Tigers 4 at Blue Jays 2
Facing a pitcher just up from AAA (and who hasn’t even really been starting), the Jays bats failed to capitalize early and then completely disappeared against the Tigers bullpen as they only managed four hits and none after the 5th inning. Bryan Garcia held the Jays in check long enough for the Tiger bats to get to Alek Manoah, who was more hittable than usual.
Manoah actually looked pretty good early, his slider breaking sharply and using his change-up more heavily than usual and pretty effectively. But right from the beginning, the Tigers were making better quality contact than is usual off Manoah. It’s not that they were absolutely rocking him, but they were able to hook a bunch of balls and drive a few others off a guy who usually piles up routine contact in the air.
It started right from the first, with the first three Tigers making decent contact but the first two finding gloves before a two out double that was stranded. Manoah rebounded with an easy 2nd and struck out the first two batters of the 3rd. The second of those was a particularly unfair sequence to Akil Baddoo, starting by dropping in a beautiful slider for a called strike, getting him to flail at a perfectly executed diving change-up, and then freezing him again with a sharp slider.
But that was the highwater of his evening as he then yielded back to back doubles, the first of which was drilled by Riley Greene for the first Tigers run. He gave up another double in the third, and had a scare with a fly ball caught right at the wall by Lourdes Gurriel to end the inning.
His luck finally ran out in the 5th inning. Another threatening fly ball to the wall was tracked down in the gap by Teoscar Hernandez, but with two out he gave up a walk, line drive single and hit by pitch to load the bases before Harold Castro strung together another line drive single for two runs.
Manoah went back out for the 6th, somewhat surprisingly given he lacked his usual sharpness and I thought they might go the pen. Though it worked out that way pretty quickly, Willi Castro finally put one over the fence, ironically a pretty cheap one at just 352 feet. Jonathan Schoop then hit a chopper up the middle that got Manoah’s right (pitching) forearm, causing him visible pain. T
That marked the end with a final line of 5.1 innings, 4 runs on 7 hits, two free passes against four punchouts (none of which came after the third inning or first time through the order). Tim Mayza, David Phelps, Anthony Banda and Max Castillo combined for 3.2 shutout—though not particularly clean or compelling—innings to keep it close. Though what business Banda had pitching in the 8th inning of a close game is beyond me.
But in the end, it didn’t really matter that Manoah wasn’t up to his usual standard, since you’re not going to win too many games with just two runs. And frankly, they were probably lucky to even get that with just four hits. Even with George Springer and Bo Bichette out the lineup, it was particularly disappointing against a AAA call-up, even if he pitched quite credibly.
The first came as Matt Chapman continued to tear the cover off the ball, blasting a no doubter 420 feet to dead centre in the 2nd inning. That tied the game 1-1, and the Jays briefly took a 2-1 lead in the 4th lead, capitalizing on a couple two out free passes with Raimal Tapia knocking a RBI single that spelled the end for Garcia.
But that was basically it, as Santiago Espinal grounded out to end the threat, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the only one to reach the rest of the game with a 5th inning single and 8th inning walk. The others went 16 up, 16 down.
One other point to touch one were the ball/strikes call. Given the above, it probably wasn’t decisive, but it did seem like Manoah got squeezed a few times on important calls, where Tiger pitchers got a handful of calls gifted to them.
Jays of the Day: By the numbers, none, but Chapman (+0.086 WPA) came close and merits one as one of the few who did anything at the plate. Tapia (+0.080) came close as well
Suckage: Manoah (-0.221), Biggio (-0.109), Teoscar (-0.121), and Kirk (-0.108). Dishonourable mention to Espinal (-0.084), Gurriel (-0.081) and Collins (-0.076), cumulatively 0-for-9. Frankly, an impressive job of spreading around what’s ultimately a fixed amount of suckage. Also John Schneider for using Banda in the 8th.
Tomorrow, they’re back at it at 3:05 EDT, with old friend Drew Hutchison taking on Ross Stripling.