The MLB powers-that-be apparently don't think that 19 games against division opponents enough, so tonight the Red Sox came to Montreal for this third annual preseason series. The Blue Jays jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but the joke was on them in this April Fool's exhibition as the bats went silent and Red Sox came back to win in particularly painful fashion in extras.
J.A. Happ started for the Jays in his final tune-up, and turned in a solid outing giving up one run over four innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out four. He really pitched better than that line indicates, and seems to be working at lot faster on the mound that he used to, which would be a very welcome development. He allowed his only run when Mookie Betts doubled leading off the third, and advanced 90 feet on each of two groundouts.
The Red Sox started knuckleballer Steven Wright, and Kevin Pillar greeted him immediately with a leadoff home run to put the Jays up 1-0. In fact, the Jays would do all their scoring on balls that went Wright over the fence, as Michael Saunders took Steven deep in the second inning for another solo blast. Otherwise, Steven mostly had the Wright stuff, striking out eight over his 5.2 innings and scattering seven hits, a walk, and a hit by pitch.
The Jays missed an opportunity to put some distance in the 4th, as Saunders lined a single and was called out trying to reach 2nd base, though he looked safe. Russell Martin was hit by a pitch before Smoak hammered an opposite field double that in alternate universe scores at least one, but alas both runners were stranded. The regulars started coming out soon and that was mostly it. One other offensive highlight was Ryan Goins in the second inning, falling behind 0-2 after a horrible cut at a knuckler, fouling off a bunch of pitches before getting his timing down Wright and lining a double the other way.
Following Happ was a bunch of relievers:
- Rule 5er Joe Biagini got hit around a bit and coughed up the lead. After falling behind 2-0, Jackie Bradley Jr. laced a double to the gap. Betts cashed him almost immediately with a great bit of hitting by inside-outing a curveball and dumping the other way for a single. Ryan Goins saved a run by starting a gorgeous double play where I didn't think there was time to get the lead runner, which was fortunately since it was followed by a ground ball up the middle that would have scored another run. Biagini rebounded to strike out David Ortiz
- Ryan Tepera came in for the 6th and worked around a leadoff ground ball single up the middle, though allowed a couple of deep fly balls in the process
- Sidearming righty Wil Browning, who probably will start 2016 at AA, came for the 7th and retired JBJ and Betts via a groundout and strikeout, before allowing two singles that ended his night
- Chad Girodo came in for the lefty-lefty matchup with Ortiz, but Pablo Sandoval - who is, shall we charitably say, not in the best shape of his life - came in to pinch hit and struck out and end the jam. Girodo came back out in the 8th and got two easy groundouts and a routine fly ball to complete a perfect outing which was all the more impressive since he faced three righties.
- David Aardsma (AAArdsma?) sandwiched two walks around his three outs, but escaped unscathed
In the bottom of the 9th, the Jays had a chance to win it. Richard Urena pulled a curveball into right field leading off, but was thrown out trying to steal, potentially a failed hit-and-run. Roemon Fields hit a single, stole second, then he too was thrown out stealing (at third).
Pat McCoy came in for the 10th, and unfortunately wasn't the real (Mike) McCoy. He promptly got two groundouts to short and got ahead 0-2, but couldn't finish off Travis Shaw, who drew a walk, followed by another walk, and a 3-1 count to Ryan LaMaare, who then smashed a two run double to the gap.
As for how things ended, I present, Rowdy at the Bat:
The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Blue Jay Nine that day; the score stood four to two, with but one more out to play. And then when Carrera died at first, and Barney did the same, a sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast; they thought, if only Rowdy could get but a whack at that – they'd put up even money, now, with Rowdy at the bat.
Then from fifty thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell; it rumbled through the Ottawa valley, it rattled in the dell; it knocked upon Mount Royal and recoiled upon the flat, for Rowdy, mighty Rowdy, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Rowdy's manner as he stepped into his place; there was pride in Rowdy's bearing and a smile on Rowdy's face. [...] And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, and now the air is shattered by the force of Rowdy's blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright; the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; but there is no joy in Montreal — mighty Rowdy has struck out.
The final game in Montreal is a 1:05 ET start tomorrow