Yankees 6 at Blue Jays 2
It is said that history does not repeat, but it rhymes, and September 30th has not been kind to the Blue Jays recently. For the second straight season, the Blue Jays sent a left handed ace to the mound against a division rival with their season in the balance, and for the second straight season a big inning sank them while they only posted two runs. Unlike last year’s loss to Tampa with Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Jays are not eliminated, but their odds took a big blow. To underline the sense of déjà vu, both games featured two dominant innings from Nate Pearson for good measure.
The first inning hinted at what was to come. After a leadoff strikeout, Ray got away with an 0-1 fastball down the middle to Anthony Rizzo, who eventually grounded out weakly a few pitches later. He was not so lucky a few pitches later when he did the same thing in a 1-1 count to Aaron Judge. It was absolutely launched to to the Flight Deck in centre for a no doubt, 445 foot home run to put the Yankees up 1-0.
Ray settled in after getting squeezed on a couple of borderline pitches and walking Gary Sanchez to start the 2nd. He got a strikeout, popout, and briefly nerve-wracking fly out to the warning track that seemed very routine but carried. Ray worked a perfect third on three medium flyouts against the top of the order. He was managing the contact, but again to foreshadow, generally things don’t go well when the top of the Yankee order is elevating the ball.
In retiring Brett Gardner on a popout to open the 5th, Ray re-passed Jose Berrios for the American League lead in innings pitched. where he should finish with Berrios and Frankie Montas behind him having pitches yesterday and no one else within 10 IP. He completed a run of 12 batters set down n a row with a strikeout to end the inning.
Meanwhile the Jays bats weren’t doing a whole lot against Corey Kluber as he mixed-and-matched in the 80s. They knotted up the game in the 5th when Bo Bichette lead off by lining a short single up the middle and stealing second. Corey Dickerson hooked a ball down the right field line to cash him
It is often said that baseball is a game of inches, and never has that truism been more in display then in the bottom of the 5th. With one out, George Springer hit a low liner that a leaping Gleyber Torres could not secure. Marcus Semien followed by tapping a ground ball that looked like and was initially ruled as his second GIDP, but he just barely beat it out and it was overturned on review.
That allowed Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to come to the plate with a runner on. He absolutely levelled a Kluber change-up over the plate, driving it off the very top of the fence for a go ahead, missing a two home run home run by literally an inch. I’m not sure if I’m not surprised that that ball didn’t bounce up and out, or that the centrefield fence didn’t just fall over from the impact as I doubt it’s even taken a ball lined quite so directly in its 30+ year history.
112.8 MPH off the bat!— MLB (@MLB) October 1, 2021
Vladdy was an inch away from his 47th HR. pic.twitter.com/zzeQeivHeL
Starting the 6th inning by retiring DJ LeMahieu on a comebacker the mound for his 13th straight batter retired, Ray seemed on the verge of locking up the Cy Young. Unfortunately, it may instead end up the highwater mark of the 2021 Blue Jays season, as it very quickly and swiftly unraveled from there, as Ray’s last ut of the regular season was in the books.
Falling behind Rizzo 3-1, he left a high fastball over the middle of the plate. Rizzo got way underneath it, but connected enough to pull it out of the park and tie the game. A bit of cheapie, but give up enough well reasonably well struck fly balls and eventually one is going to go out of the field.
Three pitches later Ray again left a 1-1 fastball over the plate to Judge, and again Judge absolutely levelled it. It wasn’t quite as majestic as the first one, but an absolute n-doubt demo job to dead centre.
After walking Giancarlo Stanton a second time after a Judge HR, Ray got ahead of Torres 0-2 with a pair of fastball whiffs, but lleft another over the plate and Torres took him yard once again for the coup-de-grace and 5-2 lead. If there’s one blemish for Ray in 2021, it’s been the long ball, and it returned to bite him in his regular season swan song.
That took the air out of the Jays balloon, and effectively was the end. Trevor Richards cleaned up the inning handily, and Nate Pearson came out for the 7th. As he was a year ago, he was absolutely electric over two dominant innings, painting corners with 100+ MPH heat and a sharp slider.
The 9th proved messier with Julian Merryweather, with Vladdy dropping a foul pop, a fifth home run to Brett freaking Gardner (of course) before Gio Urshela notched the only hit that didn’t go out of the park. Despite that, his stuff was actually quite sharp.
Offensively, the Jays went pretty quietly the last four innings against a succession of Yankees relievers, outside of Santiago Espinal notching a couple ground ball singles, Bichette knocking a double, and Springer lining out to short.
Jays of the Day: Bichette (+.112 WPA), Vladdy (+.104, minus some demerit for the dropped foul pop). Honourable mention to Dickerson (+.054) with two hits.
Suckage: Ray (-.296), Teoscar (-.164), Semien (-.129) with Grichuk (-.084) and Kirk (-.075) not far behind. Ray went from +0.231 to -0.296 in the space of four batters and about five minutes. Baseball is cruel.
While the Jays are now three games behind the Yankees and effectively locked out of the top spot, if there is a silver lining it’s that with the Orioles taking the series they remain just a game behind the Red Sox and Mariners for the second spot and are not dead.
With the Orioles coming to town, a sweep would give them a reasonable chance of playing past this weekend, while two-of-three against the Orioles is essentially the bare minimum and would require some help elsewhere. They’ll look to regroup and work towards just that tomorrow evening sending Steven Matz to the mound against the eponymous TBD.