunt to move both over. Josh Donaldson walked, loading the bases, and Edwin Encarnacion also walked to score a run. That inning had the potential to be bigger, as the bases remained loaded with one out, but Jose Bautista grounded into a double play. Bautista got another chance with the bases loaded in the 7th, and this time he did not miss – lining a double into LF that scored two. This was after Carrera had reached on a bunt single, Travis had singled and moved to second on an error by Brian McCann, and Encarnacion had been intentionally walked. Tulowitzki hit another two-run single to make it 7-0. They would eventually strand the bases loaded again when Kevin Pillar ground into a forceout at home and Carrera struck out.


Because it was just about the only thing the game hadn’t seen yet, Donaldson hit his 36th home run of the year in the 8th, a two-run shot to left. Joaquin Benoit, Brett Cecil and Danny Barnes each threw a hitless inning. The Jays had thirteen hits, the Yankees three.


Game 2: Saturday, September 24th
JAYS WIN!! 3-0
Starting Pitcher: Marcus Stroman
Winning Pitcher: Jason Grilli
Save: Roberto Osuna


Stroman faced just one batter over the minimum for seven innings – he had two double plays turned behind him, and Brett Gardener was caught stealing in the 6th. Unfortunately Stroman got the no decision because the Blue Jays declined to score while he was in the game (despite having four hits and three walks off C.C. Sabathia up to that point). Jason Grilli pitched the 8th, allowed a triple sandwiched in between a pair of strikeouts, and that was it.


Tyler Clippard pitched the 8th for New York, and Josh Donaldson singled with two outs then advanced on a wild pitch. Edwin Encarnacion walked, and Jose Bautista belted a three-run homer, his 20th of the year, to put the home team up 3-nil. Roberto Osuna closed out the 9th.



Game 3: Sunday, September 25th
JAYS WIN!! 4-3 (Walkoff!)
Starting Pitcher: Marco Estrada
Winning Pitcher: Roberto Osuna


The Yankees got their first run in four games in the form of a Didi Gregorius home run off Marco Estrada in the 7th. Estrada had already stranded the bases loaded in the 2nd, starting a string of 14 consecutive Yankee hitters retired. Gregorius’ homer ended that streak, but Estrada left a single and a walk aboard in that inning and left the game having allowed one run on four hits and two walks.


New York starter Michael Pineda left the game with two outs in the 6th, having also allowed one run on a solo homer from Jose Bautista in the 4th. The Jays stranded a pair in each of the 1st, 6th and 7th, before retaking the lead on a Bautista RBI single off Dellin Betances in the 8th. Roberto Osuna blew the one-run lead by giving up three singles in the 9th and a sac fly (all on two-strike counts) that scored a pair of runs.


Melvin Upton Jr. pinch-hit for Michael Saunders in the bottom half and walked, Kevin Pillar singled and Ezequiel Carrera dropped a bunt which Tyler Clippard threw over first base. That allowed Upton to score, Pillar to get to third and Carrera to second. Devon Travis struck out, the first out of the inning, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi chose to intentionally walk Josh Donaldson to load the bases. Pillar then scored on an Edwin Encarnacion single to right which handed Clippard a blown save, and a loss, for the second day in a row.



Game 4: Monday, September 26th
Jays lose, 5-7
Starting Pitcher: J.A. Happ
Losing Pitcher: Jason Grilli (blown save)


The Blue Jays had a 3-1 lead after two innings, in spite of a pair of bench-clearing scrums. What happened was as follows: with the Jays trailing 0-1 in the bottom of the 1st, Luis Severino clipped Josh Donaldson’s elbow with a pitch. Donaldson then scored on a bases-loaded walk from Russell Martin to tie the game. With his first pitch of the 2nd inning, J.A. Happ threw behind Chase Headley – with his second, he hit him square in the thigh. Both benches were warned, C.C. Sabathia stormed out of the Yankee dugout, and chaos ensued. Joe Girardi was ejected for fighting with the umpire.


Cut to the bottom half of the same inning, Severino narrowly missed leadoff man Justin Smoak with his first pitch, hit him with the second. Both teams rushed the field, the bullpens trailing closely behind. This time there was a lot less civility, and more pushing and shoving and elbowing. Eventually things settled down and Severino was ejected, along with a pair of NY coaches. Joaquin Benoit appeared to have injured his leg in the hubub, having to be helped off the field by Pete Walker (it was later revealed Benoit tripped on his way out of the bullpen). Devon Travis also left the game after his swing caused him pain in the 6th. He was replaced by Darwin Barney.



The Jays took the lead in the 3rd on another Martin walk and three hits – Jose Bautista singled, scored on a double from Troy Tulowitzi, and Michael Saunders drove in Martin. They didn’t do much against the Yankee bullpen for the next five innings, other than a pair of walks in the 4th. Happ left the game with one out in the 8th, after allowing another run on a Brett Gardner double and Jacoby Ellsbury single that Kevin Pillar mis-handled.


Jason Grilli threw the 9th and gave up a one-out solo home run to Mark Teixiera that tied the game. Two batters later, a two-run homer to Aaron Hicks put the Yankees on top. Grilli was pulled after giving up a double, with still only one out. Danny Barnes was called in, walked the first batter and then allowed a single and a Gary Sanchez sac fly (which Pillar made a nice catch on) to score another pair. The bottom of the 9th was where things got really interesting – Smoak took a four-pitch walk, Pillar dropped a bunt but was safe after pitcher Dellin Betances couldn’t field it, then both runners moved up on a wild pitch.


Barney walked, loading the bases, and Edwin Encarnacion walked to bring in a run after Donaldson flew out. Bautista had already been lifted from the game, so Dioner Navarro pinch-hit and his bloop fell into right field, scoring Carrera. Martin hit a swinging bunt that pitcher Tommy Layne fielded, then touched home to force-out Barney, and then Tulowitzki hit a foul pop-up that Brett Gardner caught just before the stands to end the game. They stranded ten total baserunners, including the bases loaded in the 1st and 9th innings.


Overall Notes: 

The 3-5-3 double play (from the first baseman, to the third baseman, and back to first) is an unusual one. But somehow the Blue Jays managed to turn two in this series – first one in the 7th of Game 1, then in the 2nd of Game 2. I guess Encarnacion and Donaldson had so much fun doing it the first time they had to try again!


Sunday’s game was tinged with sadness due to the death of Miami Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident. The Blue Jays held a moment of silence before the game, wore tributes to him on their caps, and the Marlins’ game was cancelled. The game they played on Monday, against the Mets, was preceded by a beautiful tribute to the 24-year-old Fernandez. Every player wore his name and number sixteen on their jersey, and his close friend Dee Gordon hit a home run in the first at-bat of the game.


I will pass on arguing the validity of the beanballs on Monday, but getting involved in the fight was really dumb for a team full of key pieces they can’t afford to lose to injury. I understand that emotions are high, and they wouldn’t want to risk looking like they’re not ‘sticking up for their teammates’, but I don’t think it was worth losing Devon Travis for a few games, and Joaquin Benoit long-term, over such a petty squabble. Benoit got hurt coming out of the bullpen to enter the dust-up, but if that hadn’t been going on perhaps he wouldn’t have been so hasty and tripped.


Weirdly Specific Record Alert: 

  • For the first time in team history, Blue Jays starting pitchers have gone eleven straight games without allowing more than two earned runs
  • They set a new team record of consecutive innings at home against the same team without allowing a run (4o)
  • They also set a longest-ever home win streak against the Yankees, with 8 games.
  • Josh Donaldson became the first player in Blue Jays history to score 120+ runs two years in a row


My favourite player(s) this week: Bautista/Liriano/Stroman/Estrada/Happ

Jose Bautista had two game-changing home runs in this series – the one which single-handedly won Game 2, and the first run of Game 3. He used Kevin Pillar’s bat for both, and gave him a memorable hug to celebrate. Bautista finished the series 6-for-13 with a pair of homers, two doubles, three walks, four runs scored (one per game), and seven RBI.



The entire starting rotation was great in this series, as they allowed just two earned runs between the four of them. Stroman and Liriano had scoreless outings, and all but Liriano pitched seven innings. Considering the close nature of some of these games, and the fact that the bullpen allowed more runs (7) across four games than the rotation (3), the starters can be credited with giving the Jays a chance to win these games.


Liriano’s six-inning outing included six strikeouts, and he blanked the Yankees on three hits and two walks. Stroman only allowed one hit, and only faced one batter over the minimum. He walked three and struck out five, inducing eight groundouts along the way. Estrada gave up one run on four hits and two walks, and struck out seven. Only one of Happ’s two runs was earned, and he allowed six hits but walked just one.


Where We Are Now:
Second place in the AL East, 6.0 games back of Boston and in posession of the first wild card, 1 game over Baltimore


The bad news is obvious – injuries to Travis and Benoit could really hurt them when they’re down to the wire at the end of the season.


The good news is, they won 3 of 4 against a team that swept them in their last meeting, and the starting pitching is in a groove.


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