For a long while this afternoon, it looked like we were in for a repeat of yesterday: a good start wasted by the Yankees stifling the Jays offensively. But a couple of the big bats in the middle of the order had something to say about that, and their intervention was just barely enough to turn the tide.
In the early going, Luis Severino shut the Jays down. Only Kevin Pillar Pillar reached in the first three innings, a walk and a single. But the Jays did start getting to him in the middle innings, as Kendrys Morales hit a one out double in the 4th and singles from Devon Travis and Luke Maile in the 5th, unfortunately sandwiched around a Chris Coghlan GIDP.
The Jays made two quick outs in the bottom of the 6th, and already down 2-0 with the Yankee bullpen loomed, the situation was looking bleak. Instead, it was the highwater mark of the series for the Yankees. Morales lined a single into centre, to bring Justin Smoak to the plate. He got a first pitch slider that caught too much of the plate, and absolutely crushed it to CF, to tie the game.
Taking the lead would have to wait a little. Severino stayed in for the 7th, and hit Travis in the hand leading off the inning with a 96 MPH fastball. It did not look good at all, and though he stayed in on the basepaths, Travis departed the game. Coghlan bunted him over, but the Jays couldn't get the run in.
Luckily, the Jays have this Josh Donaldson guy. He lead off the 8th against Tyler Clippard, and hit a 3-2 fly ball to right-centre field. I didn't think he had got enough of it, but it just carried over the wall to give the Jays the 3-2 lead. Statcast measured it at 384 ft, so not a cheapie at all, but hit to one of the deepest parts of the ballpark.
That was the offensive side of the equation, but the pitching also did its job, holding a powerful lineup to just two runs to allow that late inning comeback. In the early going, Marcus Stroman was very sharp, retiring the first seven batters including three strikeouts with a wipeout slider. He faced one of the minimum over the first three shutout innings.
He wasn't quite as good from that point onwards. The Yankees got on the board in the 4th, with a one out single from Aaron Judge followed by a Matt Holliday RBI double (Judge stole second and advanced to 3rd on a bad throw in between). Stroman got out of that with no further damage, but allowed leadoff singles in each of the next two innings. The latter single in the 6th was followed by his only walk, and that proved costly as the Yankees ended up scoring their second run on fielder's choice. And frankly, at that top, that second run felt insurmountable.
Overall, it was a good start for Stroman, holding the Yankees to 2 runs on 5 hits over 6 innings is something you'll take every time. But it was certainly a tale of two starts, as Stroman racked up all 4 strikeouts over the first three innings and then held over the next three working out of jams.
The bullpen was excellent behind him, facing the minimum over 3 shutout innings:
- Aaron Loup got the 7th, and worked around a leadoff single, assisted by Travis turning a nice double play behind him
- Joe Smith dominated the 8th, with two strikeouts and a tapper to the left of the mound on which he made a nice play
- To say Roberto Osuna was electric in the 9th would be an understatement, as he blew away the middle of the lineup with three swinging strikeouts on just 11 pitches, five of which were whiffs.
For once, the Pythagorean baseball gods smiled warmly upon the Jays in a series with the Yankees. The Jays were outscored 26-12 in the series, but split the series in the standings.
Jays of the Day: Smoak (+.219 WPA); Donaldson (+0.162); Osuna (+0.166); Generic Joe (+0.109); Travis (+0.099)
Suckage: Coghlan (-0.160); Bautista (-0.103)
Tomorrow, the Blue Jays start a west coast swing in Oakland, so 10:00 EDT starts for the next two nights before a Wednesday matinee. J.A. Happ faces off against Sean Manaea.