The Jays badly needed a win after losing a pair of games in which the wheels fell off solid starts in the middle innings and early leads evaporated while the bats went silent. It was almost the complete opposite today as the Jays turned the tables on the Rays in the series finale to pull out one game and guarantee they will stay in first place when the sun comes up tomorrow.
J.A. Happ has been Dr. Dominant lately, but today his alter ego Mr. Happ took the hill, and didn't make it out of the 3rd inning despite expending 85 pitches. Staked to a 1-0 lead in the 1st, he started single/single/double to erase the early advantage. He limited the damage to one more run on a sac fly, but it cost hi 30 pitches.
He looked to be settling in, getting the first two batters of the second. Then he walked the next two, and though he got out of it without more damage, it was another 30 pitch inning. He then repeated it in the 3rd inning, getting the first two and then giving up three straight singled to make it 3-1. With a deep pen behind him, John Gibbons wisely ended his day (Gibby's day was not to last much longer, as he was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the top of the 4th).
He turned to recent call-up Danny Barnes, who had been laying waste to the International League. He extricated the Jays from the jam, and then added another two scoreless innings with just one bloop hit allowed on 29 pitches. He didn't pile up the strikeouts like he had been in AAA, but he gave the Jays exactly what needed in stabilizing the situation and buying some time for the bats to figure things out.
About those bats. They were in tough, facing Chris Archer. They jumped out to a lead after Archer struck out Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson to start the game, but Edwin Encarnacion doubled and scored on a single by cleanup
eater hitter Dioner Navarro. Then it became a typical Archer outing against the Jays, as he found his groove and they did a whole lot of nothing for the next 5 innings, other than threatening with two out in the 3rd.
So things were looking bleak, though the Jays were only down 3-1 going to the 7th. Troy Tulowitzki singled with one out in the 7th, which chased Archer at 105 pitches. Then the bats had some fun when Brad Boxberger came out of the pen: Michael Saunders singled, and Kevin Pillar walked. When you walk Pillar, you're just asking for it, and Devon Travis gave them the horns with a single that tied that the game. Unfortunately, they couldn't take the lead between a Bautista fielder's choice, Donaldson walk, and EE foulout to strand the bases loaded.
But it was only a matter of time. the Rays switched out Boxberger for Kevin Jepsen; the Jays didn't care. Navaroo walked, and Dalton Pompey pinch ran. Everyone knew he was going to take off, and yet it he still easily stole second. Not that it mattered; Russell Martin went yard with the go ahead and game winning blow.
The bullpen collectively was really the hero in this one though, combining for 6.1 scoreless innings. Beyond Barnes, four relievers had scoreless innings:
- Scott Feldman struck out one in the 6th
- Joaquin Benoit struck out the side in the 7th after a leadoff single
- Grilli added two strikeouts in a clean 8th inning
- Osuna struck out two more in a perfect 9th for the save. The only drama was the one ball in play, a fly ball to the right-centre gap as both Pillar and Ezequiel both went for it, with neither calling for it (Pillar is likely not used to his right fielder ranging into the gap). They made contact as Pillar tried to get out the way, more glancing than a direct collision, Carrera caught it and both seemed fine.
A nice looking game graph today!
Jays of the Day: Travis (+0.188 WPA, 2/4); Martin (0.171, 1/4, HR); Navarro (0.111, 1/3, BB). Danny Barnes falls short of the number at just 0.086, but I'd argue he was the single most important Jay today since he stabilized the game and kept the bats within striking distance. So he certainly gets one
Suckage: Happ (-0.236); Encarnacion (-0.191, 1/5, 2K); Bautista (-0.101, 1/5, K). Crazy they managed to win a game in which the starter and two of their sluggers combined for half a win destroyed.
Tomorrow, the Jays travel to New York for a 1:05 Labour Day game with R.A. Dickey taking on Masahiro Tanaka.
By popular demand, since apparently it's a Big Biden Deal, today's leaderboard. Congratulations barraqudie, between the Jays winning and winning the thread, wasn't it worth sticking around?
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