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Matz delivers dominant start, meltdown averted as Jays win 6-4

MLB: OCT 01 Orioles at Blue Jays Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Orioles 4 at Blue Jays 6

With the season in the balance, Steven Matz delivered one of his finest outings of the year, completely shutting down the Baltimore Orioles over seven very efficient and shutout innings on less than 80 pitches. He ran into a little trouble in the 8th, a slightly bittersweet ending that devolved into a white knuckle affair, but the complete disaster of a full meltdown was averted.

But for those first seven innings, Mat was dominant with all three pitches sharp and effective. There was some hard contact early, but it found gloves and Matz settled in by the middle innings and was really cruising. He tossed three perfect innings (including the 6th and 7th), and faced the minimum in two others thanks to double plays. To that point, he did had faced two over the minimum, allowing 5 hits while striking out 5 and issuing no free passes.

It was quite fortuitous that he was putting up zeroes early, because it took the bats some time to get in gear, and even then the top of the order was largely MIA. After going in order the first two innings, Santiago Espinal started the bottom or the 3rd by lining a hard single, and Danny Jansen immediately followed by ambushing a first pitch fastball for an absolute bomb to the second level in left-centre:

The Jays got into the bullpen early, but squandered opportunities to pad the lead. Cavan Biggio followed with a single to turn over the order, but the top went in order. Bo Bichette led off the 4th with a double, but was stranded. Biggio singled again to start the 5th, moving to third with one out on a single by Marcus Semien to give Vladimir Guerrero a prime opportunity to drive in a run.

Vladdy swung at the first pitch of the game from reliever Brooks Kriske, starting a very odd chain of events. He hit a high, medium depth fly ball, with Semien running on the play. The latter never saw it in the air, hovering around second, and Austin Hays could have likely doubled him up easily. Instead, he threw home, with a tagging Biggio ruled safe on a bang-bang play. On review, however, the tag clipped Biggio on the helmet before he got his hand in and the inning was over.

Kriske then struck out Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez on seven pitches, seemingly poised for a quick inning after buzz-sawing through the middle of the order on eight pitches. The bottom of the order had different ideas. Corey Dickerson smashed a home run to the 200 level down the right field line, following by Espinal lining a double down the left field line. Jansen followed by doing almost the exact same thing, and scored on Biggio’s third hit. He took second on the throw, and then scored on a slow ground ball single by George Springer deep into the 1B-2B hole despite it being kept on the infield. That made it 6-0 and the Jays appeared in control.

Before moving on, it’s worth highlighting what a whale of a game Espinal had:

  • At the plate, the two hits above to key rallies, plus a walk in between two
  • In the field he might have better. In the 1st inning, he saved Matz a hit with a leaping catch on a line drive by Ryan Mountcastle that has double written all over it.
  • He caught another somewhat softer line drive while drawn in in front of the bag and whipped it to first for a double play to end the third
  • He started another double play in the 5th, ranging well over on a solidly hit ground ball and making a quick and smooth feed to 2nd.
  • He ended up the 6th with a strong accurate throw across the diamond to nip the runner, and the 8th with a deft play though not quite on the same level

After getting a quick first two outs of the 7th, Matz had to work a bit to strike out Pedro Severino to end the innings on seven pitches, one of the few times he seemed to labour. That unfortunately carried over the 8th, as he left a change-up right over the plate on his second pitch of the inning and it was destroyed for a solo shot. He followed with a walk, and Charlie Montoyo rightly had a quick hook given the magnitude.

Alas, it was not Adam Cimber’s night. His second pitch was a slider that flatlined over the plate and was deposited over the fence for a home run to make it suddenly 6-3. He rebounded with a groundout and had Mullins down 0-2 but hit him, then allowing a single to bring the tying run to the plate. Montoyo once again made the right move, going to Jordan Romano.

Romano had a very interesting outing. He started with two very sharp sliders, some of the best he’s thrown this year. He went back to it, and got a routine ground ball on which the Jays almost turned a double play. It was bang-bang, but the safe call was upheld on review, and after the Jays got one overturned early that was similarly close, one can’t complain.

Romano kept going to the well for the slider, his 4th in a row getting another swinging strike. But his 5th didn’t look as good, and the 6th hung out over the plate and was smashed for a single to plate the 4th run. Again, it looked as good as it ever has, but I really question the game calling of one after the other with his dominant fastball sitting in his pocket. It was too cute by half.

He walked Severino (after four more sliders in his first five pitches) bringing the go ahead run to the plate, before getting the groundout to Espinal to end the inning. Romano absolutely slammed the door in the 9th, striking out the side while effectively mixing in both fastball and slider. He punctuated the game by blowing away Ryan McKenna on three fastballs at 98, 99 and 100.

Jays of the Day: Matz (+.342 WPA), Romano (+.146), Jansen (+.161), Espinal (+.054 not counting a bunch of glovework), Biggio (+.068)

Suckage: Cimber (-.094). Vlad had the number at -.110 but only due to Biggio being nipped at the plate counted against him and rolled into his number.

Tomorrow afternoon Alek Manoah will look to end his rookie regular season on a high note as he faces Baltimore ace John Means at 3:07 eastern in another must win game.