Blue Jays 9 at Brewers 4
After a tough start to their Midwest road trip, the Jays rebounded strongly to dominate their one-time pesky divisional rival on both sides of the ball. Hopefully it doesn’t end up a pyrrhic victory, however, as Alejandro Kirk left in the 7th in visible pain after being hit by a backswing, after continuing his torrid streak at the plate with four hits to pace the offensive attack (along with Cavan Biggio).
The Jays built an early lead by jumping all over Adrian Houser in the 2nd inning with six straight hits, starting with a run of hard hit balls at low angles. Leading off, Kirk hit a hard ground ball up the middle, and Teoscar Hernández followed with a solid ground ball that just snuck up the middle. Raimel Tapia followed with a hard ground ball of his own to load the bases.
Matt Chapman then joined the parade by smashing a gliner down the third base line for a double to clear the bases. He in turn scored on the first ball of the inning that was really elevated, as Lourdes Gurriel smashed a fliner just over the right fielder’s head for a double. Not to be left out, Biggio hammered a low line drive just past Rowdy Tellez to make it 5-0. The rally ended abruptly with a quick double play and bounce out by Santiago Espinal and Bo Bichette, but it was already more than enough.
For his part, Alek Manoah had to work around more damage than usual, but was very good and more or well coasted to the win after being staked to the lead. He induced double play ground balls in both the first two innings after giving up soft line drive dunkers to face the minimum.
The third inning required a bit more a highwire act, as Manoah bookended a pair of walks around a pair of strikeouts. With two out, he got a pretty routine ground ball to third, but Chapman uncharacteristically booted it to load the bases. Fortunately, Manoah got Tellez to ground out to hold Milwaukee at bay. He worked around another walk in an otherwise easy 4th.
The Brewers finally got to Manoah in the 5th, as Jace Peterson lined a hard single leading off. Old friend Jonathan Davis muscled a ball just over the infield as Manoah couldn’t put him away with two strikes after dominating him to get there. But as he often does, he limited the damage by getting Christian Yelich to ground out (bringing in the run), a popout and then major league can of corn to right from Tellez. Manoah finally posted a clean inning in the 6th, looking very strong.
Having scattered just a few hits off Houser since their big inning, the Jays went off for some insurance as the Brewers went to the pen in the 7th. Cavan Biggio worked the count full (of course) against Trevor Kelley, then hammered a 380-foot fliner to right to for a solo shot. With two out, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. beat out an infield tapper to bring Captain Kirk back up. He jumped on a hanging curveball, crushing an absolute missile to left field that just barely had the height to clear the wall for a two run shot and 8-2 lead. It wasn’t quite as ridiculous as the laser beam Vlad crushed last year that barely rose, but not far off.
After the layoff, Manoah came back out for the 7th, and his velocity dipped down to start the inning as he approached 100 pitches. He got ahead of Tyrone Taylor 0-2, but grooved a fastball that Taylor absolutely crushed to left-centre. After a flyout, Davis came back up and fouled off a 1-0 pitch, and his backswing caught Kirk on the wrist leaving him visibly in discomfort.
Kirk stayed in the game for the time being, likely mostly to avoid a further delay with Manoah nearing the end. Manoah struck out Davis, but despite wanting a chance to finish the inning it was the end of the line for him, and Kirk departed as well. Hopefully he’s okay, but this is is exactly the danger in having such a special bat taking a beating behind the plate. Manoah’s final line was a workmanlike 2 runs on 5 hits over 6.2 innings, 3 walks against 6 strikeouts. (Editor’s Note: Kirk’s x-rays came back negative)
Matt Gage finished off the inning, and started the 8th before Jeremy Beasley finished the inning while working around a hit-by-pitch. Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish off the job in the 9th, getting shelled for three smashed balls and necessitating Charlie Montoyo to use Adam Cimber who got the last two outs (the last being Tellez for an 0-for-5 night on which he was quite overmatched).
Jays of the Day: By the numbers, just Manoah (+0.175 WPA) and Chapman (+0.133), though less 5.2% on the error only leaves a net of 0.081 so none for him. The distributed nature of the offensive attack prevented anyone else for hitting the threshold, but Kirk (+0.074) deserved one for the 4-for-4 as well as Biggio (+0.065) who also reached all four times with the single, HR, and two walks.
Suckage: Beasley, for not being able to finish out the game and requiring Montoyo to burn Cimber. Espinal had the low number at -0.070 with the 0-for-5 (and almost an errant throw).
Tomorrow, the Jays will look to secure the series at 4:05 EDT, though they’ll be in tough to do so with Yusei Kikuchi against reigning Cy Young Corbin Burnes who has not skipped a beat in 2022. But wouldn’t it be nice to pull one out.