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Jays Win, but at a Cost

Extend winning streak to 7 games but may have lost Ryu

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Blue Jays offensive revival continued, with 7 runs off 10 hits and 8 walks. On the pitching side, starter Hyun-Jin Ryu struggled, with his fastball velocity starting around 88 and falling to 86 before he was pulled with what was later revealed to be forearm tightness. Hopefully he can recover, but two elbow/forearm injuries within the first two months of the season is extremely ominous. The bullpen came through in a big way, though, with Stripling, Phelps and Garcia combining for five innings of scoreless relief to secure the victory.

Ryu got off to a rough start, with A.J. Pollock taking his third pitch of the game over the left field wall. He found his footing quickly, though, getting Andrew Vaughn to ground out, striking out Jose Abreu, and popping up Luis Robert in his first game off the COVID IL.

Santiago Espinal, coming off a rest day and newly promoted to the leadoff spot, had apparently been watching Pollock’s at bat and decided to get in on the fun himself, taking the second pitch he saw deep to left to tie the game. At 407 feet, it was the deepest home run of his career so far. He continues to be the rare ‘best shap of this life’ story that actually means something. After Bo Bichette grounded out and Vlad Guerrero jr. struck out looking, Teoscar Hernandez slapped a ground ball single up the middle. Alejandro Kirk crushed a line drive to left, but directly to Pollock for the third out.

The top of the second was uneventful, with two non-threatening balls in play and a strikeout. In the bottom, half, though, Kopech really struggled. He struck out Lourdes Gurriel jr. to start things off, but Matt Chapman and Danny Jansen followed that with two solid line drives (although Jansen’s was caught). Raimel Tapia crushed a ball to the gap in right that hopped the wall for a ground rule double, stopping Chapman at third. Kopech started to lose the plate at this point, walking Espinal to load the based and then Bichette to drive in the go ahead run. He recovered to get Vlad swinging on a 98mph fastball on the top inside corner after a tough battle. It was an impressive inning from the Jays offense, but disappointing to only get one after all that work.

Ryu kept right on rolling in the top of the third, surrendering a ground ball single to Danny Mendick but promptly erasing it by inducing a room service double play ball by Pollock. The offense, after two innings of being all over Kopech with relatively little to show for it, finally blew the game open in the home half of the inning. Hernandez lead off with a walk and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice chopper by Kirk. Chapman also worked a walk to put two on, and following Gurriel’s second strikeout of the night, Jansen cleared them with an absolute shot 419 fee tot he power alley in left, putting the Jays up 5-1. It was Jansen’s 7th home run in just 43 at bats this year, an incredible start after his breakout second half last year. Tapia slashed a low liner to right and legged a single into a double, but Kopech was able to get Espinal to ground out to stop the bleeding.

The fourth opened with an Andrew Vaughn fly to right that Hernandez bobbled, turning what should probably have been an over the shoulder catch into a double. Abreu took advantage, with a towering blast over 450 feet into the second deck to make it 5-3. Ryu got Robert swinging, but Jake Burger kept the White Sox rally going with a high fly off the centre field wall for a double. Chapman made a nice play on a soft grounder to hold Burger at second and still get the speedy Leury Garcia at first, and Ryu steadied himself to strike out Adam Engel and stop the rally short. Kyle Crick took over for the Sox in the bottom of the inning, and other than a walk by Hernandez the Jays weren’t able to get anything going

Ross Stripling took over for Ryu in the fifth and looked good, facing the minimum and picking up a strikeout. The Jays still couldn’t muster much against Krick. Gurriel lead off with a line drive single and Chapman hit one to the track, but it was easily caught. Dany Jansen struck out, and Gurriel got himself caught stealing to end it. It was a stupid steal attempt, and he was out by several feet. Baserunning mistakes drive me nuts, and this was a bad idea executed really poorly.

Stripling stayed in for the sixth and got into a bit of a jam that wasn’t really his fault. After getting Vaughn to ground out, he broke Jose Abreu’s bat but the ball blooped just over the infield to drop for a single. Robert then slapped a ground ball past where Vlad would have been standing if he hadn’t been covering first, sending Abreu all the way to third with only one out. He recovered well, though, striking Burger out and getting a line drive from Garcia that Espinal was able to knock down and flip to first to end the inning without runs scoring.

Facing Matt Foster for Chicago, Tapia popped out and Espinal struck out swinging to burn the Jays’ first two outs. Bo walked, making it the exceedingly rare two walk game for him to try to get something going. Guerrero, who’d looked awful his first three times up, hit a soft grounder to second base and appeared to beat the throw for an infield single. LaRussa challenged, and on replay it truly looked like a tie. I think whatever was called live would have stood, and as it happened the umpires agreed, confirming the safe call. Foster got Hernandez though, and the Jays weren’t able to capitalize on the opportunity.

Stripling was allowed to start the top of the seventh, and got two outs quickly on an Engel grounder and a McGuire can of corn. Mendick snuck a soft ground ball single between Bichette and Espinal, and at that point Montoyo lifted him for David Phelps. It’s easy to armchair manage, and I can see the logic in not wanting to lead the meat of the Chicago lineup get a second look at Ross, but removing a reliever who’s cruising is always risky. Phelps quickly dug a hole, allowing a ground ball single to Pollock and walking Vaughn to load the bases. He fell behind Abreu too, but was able to get a chopper to short that Bichette converted for the final out

José Ruiz handled the seventh for the White Sox. He got Kirk to pop out in foul territory, making him the only Blue Jay not to reach in his first four trips to the plate, then after walking Gurriel retired Chapman on a pop up and Jansen on a soft grounder.

The Jays stuck with Phelps in the eighth, but inserted Zimmer for Tapia for defensive purposes. He started off by striking out Robert looking, then got Burger to fly out to Zimmer and got a very nice diving play from Chapman on a Garcia grounder to get out of the inning clean. The downside of inserting Zimmer for his defense was made apparent when he struck out against Bennett Sousa to lead off the bottom half of the inning. Espinal hit one well up the right field line, but Burger was able to field it for the out. Bichette did manage to get on, taking his third (!) walk of the night to bring Vlad to the plate. The last time Bo walked three times in a game was May of 2018, and he was in AA at the time. I don’t know whether a bit of luck in Vlad’s last PA loosened him up, but he smoked one to dead centre to put the Jays up 7-3. It was the kind of swing he hasn’t had in a week, and hopefully it heralds a return to form for June. Importantly, it was on a low fastball, which is a pitch he’s consistently pounded into the ground this season. Teoscar followed that up with a hard line drive off the wall in left. He almost got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, but was safe when Garcia dropped the throw at the bag. Kirk grounded out to end the inning, making him the only Jays starter not to reach base on the day and the only one other than Jansen not to get on at least twice.

With the save off the table, Jimi Garcia came in to try to close it out. The Sox inserted Yoan Moncada to pinch hit for Engel, but Garcia caught him looking for the first out. McGuire chopped one to second for out number two. Down to their final out, Chicago pinch hit Gavin Sheets for Mendick, but he flied out harmlessly to centre to end it.

Jays of the Day: Stripling (0.163), Phelps (0.107), Jansen (0.161), and I’m giving two to Espinal (0.091) and Bichette (0.065) for some career firsts even if they were a little short of the number.

Suckage: Nobody qualifies, although Kirk (-0.065) had a pretty rough night

We’re back at 3:07ET tomorrow. Alek Manoah will look to extend the winning streak to 8 and hopefully to give the bullpen a little mercy. Chicago will start Johnny Cueto.