Rubber Match Sunday!
The Toronto Blue Jays (41-35) and Chicago White Sox (37-38) squared off in the finale of their three-game set with the series win very much at stake.
To the mound for the Jays, Marcus Stroman (6-3 and a 5.23 ERA). He's been fighting through a much noted, much publicized rough patch that has seen him go 2-3 with a 7.59 ERA in his last seven starts.
For the Sox, Chris Sale (12-2 with a 2.83 ERA). He's been... y'know... Chris Sale.
(BOXSCORE for Mobile)
In the first Josh Donaldson was erased trying to stretch a single into a double on the arm of Adam Eaton. It was a beautiful throw. One of the most exciting things in baseball is an outfield assist, and like the result or not, that was exciting.
It also assisted Chris Sale in having an eight-pitch 1-2-3 inning to start the game. Not ideal.
Marcus Stroman, not to be outdone, managed a SEVEN pitch 1-2-3 bottom half of the inning. So, take that Mr. Sale!
A pair of leadoff singles by Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier gave the Sox two on with no one out to start the 2nd. A ball in the dirt got away from Russell Martin and it looked as though both runners would move up. But, a good throw and a... unique tag by Josh Donaldson (gif'd below) forced Melky off the bag for an out. Alex Avila would then walk so there wound up being two on all the same. But it could have been worse.
And, it ended up being important as noted Blue Jay Killer Brett Lawrie grounded into a double play which, if not for the previous play, would have resulted in a run. Instead, Marcus escaped the 2nd unharmed. This trend would not last (Sorry, spoiler...)
In the 3rd, Tyler Saladino walked and then advanced on a pick-off attempt that got passed Edwin Encarnacion. A weakly hit ball to Darwin Barney at SS forced a bad throw resulting in an infield single for Tim Anderson, which, if not for a fantastic diving stop by Encarnacion, probably goes into the dugout for a 2-base error and a run.
But, that run would eventually come in to score anyway when, with the runners on 1st and 3rd with just one out, a safety squeeze by Eaton cashed in Saladino just ahead of Stroman's throw to the plate. Melky Cabrera singled with two out to cash in Anderson for the 2nd Sox run of the inning.
See, the thing about Chris Sale, is that he doesn't need much run support to win a ballgame. And, through five, he was coasting. Only three Jays had reached base (two hits and a walk).
Truth is, Marcus Stroman was nowhere near great in this one. I think it would be fair to see he wasn't as bad as he's been, recently, but that doesn't say much. He was given some terrible luck in the 3rd, that is fair to say, and perhaps one if not both those runs should not have scored. That said, he did give up a homerun to light hitting shortstop Tim Anderson in the 5th and was all over the zone. Then, after a walk and a single put runners on the corners, a wild pitch allowed the Sox to plate another.
His night was done after just five innings. Marcus' final line: 5 IP, 4 ER on 7 Hits, 4 K and 4 BB, in line for the loss.
Joseph Biagini came on in relief of Marcus in the 6th. He'd work a quiet 1-2-3 6th, and a similarly quiet 7th (with the minor annoyance of a dropped 3rd strike allowing Melky to reach base).
The Blue Jays finally cracked Sale in the 8th with 1-out when Troy Tulowitzki drilled a ball over the left field fence for a solo HR. Tulo has been hot since returning to the lineup slashing a .318/.375/682 (179 wRC+) in his last six games entering today. Could this be a sign of things to come? Time will tell.
Then, Junior Lake got a hold of one taking it to the deepest part of the ballpark in dead centerfield to make it back-to-back HR's and a two run game. This was his first hit as a Blue Jay. May have actually been the first hit of any of the Buffalo position players to come up.
Recently recalled Bo Schultz entered the game in the 8th for his first appearance in 2016 for the Blue Jays. He hit 100 mph on the gun. I mention this because... did anyone know he could hit 100 mph? He looked good up until the point where J.B Schuck took him deep to right. He'd strike out the side, but the HR padded the Sox lead heading into the 9th.
Chris Sale was done after eight. His final line: 8 IP, 2 ER on 5 H, 7 K with 2 BB.
David Robertson entered to close it out for the Sox in the 9th. He'd get Donaldson, Edwin, and Michael Saunders to harmlessly fly out for an easy 1-2-3 inning. Game and series to the White Sox.
BLUE JAYS 2 - WHITE SOX 4
Marcus Stroman (-153) is the only player to actually get the number. Josh Donaldson at -.096 is close enough to earn one as well, though.
The Jays look to get back on track Monday when they fly to Colorado to face the Rockies. Marco Estrada (5-3 2.70 ERA) goes to the mound for the Blue Jays... eesh... This could be a rough one. Jon Gray (4-3 4.80) for the Rockies.