The Jays returned home after a 10 game roadtrip in which they went a mediocre 6-4 with Marcus Stroman making his much anticipated, belated, and quasi-miraculous 2015 home debut. And Stroman certainly didn't disappoint.
The Dome was hopping as Mookie Betts stepped to take ball one, and you could hear the air deflate a little. Not to worry. After the count ran full and Betts fouled a few off, Stroman froze him for a called strike three. He followed that up with two weak groundouts, the latter of which was a comebacker that Stroman non-chalantly snared and tossed to first. La foule était en délire.
That carried right over to the 2nd, as David Ortiz fouled the first pitch off his first, elicting a non-BBB friendly exclamation, the international term for ouch. He popped out and after a walk to Travis Shaw, Stroman induced two more weak ground outs to end the inning. The third inning was more involved, running his pitch count up close to 50, but Stroman got a little help to escape unscathed. Josh Donaldson snared an 0-2 liner by Josh Rutledge, Jackie Bradley Jr was completely overmatched in striking out, but Betts hit a grounder into left to reach. Stroman fell behind 3-0 to Brock Holt, but Betts took off on the 3-1 pitch, and Russell Martin gunned him down with an almost perfectly textbook throw. At some point, the American League will learn that you do not run on Russell Nathan Coltrane Jeanson Martin Jr.
The 4th inning was easy, punctuated by an inning ending Ortiz double play on which Stroman's facial expressions watching it behind him told the whole story. The 5th was the only inning that the Red Sox got to Stroman, and even then he wasn't hit hard. A pair of singles put runners on first and third with one out, and a ball was bounced to no man's man to score a run. Bradley then struck out again and a weak grounder ended the threat.
After that, Stroman put it in cruise control. An infield single leading off the 6th was erased in a double play, and David Ortiz
struck out on a 2-2 pitch got extra life from the umpire, so Stroman availed himself of Goins' defensive services to snare a line drive. The 7th would be his final inning, a quick 1-2-3 as the Red Sox went quietly into the night.
For the evening, Stroman got up to 96 pitches, 69 for strikes. He allowed 1 run on 6 hits, all singles, walking one and striking out 3. Frankly, he could and maybe should have had a lot more given the number of 2-strike outs, especially 0-2 and 1-2. But then again, he's still shaking off the rush, and he got a lot of weak contact.
What makes him so good? Consider the follow sequence of four consecutive batters in the 2nd and 3rd innings:
There's basically two pitches that aren't right on an edge of the strike zone, and one of those was a 2-strike chase pitch that isn't supposed to be close. Stroman just pounded and pounded and pounded the edges of the zone.
On the opposite side, Rick Porcello looked pretty in the first couple innings, escaping a first inning jam with an inning ending Edwin Encarnacion double play. But the Jays' bats can only be held down so long, and they showed some versatility in how they put runs on the board. In the 3rd they played small ball, as Kevin Pillar leadingoff lined a double down the line. Curtis Pennington bunted him over to third and Pillar scored on a ground out by Ben Revere.
In the 4th, they played big ball, with some help from the Red Sox. Jose Bautista walked leading off, and EE hit a ground ball to third that might have been another GIDP, but Brock Holt booted it allowed both runners to reach. Justin Smoak the mashed a line drive double the other way to gap to plate both runners. After Martin struck out, Goins got a 1-1 hanging changeup and
failed to capitalize because he's Ryan Goins did what good hitters do and destroyed it off the right field wall to plate Smoak. He advanced to third when it was misplayed off the wall, but Pillar couldn't capitalize and bring him as his flyout was too shallow to tag up.
The Jays tagged on two more in the 6th off a tiring Porcello. They loaded the bases as Smoak led off flining a single, Martin hit a bouncer to Holt who couldn't make a tough play, and then Goins bounced a ball through up the middle. Unfortunately, Pillar once again failed to bring a run in, hitting a bouncer that the Red Sox brought home to cut down Smoak. Porcello unleashed a wild pitch, allowing all three runner to move up, and then Craig Pennington delivered the veteran presents Pillar could not, driving in the second run.
And that was basically the end of the game. Liam Hendriks and Aaron Sanchez came in for the 8th and 9th respectively, working dominant innings that were unremarkable but for two strikeouts apiece and a beautiful snag by Smoak on a line drive. And with that the Blue Jays moved 4.5 up in the division pending the Mets-Yankees.
Jays of the Day: Stroman (+0.266 WPA), Smoak (+0.110, 2-4 and the nice defensive play). Bautista (+0.071) falls short but was 1-2 with 2 BB, so he gets one anyway. So too Goins (+0.067) for his 2-4 with a couple of great defensive plays (ho hum).
Suckage: None. I'd be tempted to give Pillar one (
situational hitting isn’t his thing these days; h/t lalalaprise), but he was responsible for breaking the no hitter, scoring the first run, and the Jays won, so that would just be mean.
Tomorrow the Jays look to lock down the series as R.A. Dickey takes on LHP Wade Miley at 4:07 ET.