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Jays spoil Stroman’s return

Stroman shut down the Jays bats, but the bullpen faltered again

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Toronto Blue Jays John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Cubs 3 at Blue Jays 5

For a second straight night the Jays did precious little at the plate against the Cubs’ starter. But for the second straight night they exploited the Cubs bullpen, and so for the second consecutive night they came from behind to pull out a close win. The marquee pitching matchup between Kevin Gausman and old friend Marcus Stroman in his first return to Toronto more than lived up to its billing.

Gausman was overall very sharp and quite dominant in piling up 9 strikeouts in 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits with just one free pass. He faced the minimum the first time through the order, with leadoff hits in the 1st and 2nd erased on a double play and caught stealing. He streamrolled the bottom of the lineup, striking out five in a row including rookie Nelson Velazquez who had a priceless reaction to his trademark splitter that was essentially “you don’t see that in Triple-A”.

That said, Cubs did a very good job of punishing the few mistakes Gausman did make. When he left a fastball over the middle of the plate in the 2nd Seiya Suzuki smashed an absolute missile right about the back. The caught stealing negated it, but in the 4th inning he hung a slider at the top of the zone and Wilson Contreras demolished it for a home run to put the Cubs up 1-0. Leading off the 6th, Christopher Morel likewise homered on a fastball down the chute.

For his part, Stroman was matching Gausman zero for zero. The Jays threatened in the first as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. bounced a ground ball through the left side before Bo Bichette lined a double the other way and Matt Chapman walked to load the bases. But Stroman for Teoscar Hernandez to bounce out, the first off 11 straight he set down and all very routinely. His slider was characteristically sharp and well-located, and so Stroman was a hot knife through butter.

He finally gave them an inch in the 5th, as a sinker got away from him and hit Danny Jansen on the forearm. A passed ball advanced him to second where it looked like he might be be stranded, but with two out George Springer drew a walk before Vladdy sent another ground ball single up the middle to cash Jansen and tie game (for a couple minutes as it turned out).

With the Cubs taking the lead in the top of the 6th, it was somewhat surprising to see Stroman removed after 5 innings at 88 pitches, especially after the bullpen blew blew it last night. It didn’t take long for that to backfire, as reliever Brandon Little, hit Bichette, Chapman tapped a ball that Little slipped fielded allowing him to reach, and Teoscar teed off to right field for a three run dagger. That gave the Jays a 4-2 lead that they didn’t relinquish.

The last three inning were not exactly easy, as David Phelps got two quick outs in the 7th before walking two. In came Anthony Bass, who prompted yielded a double to Morel to make it 4-3 before getting out with no further damage. Fortunately, Vladdy promptly struck back leading off the bottom of the inning, going the other way and just barely over the fence.

Trevor Richards gave up a leadoff single in the 8th before rebounding with two strikeouts, but once again John Schneider opted for the mid-inning change. In came Jordan Romano, who got a ground ball to short. in the 9th he hit Velazquez (failing multiple times to finish him off with two strikes) to briefly create some drama, but got the last two outs easily to secure the game.

Jays of the Days: Vlad (+0.285 WPA), Teoscar (+0.220) and Romano (+0.103). Gausman (+0.001) doesn’t come close, but merits one too for the quality start.

Suckage: Gurriel (-0.115) as one of four 0-fers in the lineup tonight, but the only 0-for-4.

Tomorrow, the Jays will look to close out August by completing the sweep behind Mitch White, who will be taking on...someone (presumably) at 7:07 EDT.