Fresh off a series split hosting the Detroit Tigers, our Toronto Blue Jays welcomed the Baltimore Orioles for a three game set. The conversation surrounding the Blue Jays heading into this series was the over-performance of their pitching staff and under-performance of their batters through the first four games. To quantify that statement, the combined 6 runs against placed the Jays with the 2nd least allowed in the American League while the offence’s combined 12 runs scored placed the Jays in the bottom third of the American League with some teams playing fewer games than them.
The Orioles finished 26 games behind the Blue Jays last season. Seeing the O’s take two out of the three from the New York Yankees did not raise any red flags about the level of competition coming to Toronto. This Blue Jay fan never calls a series sweep but would have taken bets that Blue Birds won the series. Let’s see how the series went:
Entering the game, Clayton Richard was placed on the 10-Day DL giving Sean Reid-Foley the emergency start. Per MLB’s Gregor Chisholm, Clay Buchholz is targeting an April 13 return with the outlook on Ryan Borucki‘s return still being late April. Prior to the game I wondered aloud if Reid-Foley could force himself into another start while the Club waits for re-reinforcements on the starting rotation.
Reid-Foley entered the game with an 80-pitch pitch count of which 34 were used in first inning. The second inning would be his last finishing with 52 pitches thrown. Not the kids night, and that’s okay cause he was headed to the minors anyway. My pregame question did not get the answer I wanted but as long as new manager Charlie Montoyo does not resort to using “the opener”, everything will be okay. Please Mr. Montoyo, never use “the opener”.
Conversely Pannone’s 52nd pitch was in his 4th inning of work. A magnificent recovery from the game losing inning he pitched just 24 hours ago vs Detroit. Sam Gaviglio threw one bad pitch in three innings. In 10 batters faced, Gaviglio never once reached ball three.
2nd inning defensive highlight is Randal Grichuk hustling in to field a flair into centerfield to force the runner to stop at 3rd. A tip of the cap to Freddy Galvis for reading the play and cutting off the throw to hold the batter to first base. Yes the run eventually scored but the point is that so many are willing to focus on the negative that sometimes the positives slip through.
Bases loaded walk was so nicely framed by Jansen it fooled Buck & Pat on Sportsnet . Then on the strikeout for out number two the ball goes through Jansen right to the back stop allowing a run. The highs and lows of a young catcher.
David Hess likes to pitch versus Toronto. Full stop. Don’t let yourself walk down the pitchforks and lighter fluid aisle because for the 5th straight game the Blue Jays was non-existent for the beginning of the game. Those struggles are magnified because it is the first 5 games of the season.
Exit Hess, enter offense. Grichuk collects his first hit of the season being a 2-run homer. Next inning, Galvis hits his first homer of the season. The Orioles tried there best to lose in the 9th with not one but two defensive plays that could of and should of been made. Teoscar Hernandez‘s turning a double into a triple is the base path aggression I want to see.
If I would have known the Kevin Pillar pinch hit sac fly in the top of the 9th last night would have been his last as a Blue Jay, I would have cheered louder. Pillar traded for three warm bodies, Grichuk signed, Anthony Alford called up, Socrates Brito acquired, and Bud Norris released. It’s almost like the front office has a plan. It’s your prerogative to poopoo on it or play wait and see but at least appreciate the fact they have a plan.
The 24-year-old Alford spent the majority of last season with Triple A Buffalo batting .240 with 5 homers and 17 stolen bases in 105 games. In 32 MLB plate appearances, he has collected a stolen base while batting .100. The 26-year-old Brito was with Triple A Reno last season playing in 114 games collecting 17 homers and 15 stolen bases while batting .318. In a 175 MLB plate appearances, Brito has 5 HR, 3 SB and a .202 batting average.
Bottom of the 6th Jonathan Villar of the Orioles inexplicably goes across the diamond to muff what would have been an easy out for the second baseman waiting for the ball to get him. Jansen draws a 4-pitch walk to load the bases. Alas, no big hit from Rowdy Tellez this time round and all runners are stranded. Tellez’s next at-bat in the 9th gave us the homer we wished for earlier to erase the shutout. The homer was the only extra base hit of the game for the Blue Jays.
It is cool to say that this Marcus Stroman outing was rather pedestrian. This loss was not on him by any means.
Marcus Stroman, 93mph Fastball & 85mph Slider, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/7KpZJJE86g
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 3, 2021
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 3, 2021
The above table had a lot of empty slots filled in during game 3 of the series and game 7 of the season. A 1st inning hit! First of the series! First 1st inning run of the season for the Blue Jays. Shame it’s because of an Orioles error instead of back-to-back hits, regardless it is the first Jays lead of the series.
Apparently it is pick on Orioles third baseman Ruiz day as a high chopper toward him to lead-off the second inning leads to another couple of Blue Jays first. It is the first 2nd inning hit of the year for the team and first hit of the season for Gurriel Jr. Galvis striking out swinging at ball four to protect Gurriel Jr. running on first move will never draw a complaint from me. Aggressive on the base paths is a trait I want this team to have. Ruiz again victimized on an infield single for the Jays to collect their first 3rd inning hit of the season. A doubleplay later and Grichuk hits a no-doubter homer to collect the Jays first 3rd inning run of the season.
In the 8th, Grichuk becomes the first Blue Jay to hit 2 homers in a game this season. Gurriel Jr. picked up his 2nd hit of the game/season and his first 2 RBI.
Matt Shoemaker 1st start - 7 innings, 2 hits, 2 walks, 7 K’s. 87 pitches thrown, 59 for strikes. Shoemaker today, 7 innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, 8 K’s. 92 pitches thrown, 63 for strikes. Naysayers will point to the level of competition he’s faced. A hat tip earned is a hat tip earned where I come from though.
Heading into the 9th inning, the bullpen pitching numbers were impressive - 11 1/3 inning allowing only one HR ball, 3 hits and a walk. After inducing three flyball outs last night, Daniel Hudson struggled mightily today.
Tellez at 1st, Justin Smoak at DH. Tested at 1st on first batted ball into play. It’s fair to say Smoak would have handled it cleaner than Tellez but the Jays got the out! More importantly, Tellez gained experience. With another bobble in the 9th, patience will need be exerted with him as he gains MLB experience.
The first road trip of the season! Cleveland for four games. I’m just happy Josh Donaldson did not stay with them. If the bats keep steadily improving and the pitching keeps this extremely high rate of efficiency, the Club could continue to stay ahead of the Boston Red Sox in A.L. East ahead of the two games against them next week.