Blue Jays 8 Clevelanders 4
The Jays improved to 9-5 in taking the opener Friday night in Cleveland, and for my money, it might have been the single most impressive Blue Jays win in 2018 thus far. They fell into a deep hole early on, but instead of having things spiral on them and/or throwing in the towel, they held the line until the bats could generate some life. And despite being handily outhit 12-7 in total, the Jays made the most of their hits to plate 8 runs,
Marcus Stroman got jumped on hard right from the start, yielding a pair of runs in each of the first two innings. He had trouble finding the strike zone, and wasn’t locating well when he was in the zone resulting in a lot of hard contact. He did strike out four and there was a soft single in there, but in total he gave up a walk and 6 hits (two hard doubles).
Meanwhile, Mike Clevinger had the Jays tied up in knots, with a Kevin Pillar double the only blemish through three otherwise perfect innings. This one consequently appeared to be heading in the direction of the Pens-Flyers Game 1, but baseball has a funny way of surprising one.
In the 4th inning, Clevinger put a pair on via walks, and with two out was made to pay for having done so. Pillar singled home the first run with his second hard hit in as many trips. Aledmys Diaz then followed up with with his fourth home run of the year, a three-run bomb to dead centre. Just like that, improbably, it was all square.
Cleveland continued to have chances against Stroman, with two runners in both the 3rd the 5th innings. But with Stroman once again on the ropes, they failed to inflict further damage and go back in front.
Danny Barnes came in for the 6th inning, and it was more of the same. Francisco Lindor notched this third hit of the game with a one out double. A batter later, Jose Ramirez hit a hard ground towards second base. Devon Travis couldn’t field it cleanly, but critically kept it in front of him and recovered, made a good throw home to gun down Lindor at the plate and keep it tied.
As it turned out, that the last offensive gasp for Cleveland, as they went down in order their last turn through the order. Tyler Clippard, Ryan Tepera and Roberto Osuna turned in perfect innings as what began with a bang ended with a whimper.
But that’s putting the cart in front of the horse. Leading off the 7th, Randal Grichuk walked and then stole second and stole second. Travis advanced him to third with a “productive out” to the left side, and the Jays were on the verge of manufacturing their first run since May 17, 2017 (approximately). Alas, Steve Pearce grounded to first with Grichuk breaking on contact, he was DOA, and for the second straight half inning the go ahead run was cut down at the plate.
Enter Teoscar. But all was not lost, as Teoscar Hernandez fell into an 0-2 hole, but battled and lined to a double to left to plate Pearce and put the Jays ahead. A very nice piece of hitting indeed.
They clung to the 5-4 lead until the 9th, when they tacked onto the lead, something Cleveland failed to do. With two on, Pearce and Teoscar hit back-to-back line drive doubles, plating three runs and putting the game away. Strictly speaking, they weren’t material to the outcome, but I’m sure Osuna enjoyed the breathing room.
In closing, I think it’s worth noting the analogue to this game. On April 1st, the Jays were badly outhitting the Yankees over the first six innings but trailed 4-2. But they stormed back then too, plating six runs over the 7th and 8th to earn the series split.
Jays of the Day: Diaz (+0.237 WPA), Teoscar (+0.145), Tepera (+0.149), Clippard (+0.112).
Suckage: Stroman is basically right at the threshold (-0.098), but we’ll spare him one for holding the line with the last three scoreless on a night when he didn’t have his best stuff. Justin Smoak also had a night to forget (-0.073, 0/4, 3K).
Tomorrow, the series is scheduled to pick back up at 4:00 EDT with Jaime Garcia opposing Corey the Klubot, though the weather forecast might have something to say about that.