One fundamental truth about Francisco Liriano, both this year and for his career, is that one never knows in a given outing which Liriano is going to show up. The good Liriano often pitches like a frontline starter; the bad Liriano often doesn't make out of the early innings, with surprisingly little in between.
Today, for at least the first five inning, the Blue Jays got perhaps the best version of Liriano. Alas, a pair of three run innings - the first off Liriano in the 6th and the second off Roberto Osuna in the 9th - were enough to sink the good ship Blue Jay on this Saturday afternoon.
In what was likely his last start with the Blue Jays, Liriano was immaculate through the first five innings, retiring 15 of the first 16 hitters. It was almost all soft contact, as he pounded the corners and had command of both this slider and changeup.
The lone Angel to reach was Mike Trout, who smashed a ball down the third base line in the 4th for what could easily have been a double, but Josh Donaldson made an excellent play to snare it. Unfortunately, he should have put it in his pocket to hold Trout to a single, as his throw sailed wildly and allowed Trout to get to second anyway.
Starting for the Angels, Yusmeiro Petit was equally dominant, facing one over the minimum through three innings on just over 30 pitches. The Jays were able to capitalize on a misplay to get the lead in the 4th, as Donaldson and Justin Smoak hit hard singles leading off the inning. After Kendrys Morales struck out, Steve Pearce hit a fly ball upon which Donaldson tried to advance to second. Andrelton Simmons sailed the relay throw out of play, allowing Donaldson to score.
The Jays added two more in the 5th, as Miguel Montero walked leading off followed by back to back RBI doubles from the usual suspects in Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins. A decent throw should have got Goins trying to take second, but he was stranded anyway and the Jays seemed to have pretty comfortable lead with Liriano cruising.
Liriano gave up a single leading off the 6th before retiring old friend
Chadwick Cliff Pennington to turn the lineup over. If there's another fundamental truth about Liriano in recent years, it's that he struggles immensely the third time through. Consider these splits since the beginning of last season:
- 1st time through: 423 batters faced, .233/.317/.395 against
- 2nd time through: 389 batters faced, .250/.349/.429 against
- 3rd time through: 262 batters faced, .317/.433/.575 against
So basically, opposing hitters have basically been Paul Goldschmidt (.317/.429/.567 in 2017) against him the third time through. He didn't improve that today. Yunel Escobar hammered a single, followed by Trout smashing a RBI single back through the box. Liriano walked Pujols to load the bases, and almost contained the damage as he struck out C.J. Cron on a nasty slider and got ahead of Kole Calhoun 0-2 on a nasty changeup. But he hung a slider for a line drive single that brought home two runs and tied the game.
The Jays responded quickly against Troy Scribner, making his major league debut. Pearce singled with one out, an out later Montero gave the Jays back the lead, with his first home run with Toronto to almost dead centre. It was nice to get some offensive production from the backup catcher spot (or perhaps more accurately a level of production that was not offensive?).
Joe Biagini came out of the bullpen for the 7th and looked great with a clean inning. Generic Joe followed in the 8th, working around a leadoff walk to get the 503 lead to the 9th and the seemingly impregnable Roberto Osuna.
Indeed, he seemed poised to slam the door, striking out Simmons on three pitches, the last a wicked breaking ball. But his very next pitch was lined hard up the middle nearly taking off his head, and then a fastball ran inside for a HBP to put two on. Ben Revere then poked a ball down the right field line for a RBI double, more importantly putting the tying run at third.
Osuna couldn't hold the line against old friend
Curtis Pennington. A first pitch got away from him that Montero really should have been able to handle, but nonetheless a wild pitch and that scored the tying run and put Revere on third with the winning run. Osuna got him to two strikes, but couldn't put him away as he hit a shallow fly ball that was enough to score the run.
The Jays threatened in the 9th, with two walks by Montero and Goins sandwiched around a strikeout by Russel Martin. But Jose Bautista bounced a 2-0 pitch to second for a double play, and that was that.
Super Jays of the Day: Montero (+0.442)
Jays of the Day: Barney (+0.093). Honourable mention to Goins, Pearce, Generic Joe and Unique Joe, all of whom ended up between 0.072 and 0.079. And to Liriano, for a spectacular five innings in what was likely his swan song in Toronto
Super Suckage: Osuna (-0.717); Bautista (-0.403)
Suckage: Martin (-0.127); Morales (-0.124); Carrera (-0.100); my brother, for promising in the first couple innings that by the end of the day the Jays would fall behind. And to my eternal chagrin, he was right.
Tomorrow the Jays will look to salvage a game with Cesar Valdez taking on old friend Jesse Chavez at 1:07 EDT in a can't miss pitching matchup.