Well, Bullpen Day 3.0 went slightly better than the first two iterations - at least in the end, as the start was ominously reminiscent of recent games and things looked like they might seriously derail/implode/pick your metaphor. But through a combination of some offensive firepower and an unlikely shutdown pitching performance, all’s well that ends well.
Mike Hauschild threw 6 shutout innings for the Blue Jays, the first quality “start” by the Blue Jays beleaguered rotation since they landed in the Pacific time zone. If that name seems unfamiliar, you’re not alone. Hauschild is almost a career minor leaguer, with just 8 career MLB innings before tonight as a Rule 5 pick in April 2017 before being returned to Houston. After 76 starts over parts of the last four seasons at AAA Fresno, Houston released him this past weekend and per Shi Davidi, he took a physical an hour before the game, with ink on his contract quite literally barely dry having only been signed a half hour beforehand.
But that was not perhaps as tight a time squeeze as it might seem, since he was not actually the starter. That distinction went to Tyler Clippard, making his first start in over a decade (since June 2008), though I’m reasonably confident that it will be his last given the aforementioned. This would be the aforementioned derailing component.
After the leadoff single, Clippard got two outs, and was poised to finish the inning and maybe even come out a second, but Nelson Cruz had other ideas. He launched an absolute moonshot to left, putting Seattle up 2-0. Clippard then allowed the next two to reach on a walk and single, setting up another jam and one big hit away from a huge hole for the Jays. But he got a flyout to end it.
Not only did it not get worse, but the Jays immediately punched back at Felix Hernandez. Yangervis Solarte singled leading off the 2nd, followed by the first of four hits from Teoscar Hernandez, a double. Brandon Drury couldn’t get either in with a popout, but Luke Maile walked to load the bases before Devon Travis cashed the lead pair with a single.
That was all they managed off King Felix, who got out of the inning without further damage, had two more perfect innings sandwiched around a threat when Teoscar doubled leading off the 4th, advanced to third, but was TOOTBLAN’d breaking for home on a ground ball right to hot corner.
But Hauschild was matching him zero for zero. They weren’t the prettiest of zeroes in the early going, with 1st and 2nd jams with one and no outs in the 2nd and 4th innings respectively. And that was sandwiched around a baserunner in the 3rd erased on a double plays. Beggars, of course, cannot be chosers; and for the first time since last weekend the Jays were not out of by the middle innings.
Hauschild did settle in, retiring eight straight before an ultimately harmless two out bloop single in the 6th, and then the last four batters of his outing (12 of 13 in all). But going to the 7th, the Jays were still no closer to putting some runs on the board. That is until Kendrys Morales took things into his hands, smashing a two out, two run home run just beyond the wall in deep right-centre field to drive in Randall Grichuk.
Hauschild has finished his outing with a deep flyout to right-centre that Safeco just barely held, but Joe Biagini was not so fortunate as the first reliever out of the pen. Cruz immediately took him yard, and the lead was cut to a perilious 4-3. That was followed by an infield single, but Biagini got out of it courtesy of Devon Travis turning a nifty double play, tagging out the runner before throwing to first on the ole 4u-3 GIDP.
So it was off to the 9th, and the Jays managed to not only restore the breathing room, but essentially put things away. Curtis Granderson doubled leading off, and then the Mariners took a page out of the Jays’ Book of Infield Shambles, with Grichuk reaching on a Seager error and then Smoak doing the same as he threw away a double play ball. They tried to repeat the feat, with Seager double clutching another double play ball and the turn at second not handled cleanly, but it could not overcome the inertial forces of Morales up the line.
Fortunately, Aledmys Diaz made that moot, driving another ball out of the yard to push the lead to 7-3 and allowing Ryan Tepera a low pressure and realtively uneventful 9th.
I’ll go way out on limb and predict that Hauschild will be returning with the Jays back east for at least one more turn in this spot fo the rotation.
Jays of the Day: Hauschild (+0.382), Teoscar (+0.297), and Morales (+0.238). Let’s give one to Travis for a key point early and the pretty double play.
Suckage: Clippard (-0.158), Granderson (-0.113) despite a hit, whereas Drury (-0.085) and Maile (-0.080) combined to go 0/5 albeit with 5 walks.
Tomorrow, the Jays will look to build on this nascent win and turn it into a bona fide streak as a pair of lefties duel on the mound in Ryan Borucki and Marco Gonzalez at 10:05 EDT.