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Blue Jays make it close, fall short 5-4 in Casey Lawrence's first start

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays 4 Angels 5

After all the twists and turns and extra innings last night, Saturday night's affair was a lot more subdued (and blessedly, the pace significantly more brisk). The Blue Jays made it interesting late, but ultimately fell a little short.

Casey Lawrence made his first major league start and, though he was ultimately took the loss, gave the Jays about as much as could reasonably be expected. If nothing else, by working into the 7th inning, he gave the beleaguered bullpen a much needed breather. He gave up quite a bit of solid contact, but in a slightly difference universe could have escaped with little or no damage against him. His final line was 6.1 innings, 5 runs allowed (4 earned), with 3 walks against 4 strikeouts.

The Jays took the early lead, as the Jays strung together a one out walk by Goins, and then two outs singles by Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak, the latter of which plated Barney.

Alas, it was not long to last. It should've been a clean first inning for Lawrence, but Barney couldn't handle a two out grounder by Mike Trout. That sparked a rally for the Angels as Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron followed up with singles, the latter cashing home Trout to tie the game.

From this point, Tyler Skaggs settled in (or the Jays offence fell back into lethargy, pick your preferred narrative). In the second, fourth and sixth innings the Jays had at least one reach, only to hit into inning killing double plays (your culprits: Ryan Goins, Devon Travis and Jose Bautista respectively). Of course, that was still better than going down in order, which they did in the odd numbered inning following each of those innings.

Meanwhile, the middle of the Angels order got to Lawrence again their second time through in the 3rd inning. Lawrence opened the inning by walking Cole Kalhoun, and Trout blasted a double. Cron walked on four pitches to load the bases after Pujols popped out, and then came the blow that defined the evening. Andrelton Simmons turned on a belt high 92 MPH fastball, and got just enough of it to carry it a couple feet beyond the wall in left field for a grand slam. 5-1 Angels, and that seemed to set things in cruise control for most of the rest of the game.

Lawrence did rebound nicely. After a leadoff single in the 4th, he retired 10 straight batters (13 of 14 following the grand slam). Not letting the game get (further) away allowed the Jays to stick with him and save the bullpen. He did run into more trouble again versus the heart of the order in the 7th. Cron singled and Trout doubled, leading to an intentional walk for Pujols and the end of Lawrence.

Fortunately, Leonel Campos was equal to the task in his Blue Jays debut, inducing a ground ball that Goins beatifully spun into a double play, perhaps the play of the year thus far. He also pitched a scoreless 8th, facing the minimum thanks to another double erasing a leadoff single.

The bats finally woke up in the 8th. Leading off right after turning the double play, Goins lined a double. That ended Skaggs night, and turned over the lineup. Kevin Pillar should've bunted hammered a 2-2 hanging slider from Kirby Yates for his second hone run of the year, and the Jays were right back in it with the middle of the order up. They went quietly.

The Angels bullpen being as chewed up as that of the Jays, the recently called up Yates came back out for the 9th. Justin Smoak lead off by hammering a fastball over the fence in right field to take sole possession of the team lead with 3 HR.

In came Bud Norris, but the tying run immediately reached on a single by Ezequiel Carrera. But Travis killed the rally with a ground ball double play. And then Salatamacchia struck out for the 154th time. Blah.

Source: FanGraphs

Jays of the Day: Smoak (+0.189 WPA, 2/3, HR, BB); Carrera (+0.115 for the single)

Suckage: Lawrence (-0.330); Travis (-0.266, two GIDP); Bautista (-0.111, 0/4). Saltamacchia can have one too (-0.088, 0/4, 2 K)

Believe it not, by virtue of only striking out twice in four trips to the plate, Saltalamacchia actually lowered his strikeout rate on the season from 71% to 67%!

Tomorrow is the rubber match continuation (why do I inevitably get this wrong) of the series at 3:30 EDT, with Marcus Stroman facing...someone. Maybe Jesse Chavez. Maybe someone else. Tune in to find out!