The Toronto Blue Jays (12-14) entered play today putting their May undefeated streak on the line against the arch-rival Texas Rangers (14-11).
(BOXSCORE for Mobile)
And while some of you will be quick to point out that it's May 2nd and their undefeated streak is one-game, I'll counter simply by saying that this season has sucked thus far and let's take the little victories while we can.
The last time the Jays and Rangers met was in 2015 during their unforgettable 5-game playoff series in the ALDS which, as you may remember, brought us such memorable moments as Elvis Andrus forgetting how to play baseball, Sam Dyson crying about Jose Bautista not "respecting the game", and, of course, who could forget this:
Adding more narrative tension to the game was the Jays sending R.A Dickey to the mound. Dickey has taken his slow starts to another level this season posting a 1-3 record, 6.75 ERA, 4.12 FIP through April.
Escaping April in no way guarantees an improvement in play from the knuckler. Especially early on in the season. It wasn't until June in 2015 that Dickey began showing a considerable, lasting improvement in play (3.32 ERA in June, 2.57 in July). And over the last two seasons Dickey has been a much better 2nd Half pitcher than he has been during the first half.
In short... this could get uglier before it gets better. Or maybe not. Baseball is funny that way. And no one knows what R.A will do from start to start (or inning to inning).
On the hill for Texas was A.J Griffin (3-0 with a 2.52 ERA).
The first inning saw Dickey throwing darts, as it were. 13 of his first 15 pitches went for strikes and he allowed just a single hit, a single by Nomar Mazara, and nothing more. He'd need just ten more to get through the 2nd inning thanks to a pair of groundouts and a strikeout of Andrus.
The 3rd inning would not start so well for Dickey, though. Brett Nicholas, career minor leaguer brought up to the MLB roster due to injuries to Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez, crushed a ball to straight-away centre to give his Rangers the lead.
Toronto would answer in the bottom half following a Kevin Pillar double and Josh Thole's groundout to move him to third with one out. Michael Saunders shot a ball through a hole on the right side of the Rangers drawn in defence to put the Jays on the board.
Why were they drawn in during a 1-0 game with R.A Dickey on the mound? Good question.
In the 5th Dickey began to struggle with his command. Well, so far as one actually has command of a knuckleball. With two outs he allowed back-to-back walks to the Rangers' 8-9 hitters (Nicholas and Delino DeShields, respectively) before striking out Rougned Odor to escape the inning without taking damage.
Unfortunately, the Jays wouldn't give him much to work with in terms of run support. Through five, Griffin kept the Jays bats in check allowing just three hits, one walk, while striking out seven.
Things would unravel in the 7th. A squibber off the bat of Mitch Moreland up the 3rd Base line would go for a single as the Jays had employed a shift and Donaldson was not in his usual spot to make a play. Then, a passed ball moved him to second though he was unable (or, at very least appeared unwilling) to move up on a fly ball to Jose Bautista. Nicholas walked to put two on with one out for DeShields who singled to load the bases for Odor.
And that would end it for Dickey who would be pulled for Gavin Floyd.
Keep in mind that previously the bullpen has inherited two such situations from Marcus Stroman. And on both those occasions they allowed all three runs to score. With that in mind, things looked bleak to begin the Odor at-bat.
Then things got interesting.
Odor would fly out to deep centre. All runners would attempt to tag on the play. Kevin Pillar delivered a dart to second getting the runner, but the home plate umpire said the runner at home scored before the out was recorded at 2nd Base. The Blue Jays challenged the play and replays seemed to show that the runner, Moreland, did not touch home plate before the tag on DeShields at 2nd.
And the Ump's agreed. The run was taken off the board and the game remained 1-1.
Minor Leaguer wrote something on this play, complete with visuals. Worth a look.
Final line for Dickey: 6.1 IP, 1 Earned on 6 Hits, 3 K's and 3 walks. He struggled at times, but managed to get out of it until that last inning. And even then, only one or two balls were hit particularly hard off him. All-in-all, a solid outing by Post-April Dickey.
Tony Barnette took over for Griffin to start the bottom of the 7th. Griffin's final line: 6.0 IP, 1 Earned on 3 Hits, 9 K's and 2 walks.
Floyd stayed in to pitch the 8th and this would prove to be a mistake. Nomar Mazara, leading off the inning, took the Jays righty to deep centre beyond the reach of Pillar (and thus anyone else not named Ken Griffey Jr. from the 90's classic Little Big League). Floyd would get the next two batters before hitting Desmond and getting pulled in favour of Brett Cecil. One pitch later, he was out of the inning.
Sam Dyson entered the game to face the top of the Jays order giving fans a rematch of the aforementioned Bat Flip AB. But, first he would walk Michael Saunders on a full-count and give up a single to Josh Donaldson. The AB was charged with fan excitement. Constant noise. Waiting to erupt in cheers. And on 2-1 Jose would slap a fly ball into right field, possibly deep enough to move Saunders up. Except, in another case of bad base running by Saunders this season, he wouldn't tag on the play. Instead, he stayed on 2nd bringing up Encarnacion. Double-E would work a walk to give Troy Tulowitzki a chance with the bases loaded.
Tulo lifted a ball into shallow right to Mazara, Saunders tagged this time and... well, apparently he was right not to tag those other times because he was thrown out by a couple feet at home.
I don't think I like this Mazara kid. And, I can say "kid" definitively, as he is the youngest player in the MLB this season.
Drew Storen came in to relieve Cecil and worked a quick, fairly uneventful 1-2-3 inning to take the game to the Bottom of the 9th!
Shawn Tolleson came in to try and close the game for the Rangers. The first batter he faced was the singles machine Justin Smoak who, promptly, lined a ball into centre which found a way to hit the turf for a single.
Darwin Barney took over for Smoak on 1st but was thrown out at 2nd off a good play by Tolleson off a bad bunt by Goins. The hot hitting Kevin Pillar (3-3 to this point tonight) got a chance as the tying run sat at 1st, his team desperately in need of a hit. He came very close with a scorching hit to the left side but Andrus made a fantastic diving stop and made the throw to 2nd for the out.
The Jays, down to their final out, send Russell Martin (having come in for Thole after Ezequiel Carrera pinch hit for him earlier) to the plate. A weak grounder to Andrus, who stepped on 2nd, would end all hope of a comeback in this one as Texas takes the 1st game of the four game series.
Also, fun fact: The Jays are presently 2-7 in one-run games.
Tulowitzki (-.460) 0-4 with 3 K's. Bautista (-.200) 0-4 with 2 K's. Ryan Goins (-.300) 0-4 with 1 K and a terrible bunt.
Jays are back at it tomorrow where they will send Marco Estrada (1-2 with a 2.92 ERA) to the mound to face Martin Perez (1-2 with a 4.20 ERA). Game starts at 7:07pm.