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Jays fall 2-1 to Yankees; remain unbeaten in weekday afternoon games

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays 1 Yankees 2

The Blue Jays suffered their first defeat in 2016 on the weekday in what will be their only evening start in Florida, dropping them into a tie with Washington atop the Grapefruit League standings at 10-3-2 (8-0-2 in weekday afternoons, 2-3 otherwise).

Drew Hutchison started for the Blue Jays, and worked into the 5th, throwing 63 pitches. (48 strikes). It was a different look than usual for Hutchison, who usually leans heavily on his fastball (65% in 2015) but tonight used a ton of offspeed pitches and only about 40-45% straight fastballs. Especially after the first time through the order, Hutchison was often pitching backwards, starting batters off with secondary pitches and then doubling, tripling and sometimes even quadrupling up on them.

Beyond just the different usage was the fact that Hutchison appeared to be mixing in some pitches he doesn't usually feature. If you look at his Brooks Baseball page from 2015, Hutchison is a pretty straightforward pitcher: two- and four-seamed fastballs in low-90s, slider and change-up around 85. His fastball was 92-95 tonight, so all normal there. His slider was 83-85, which is a bit lower but actually where it was late in 2014 when it was dominant, so all normal there too.

But a handful of times, mostly early in the start, he mixed in an offspeed pitch at 80-81 miles per hour that was presumably a change-up as it didn't have breaking ball movement. But Hutchison has basically never thrown change-ups that slow before in his career, so it appears there was some tinkering going on. On top of that, the last couple innings he started mixing in a pitch at 88-90, that appeared to me to be a cutter, with the break of almost a short slider. It was quite effective, sawing off a couple of Yankee hitters and generating weak ground balls. Overall, it was quite intriguing to see some different stuff and gameplan from Hutchison.

Of course, Hutchison still took the loss, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits in 4.2 innings, walking none and striking out 3. Hutchison retired the first five batters before giving up a single to Chase Headley, and on his first pitch from the stretch Starlin Castro hammered a 92 MPH fastball the other way over the fence. This is not a good sign that Hutchison has fixed his serious problems from the stretch.

Hutchison was followed by three relievers who combined for 3.1 no hit innings:

  • Chad Girodo went 1.1 innings, getting a serious look against mostly Yankee regulars, both lefty and righty. He got lefties Jacoby Ellsbury and Slade Heathcott to fly out weakly the other way, and Carlos Beltran (RHB) to pop out behind the plate. He got ahead of righties Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez 0-2, before hitting both with sliders that got away. It was a solid audition for the LOOGY role, with Aaron Loup unlikely to be ready for opening day but it was clear his role would be no more than that.
  • Arnold Leon pitched a clean inning, only five pitches. His fastball was 89-91.
  • Ryan Tepera matched Leon precisely, though curiously all outs were in the air.

Hitting wise, the less said the better for the most part. The Jays only mustered 5 hits on the night, which was one more than the Yankees, and didn't score until the 8th. In fact, it was the replacements who accounted for almost all the production. Andy Burns continued to show impressively, driving an 0-2 offspeed pitch down the line for a double, and scored when Roemon Fields ripped a full count to the right field gap for a double. Fields then stole third easily but was stranded.

The Jays did put the tying run on 3rd in the 9th with one out, when Dalton Pompey smashed a ground ball down the first base line for what should have been a double but was misplayed into a "triple". He was stranded when Jorge Flores was overmatched and struck out, followed by a Ryan McBroom popout.

Tomorrow is the only first of two times the Jays will have split squad games, sending one team to play the Astros in official Grapefruit League action while continuing the annual tradition of hosting the Canadian Junior National team in Dunedin.