Excruciating. The rare game when the pitchers couldn’t get it done, and the offence scored but left a lot on the table. They had many good opportunities to win this game but refused to take any of them. You don’t want to catastrophize with a full month of baseball left to play and only 2.5 games separating them from a wildcard berth, but if they do wind up missing the playoffs then today’s game might be the one we look back on as the point where an already teetering season went fully off the rails.
There were also casualties. Bo Bichette was pulled in the fifth with a quad injury, and Matt Chapman was pinch hit for in the sixth after aggravating the finger injury that caused him to miss three games last week. Hopefully neither is serious, it would mean way more than the FDA approved safe dose of Santiago Espinal if either missed significant time.
Yusei Kikuchi battled his command more than he has in a while, and combined with some very dicey umpiring it added up to his worst start since the All Star break.
It started well. He sat the Guardians down in order in the first, and in the second he worked around a Kole Calhoun line single and a walk to get out of tur second without allowing a run.
Cleveland got on the board in the third. Myles straw walked with the help of some questionable ball calls, and one batter later Jose Ramirez golfed one out to left field to tie the game at two.
They’d pull ahead in the third. Calhoun doubled, and Ramon Laureano and Straw lined singles to plate two, making it 4-2.
Kikuchi bounced back in the fifth, with help from a couple of sources. George Springer made a great diving catch on a Ramirez fly into the gap, and Calhoun was called out on a questionable strike. He was able to take care of business himself in the sixth, striking out two and getting a pop up. Overall, he went 6.0 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 8. It wasn’t an awful outing by any means, but definitely his least sharp in a couple of months.
The bullpen also had a rough day. Genesis Cabrera came in to start the top of the seventh. He allowed just one hit, a single by Eric Haase, and retired the other two batters he faced, but it took him 19 pitches and he struggled to put guys away. Jordan Hicks was called in to try to get out of the inning. This had the unfortunate effect of allowing Jose Ramirez to bat left handed, by far his better side, and he ripped a line single to right. Hicks was able to get pinch hitter Will Brennan to pop up, though, and escape the jam with the help of a nice sliding grab from Daulton Varsho.
Things went worse in the eighth. Tim Mayza walked leadoff man Calhoun, gave up a fly ball double to Laureano, and then another to Andres Gimenez on a soft ground ball that hopped over the first base bag, bringing both runners in and giving Cleveland a 6-5 lead. Schneider went to Jordan Romano, who had been warming in the hope that Mayza wouldn’t give up the lead. He also scuffled a bit, walking Haase, but with the help of a generous strike three call on a high slider to Straw was able to escape.
Brought back for the ninth, Romano got two outs but also conceded a line single to Will Brennan and walked Ramon Laureano. Now at 36 pitches, (John) Schneider decided that was enough and pulled him for Yimi Garcia. Garcia got Gimenez swinging to escape and preserve the tie.
Garcia was also great in the tenth. He struck out Freeman and Bo Naylor (hitting for Haase) and got Straw to ground out, stranding Manfred Man Gimenez.
Jay Jackson wasn’t able to get the job done in the 11th, however. He got Kwan to pop out, intentionally walked Ramirez, and struck out Brennan, but then gave up a two run double to Cahoun and a deep home run to Ramon Laureano, giving Cleveland a 10-6 lead that would hold up.
The Jays didn’t do a great job with Noah Syndergaard, but a couple of homers did enough. In the first, Vlad Guerrero jr. launched a bomb 422 feet to left that staked the Jays to an early 2-0 lead. They didn’t do much in the second or third, but Springer lead off the fourth with a bomb after surviving a badly missed third strike call. That drew them to within one of Cleveland.
After a quiet fifth, they took a one run lead in the sixth. Springer lined a single and Davis Schneider stayed red hot, hitting his fifth MLB homer to make it 5-4.
Nick Sandlin worked the seventh. He hit Jansen (in the butt this time, which I guess is better than the wrist) and walked Biggio, but the Jays couldn’t capitalize.
With the lead, Terry Francona called for setup man Trevor Stephan. Springer narrowly missed tieing it, hitting a fly ball that Straw caught right at the top of the wall in dead centre. Schneider continued his heroics, though, lining a double to left. Kevin Kiermaier was brought in to pinch run and scored on a Daulton Varsho ground ball single to right, tieing the game at 6.
Sam Henges was brought in for the bottom of the ninth. Danny Jansen lead off with a double off the wall in tue left field gap. Biggio was asked to sac bunt, but he hit it far too hard to a charging Calhoun, who was able to throw Jansen out at third. Santiago Espinal (who’d come in for Bichette in the fifth), after swinging at ball four, grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Hentges stayed in to get Belt leading off the tenth, then Francona called for Emmanuel Clase to face Guerrero. He made short work of him, inducing a pop out, and after intentionally walking Springer got Kiermaier to ground out.
They’d get one irrelevant run back in the eleventh on a Varsho single and a Merrifield sac fly.
Jays of the Day: Garcia (0.245), Romano (0.134), Schneider (0.417), Varsho (0.282), Jansen (0.151), and I’ll round up on Springer (0.096) for some nice glove work.
Suckage: Kikuchi (-0.168), Mayza (-0.484), Jackson (-0.570), Espinal (-0.128), Kiermaier (-0.109), Merrifield (-0.170), Biggio (-0.201)
Washington comes to town tomorrow night to kick off a stretch of fourth and fifth place teams that the Jays will need to take advantage of if they have any hope of getting back into the playoff race. Unfortunately, Washington is hot lately, having won 8 of 10 and are 26-15 since the All Star break, so this series looks a lot tougher than it did a month ago. Josiah Gray (7-10, 3.85) will start the opener for the Nationals, while Toronto will be represented by Kevin Gausman (9-8, 3.23). First pitch is 7:07pm ET.