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Jays Pull Away in the Ninth to Win Game One

MLB: Game One-Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The rain settled in in the bottom of the first and looked like it was off and on from there, but the game was never in danger of being suspended. It looked like another slow day from the offence until the ninth, when they finally put up the big-ish inning that’s eluded them all weekend. On the pitching side, other than a wobbly outing from Tim Mayza they looked very solid. Kevin Gausman managed to give them a little length, which is huge in a double header, and the bullpen did their job.

Winning game one is big. If the Jays can take three in this series, they’ll put themselves up four and a half on their main competition for the final wild card with just 26 to play, firmly in the driver’s seat in the chase for their first playoff berth in five years.

Like yesterday in Pittsburgh, the hitters looked like they were on starter Mike Baumann but couldn’t quite put together the big inning. They got on the board in the second. Matt Chapman doubled on a liner off the base on the newly extended left field wall and scored on a liner past the second baseman by Cavan Biggio. It would have been a homer with last year’s Camden Yards dimensions, and so would the fly out that Chapman would hit in his next at bat.

The Jays took the lead in the third on some more small ball. George Springer lead off with a single, and after a deep fly out by Vladimir Guerrero jr, advanced to third on a Bo Bichette single. Alejandro Kirk hit what looked like a room service double play ball, but uber-prospect Gunnar Henderson dropped the ball trying to make the turn at second base, allowing Springer to come in to score. I guess you don’t see wheels like Kirk’s much in the minors and it can be a bit intimidating in your first week in the show.

A similar sequence would play out in the fifth. Springe lined a one out single, and Vlad moved him to third with a low liner absolutely ripped back over the mound that bounced off a diving Henderson’s glove. It wasn’t really a makeable play, but the next one, a soft grounder from Bichette, should have been an easy double play except that Henderson bobbled it and had to throw to first, allowing Springer to score and extend the Jays’ lead to 3-1. Baumann would get out of the inning without allowing further damage, but that would be it for him,

Joey Krehbiel came in to work the sixth and retired the side in order. He came back to start the seventh and gave up a leadoff double to Lourdes Gurriel jr. Santiago Espinal moved him to third with a ground out after failing twice to lay down a bunt. I don’t hate a bunt in that situation, strategically, but you need to make sure you have a hitter who can do it, and as we’ve seen lately Espinal is terrible at it. Anyway, that knocked Krehbie out in favour of Bryan Baker. Baker got a weak grounder from Springer that didn’t allow Gurriel to score, intentionally walked Vlad (who stole second), and struck Bichette out to end the inning

In the eighth, Teoscar Hernandez took Baker deep with a solo shot over the centre field wall, making it 4-2. Baker was able to get Kirk to fly out and struck out Chapman before being replaced by lefty DL Hall. Schneider countered by hitting Whit Merrifield for Biggio, but Merrifield lined out to end it.

Finally, in the top of the ninth, the Jays were able to put together a crooked number inning. Gurriel lead off with a single and advanced on a wild pitch. Espinal walked, and Springer singled to score Gurriel. Baltimore thought they got Espinal going into second, but the safe call on the field was upheld. Guerrero kept the train rolling with a ground ball single of his own to score Espinal, and Bichette did the same to score Springer. That knocked Hall out of the game. Beau Sulser came on and walked Kirk to load the bases, but Jackie Bradley jr (who came in defensively for Hernandez in the eighth) hit a grounder that allowed Mateo to gun Vlad down at home, and Rutschman threw it on to first for a double play. Sulser struck out Chapman to end it there. Still, the parade of hits scored 3, putting the Jays up 7-3 and allowing them to use Zach Pop in the ninth instead of asking Jordan Romano for a third consecutive save.

Kevin Gausman had a pretty good afternoon. He have up a first inning home run to Anthony Santander (after getting squeezed badly on what should have been a called strike three), and there were some other hard hit balls, but for the next four innings the Orioles didn’t threaten much.

There was a weird moment in the fourth, when second base umpire Jeff Nelson called a balk over what appeared to be nothing but Gausman’s usual toe bounce before his delivery. Gausman was furious, and would certainly have gotten himself tossed if Bichette hadn’t alertly gotten himself between his pitcher and the umpire and calmed things down. The call moved Adley Rutschman to second (after he’d reached on a pop up that found a hole in the four man outfield), but a pumped up Gausman K’d the next three batters (with the help of a generous low zone that might have been a bit of a makeup).

Baltimore got a couple on with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, with an infield single from Henderson and a liner to centre from Jesus Aguillar, but Gausman induced two pop outs and a routine ground out to escape the jam.

Baltimore drew closer in the sixth. Rutschman reached on a soft liner just past the second base bag. Blue Jay killer Ryan Mountcastle lofted a fly off the right field wall that Hernandez played poorly, allowing Rutschman to come all the way around to score, making it 3-2. Gausman was able to bear down from there, retiring the next three batters.

Schneider allowed Gausman to start the seventh. He got a ground out from Aguillar, allowed a ground ball single to Austin Hays, and got a fly out from Jorge Mateo before being lifted for Tim Mayza. Mayza drew a ground out from Cedric Mullins to end the inning and close the book on Gausman’s afternoon. He went 6.2, allowed 7 hits and 2 runs, while striking out 6. Very solid work.

Mayza stayed in to start the eighth, but Hernandez was replaced with Jackie Bradley jr. in right. Mayza struck out Rutschman, but then surrendered Santander’s second homer of the day to bring the Orioles within one. He was pulled for Adam Cimber. Cimber gave up some foul ball rockets to Mountcastle before getting a strikeout call on a ball that was probably three inches low. He then got a comebacker ground out from pinch hitter Kyle Stowers.

Zach Pop worked a clean ninth to close it out, striking out Henderson and getting a line out and a ground out.

Jays of the Day: Gausman (0.175) and Gurriel (0.140) where the only ones who had the number, but most of the offence contributed today.

Suckage: Espinal (-0.110)

We’ll be back this afternoon, weather permitting. Jose Berrios is scheduled to take on Jordan Lyles, although Lyles is apparently sick so Baltimore may have to make a change or go with a bullpen game.