Boston 10, Toronto 7
Tonight’s baseball was like a beautiful summer game, seemingly perfect with endless clear skies, fluffy clouds overhead, and a pleasant breeze. Until a wind starts picking up, and the sky darkens, and then a violent thunderstorm erupts, ripping branches from trees. It doesn’t last long; but the damage is done, the day ruins, and you’re left trying to pick up the pieces. The only difference being, tonight it happened twice.
Marcus Stroman threw 7 brilliant innings of two hit baseball. Like Marco Estrada the other night, the box score is rather pedestrian other than the hits column - 3 walks against 4 strikeouts - but like with Estrada’s effort it belies just how good is for. For like Estrada with the weak fly balls, when Stroman is dominant he piles up weak and routine contact on the ground. And did he ever do that in droves. Red Sox hitters put the ball in play 18 times against Stroman. 16 of them were on the ground.
A pitcher recording all outs in an inning is referred to as striking out the side (in order, if all batters are retired). Four times, Stroman grounded out the side, although of each in a slightly different manner. In the 2nd inning, he erased a walk on a double play; in the 3rd it was in order. In the 6th, it was around a two out walk. In the 7th, after a leadoff double (in the air). Add to that another two perfect innings when he struck out a pair with a groundout in each, and one gets a sense of how good he really was.
The Red Sox did get to him for one run in the 3rd inning. It started with a fly out, but perhaps that was a bad harbinger. The next batter reached on a Devon Travis error, followed by a walk and then a J.D. Martinez ground ball that got though for a RBI single. It was the only hit he allowed on the ground, not even hit that hard at just 80 MPH off the bat, but that’s the reality of ground balls. Stroman extricated himself from the inning with...a ground ball double play.
At just 92 pitches, Stroman came back for the 8th. But while warming up, a “hot spot” on his finger that he’s apparently been dealing with for a few spot seemingly flared up into a full blown blister, ending his evening and turning it over to a bullpen that provided little in the way of relief. But we’ll get to that unpleasantness in shortly.
In the mean time, the bats had done enough to stake Stroman to a decent lead at 3-1. Frankly could and should have had more seeing as they had at least one baserunner in every single inning, and it could had saved a fair bit of misery later.
They got on the board in the 3rd inning as Travis continued to hit the ball well, crushing a 428 foot home run off Drew Pomeranz, driving in Randall Grichuk who walk ahead of him. They then stranded a Luke Maile leadoff double in the 5th, and managed nary a run in the 6th despite loading the bases with none out. Sandy Leon did make a nice play on a Maile tapper up the third base line, grabbing it and tagging Kendrys Morales running past.
An insurance run was added in in the 7th, as Travis singled leading off and advanced to second and then third on a pair of errors before Teoscar Hernandez brought him home on a sac fly sandwiched between strikeouts. It just wasn’t enough insurance...
Ryan Tepera came in after Stroman walked off the mound, and got a strikeout to start. Then it went downhill quickly, double-walk-single to load the bases. Mitch Moreland had an RBI ground out, but the jays still led and just needed the last out. Alas, J.D. Martinez was not so disposed, and took Tepera yard to turn the two run lead into a two run deficit.
To their credit, the bats struck back in the bottom of the inning, as Yangervis Solarte led off with a solid line drive single and scored another Maile double with two out. Tyler Clippard then held the line with a perfect 9th featuring two strikeouts.
That meant Craig Kimbrel for the 9th, in which he true to form struck out the side - but critically, not in order. And that not-in-order part with an immensely satisfying one out home run by Justin Smoak to tie the game. There are few things in baseball more fun than hanging a blown save on Kimbrel.
So, to extras, with Ken Giles out to make his home debut at Rogers Centre. He got a strike to start (sound familiar?), overpowering Leon whiffing at the slider. Then more deja vu as it went downhill quickly. Giles hung a slider to Mookie Betts, who mashed it. Pillar was shaded the wrong way and just barely missed a diving catch, with Betts ended up at third, 90 feet from plating the go ahead run.
He had to wait a bit, as Andrew Benintendi walked, but then both walked home as Mitch Moreland cranked out a back breaking three run home run. Adding insult to injury, after an out and single, Jackie Bradley Jr. obliterated an absolute cookie of a hanging fastball at the top of the zone for a second home run to make it 10-5. Giles came into the game with a massive ERA-FIP of 2.72 and managed to increase it to 3.15.
And that latter home run was significant, as Solarte once again singled leading off the inning and Pillar absolutely turned in a middle-middle fastball from Tyler Thornburg into the second deck. But that was it. Turning T.S. Elliot’s line on its head, the Jays went with a (series of) bang(s) and not a whimper.
Super Jay of the Day: Smoak (+0.436 WPA)
Jays of the Day: Solarte (+0.151), Travis (+0.113, though he both gets credit from advancing on the errors and not debited for his error), Maile (+0.099)
Super Suckage: Tepera (-0.684) and Giles (-0492). Unbelievable.
Suckage: Grichuk (-0.193) and Pillar (-0.161).
Tomorrow, Mike Hauschild will make his first de jure start as a Blue Jays, and after tonight I say just let him go until the game’s over one way or another. He faces LHP Brian Johnson at 7:05 as the Jays try to flush this one and rebound.