Tonight's game was most certainly not the cleanest victory ever, but at the end of the night the Blue Jays had extended their nascent winning streak to three with a 7-4 win over the visiting Houston Astros (aka, the teams from Texas we don't despise).
But before getting to the details, let's start with a significant piece of news that broke during tonight's game:
Friends, I have baseball news -- Blue Jays: Bichette, Guerrero Jr. moving up to Dunedin | Toronto Star https://t.co/Q3dHNU85Xt— Morgan Campbell (@MorganPCampbell) July 7, 2017
Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (who went yard tonight for the second straight game) have been toying with the Midwest League for the last three months, and after Sunday's Futures Game they will be headed for Dunedin rather than returning to Lansing. In fact, tonight was apparently their last game with Lansing with the travel to the Futures Game and related festivities before hand. Perhaps fittingly, Bichette was on deck when the last out was out was made in tonight's game.
Looking ahead a little bit, this potentially puts Bichette and Guerrero in line to start 2018 in AA, or at least get there early in the season (for weather reasons if perhaps nothing else), which would be very impressive for players who will just have turned 20 and 19 respectively.
But back to the present. At the outset, it looked like the Blue Jays were intent on squandering opportunities to get to Lance McCullers early and put runs on the board. They loaded the bases with one out in the 1st, on walks by Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson and a laser beam single by Justin Smoak. Alas, never mind putting a crooked number on the board, they couldn't even get a run home as Kendrys Morales and Troy Tulowitzki struck out back-to-back to end a 31 pitch inning with no damage.
McCullers settled in after that, facing the minimum over the next two innings, and should have been out of the 4th in similar fashion. But a one out error by Alex Bregman (and a wild pitch) opened the door for Steve Pearce to cash the first run of the game with a two out RBI single. Kevin Pillar followed with a ground rule double, stranded by Ryan Goins.
The floodgates finally opened in the 5th. Bautista and Russell Martin singled leading off, advancing on a passed ball. They were both cashed with a single by Donaldson to give the Jays a lead they would not relinquish. One batter later, Morales hit a laser into the right-centre gap to score Donaldson. He in turn scored on a smash by Tulo.
That should have been the extent of the damage, as Pillar hit a comebacker that should have been an easy double play, but the throw airmailed the second base bag right to the fielder backing up the play and all hands were safe. Goins followed that with a double, to score the 6th run, but Pearce was gunned down at the plate. Hey, it wouldn't be the Jays with a little TOOTBLAN, right?
They tacked on a seventh run as Russell Martin lead off the 7th with a solo home run.
Meanwhile, Francisco Liriano was taking care of things on the mound. He was't great early, bouncing a bunch of balls, giving up a solo home run to Marwin Gonzalez leading off the 2nd and generally having to work around a bunch of runners.
He settled in nicely however, giving up a run in the 5th after a leadoff double and a couple singled, briefly surrendering the 2-1 lead to which he had been staked. He really rolled after being staked to the big lead in the 5th, and so John Gibbons made the somewhat questionable decision to send him back out at 100 pitches to start the 7th, though it was the bottom of the order. He was chased by a leadoff double.
Unfortunately, the relievers weren't great tonight. Ryan Tepera was first, allowing the inherited runner to score on a single after back-to-back strikeouts. He came back out for the 8th and Carlos Beltran touched him up for a leadoff home run. After a HBP two batters later, it was the end of his night and Gibby turned to Dominic Leone. He got the first batter, but walked Bregman to bring the tying ru to the plate in Josh Reddick, who has a little power.
So Gibby went back to the bullpen...for Jeff Beliveau? This was a situation that screamed out for Roberto Osuna and his door slamming, but Beliveau got Reddick. So then of course out came Osuna for the 9th, and he did his usual thing, bulldozing through three hitters in order. Let's break this down a little more:
- Tying run at the plate, 4 outs to go (leverage = 1.56) --> minor league free agent journeyman
- Bases clean, up 3, 3 outs to go (leverage = 0.77) --> one of the top relievers in MLB
Frankly, there is no other way to characterize this other than asinine. This is asking for trouble. John Gibby is fortunate it didn't find him.
Anyway, Blue Jays win!
Jays of the Day: Bautista (+0.115 WPA); Pearce (+0.103); Martin (+0.099); and Morales (+0.097). Let's also add in Liriano (+0.021) for the quality start and Donaldson (+0.087, 2/4, BB).
Suckage: None, though Goins (-0.075) made a run for it.
Tomorrow, the Jays will look to extend the win streak and ensure at least a split of the series. According the MLB.com's Probables, Aaron Sanchez will be going against Charlie Morton, which should be an interesting matchup of two pitchers with similar profiles.