Let's not mince words: there were a lot of egregious performances tonight. Matt Boyd got absolutely rocked in his second MLB start, Chris Colabello was brutal on both sides of the ball, the umpires and review officials in New York made of a hash of a play at the plate that quelled a 5th inning rally and killed the Jays momentum, and the coaching staff made some highly questionable decisions (to put it kindly) that certainly didn't help things either.
Let's start with that last point. You may recall that yesterday afternoon, Justin Smoaked two majestic home runs, giving him seven on the season despite just 128 PA as he's struggled for consistent playing time. Now, you'd think if a guy hit a couple home runs, it might get his name penciled in the line-up the next night. But no, not if you're John Gibbons. Justin Smoak is the Blue Jays answer to Hailey's comet: he only gets to play once every 76 innings (h/t commenter sportsfan2)
Now, Wade Miley is a lefty, and Smoak has bad career numbers batting right-handed, but they're actually fine outside of Safeco Field (370 PA, .258/.327/.444 line, 116 wRC+). Not a terrible huge sample size, but Gibbons frequently plays matchups based on just a handful of PA. Compounding this, his replacement was Chris Colabello who picked a bad time to have a terrible game, striking out twice and grounding into a double play en route to stranding nine men on base, while committing an error and misplaying another ball in the field.
Unfortunately, this being a recap, I'm compelled to move into the game itself. Consider this a trigger warning for anger and/or blood pressure issues. Matt Boyd not only didn't make it out of the first, he didn't even record a single out. After three straight singles to open the game, Boyd fell behind David Ortiz 2-0, and threw a fastball to the outside corner that wasn't in a terrible location. Except his gloveside fastballs come right across the plate, and Ortiz caught it and hit it over the opposite field fence. Hanley Ramirez followed up with his own HR to left field and it was 5-0. After a single and walk, Boyd's night was done. And as was announced right after the game, so was his stint in the big leagues for now as he was optioned back to Buffalo in the most shocking transaction ever.
Liam Hendriks came in and unfortunately couldn't stem the tide, right away allowing a line drive triple to score the two runners. That runner also scored on a single before the inning was done to make the score 8-0 before the Jays came to bat, a half hour into the game. Happily, Hendriks' turned it around, pitching two more perfect innings.
Meanwhile, the Jays got their bats in gear in the 2nd inning. Colabello and Russell Martin reached to start, and Valencia smashed a ball to deep centre that Mookie Betts just barely managed to grab over his head. Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis hit back-to-back singles to put the Jays on the board and bring up the top of the order against a vulnerable Wade Miley. Jose Reyes popped up to first base, but Mike Napoli dropped it. Unfortunately, the infield fly rule was in effect, so it was still the second out. Josh Donaldson then walked to force in a run (8-2), Bautista singled in a pair (8-4), and Encarnacion was pitched around to reload the bases. Then Colabello fell behind 0-2, grounded out, rally over.
Brief interlude back to the bullpen: Bo Schultz came in for fourth and fifth, and looked great with his fastball at 96-97 and tight cutter around 91. He stranded the bases loaded with back-to-back strikeouts of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Granted, the first batter only reached because Colabello flipped a grounder late to Schultz instead of taking it to the bag himself.
The Jays threatened again in the fourth, Travis and Reyes reaching before Donaldson grounde dinto a double played. Miley basically pitched around Bautista and Encarnacion, loading the bases for -- you guessed it -- Chris Collabello, who struck out swinging on three pitches.
But the most important action - and the turning point - came in the bottom of the 5th against a tiring Miley. Martin almost beat out a ground ball to lead off, and was initially called safe, but it was (correctly) overturned on a replay challenge. Valencia and Pillar reached, and then Devon Travis singled to Betts in centre. Valencia was waved home, Betts came up throwing, and there was a play at the plate.
Somehow Danny Valencia was ruled out on this play? pic.twitter.com/fziStVfAWd— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) July 3, 2015
Home plate umpire Gerry Davis called Valencia out, and then Miley charged in telling Hanigan to tag Valencia which he did. The Jays challenged the plate, and while it was initially hard to tell, there was one clear angle that to me showed that Valencia touched the play. So that should have been it there. But the review officials in New York upheld the call. Failing that, Hanigan didn't tag him before he was ruled out, and here's what the review rules have to say about that:
[I]f the Replay Official determines both that the runner did not touch home plate and that the fielder did not tag the runner (or, in the case of a force play, did not touch home plate), the Replay Official shall rule the runner "safe" at home plate unless the defensive Manager appeals the failure of the runner to touch home plate prior to the Crew Chief making contact with the Replay Official.
Example: A runner attempts to score on a play at the plate. The catcher misses the tag on the runner, and the runner fails to touch home plate, but the umpire calls a tag and the runner "out." The offensive manager challenges the call, and the Replay Official determines that the catcher missed the tag. The Replay Official shall disregard the failure of the runner to touch home plate, declare the runner "safe" and score the run.
That would seem to cover the situation right there in the Jays' favour, but it was not to be. After the game, the official line from MLB was that by virtue of Hanigan tagging Valencia, that constituted an appeal under the rule, so Valencia was out. Right. Because apparently Ryan Hanigan and/or Wade Miley are now the "defensive Manager(s)"
Gibbons came out of the dugout to ask, since he believed the rules were misapplied, that the game be played under official protest, a request Gerry Davis refused to grant. Because apparently, the official whose decision you're contesting gets to decide if you can protest it. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? And so, Gibby got tossed, which apparently is a chronological thing:
John Gibbons has now been ejected from the last three July 2 games. #BlueJays— Jordan Davidson (@jordangeville) July 3, 2015
As Minor Leaguer noted, the preceeding July 2 before that run (2012) was the Farrell-Rauch-Alfonso Marquez blowup. There's also the fact that Hanigan was blocking the plate, likely impermissably. So the Jays were screwed, about three different ways. And it basically killed the momentum they had going, with Reyes striking out to end the inning.
I'll add one further point about that: why was Valencia even sent down four runs, rallying on a tired pitcher with the top of the line-up due up? Devoid of context, it wasn't a bad send (and unusual state of affairs for Luis Rivera). But considering the context, in my view the risk wasn't worth the reward. Using Win Probability numbers from The Book, if Valencia stays on 3rd, the Jays has a 23.7% chance of winning. If he scores, it's 25.4%, so you gain 1.7%. If he's out, the chances fall by almost 8% to 15.8%. The downside is 4x the downside. It really didn't make sense unless it was a complete slam dunk.
Okay, what else happened? Loup was good in the 6th, Delabar made a dog's breakfast of the 7th, with three wild pitches and a Colabello error contributing to three runs to put the game far out of reach. Cecil, Osuna, and Redmond pitched too. In the bottom of the 9th, Martin and Valencia went deep back-to-back followed by a ringing Pillar double, but it was too little, too late.
So the Jays drop the series 3-1 despite splitting the series in terms, 21-21. In other words, a perfectly emblematic series for your Toronto Blue Jays.
Jays of the Day: None by the numbers, but Bautista was closest (+0.084 WPA), so he gets one for the 2-3 effort with 2 BB.
Suckage: Matt Boyd (-0.412) and Chris Colabello (-0.139, 9 LOB) are the only ones by the numbers. But that's far from the end of things. Reyes gets one, 0-6, 8 LOB, throwing error. Delabar gets one for three wild pitches. Colabello gets another for his defensive miscues not captured by WPA. Another for the coaching staff (Gibbons and Rivera) for the grievances outlined above. Congratulations home plate ump Gerry Davis, you get one too for a million reasons. The review officials get one for not catching Valencia tapping the plate, or Hanigan blocking the plate while not leaving a lane.
A little overkill? Maybe. Look, it was a really Farrelling frustrating game okay?