Game Threat: Marco Estrada makes his season debut, Blue Jays (2-4) vs. Red Sox (3-1)

Well, the relievers didn’t cough up a lead in the late innings this time. So, that’s something, right? 

After dropping four in a row, the Blue Jays will turn to Marco Estrada, who’s set to make his first start since signing a two-year $26 million contract last winter, as they try to salvage the series against knuckleballer Steven Wright and the Boston Red Sox. Marco was excellent at dragging the Jays out of the mud and giving them good starts when they needed him most last season, so let’s hope that we can see some of that today. 

Yesterday 

Things were looking really nice early on yesterday. R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball was dancing, as he picked up three strikeouts in his first two innings of work, and Jose Bautista hit a two-run bomb to left field to give the Jays a quick lead in the first inning. But such as it always does in games between these two teams, things changed pretty quickly. 

In the third, Dickey quickly allowed runners to make it to second and third with nobody out by chucking the ball into centre field on a failed pickoff attempt after surrendering a single and a walk. He got Mookie Betts to strike out, but then allowed the runner from third to score on a Dustin Pedroia groundout that likely would have been an inning ending double play had it not been for the failed pickoff attempt. After that, Xander Bogaerts and Travis Shaw hit back-to-back doubles, and the Sox pulled ahead 3-2. 

Toronto answered back quickly in the bottom half of the inning, as Josh Donaldson doubled before Jose Bautista clubbed what appeared to be a replay of the exact home run he hit in the first inning, giving the Jays a 4-3 lead. Unfortunately, that would the only offence the Jays bats would be able to muster for the rest of the game. 

In the fourth, Brock Holt managed to reach first base on a passed ball after striking out. He eventually came around to score after a Rusney Castillo double and a sacrifice fly from Blake Swihart, locking the game up at 4-4. Then everything really came unravelled. Dickey allowed a single and a walk to start the fifth inning, then Hanley Ramirez cashed both of them in with a little league triple in which his bloop single bounced over Bautista’s head and rolled all the way back into right field. Right after that, Josh Thole allowed his second passed ball of the game, and Ramirez scored from third, making it 7-4. 

Once they grabbed the lead, the Sox didn’t look back. Rick Porcello settled down after Jose’s second home run, holding the Jays to just two hits and one walk over his final four innings. Koji Uehara and Robbie Ross closed out the final third of the game for Boston, not allowing a single baserunner in three innings of work. 

There isn’t a hell of a lot to take away from this game, really. The only bright spots on the offensive side of things were Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista, who each collected two hits, with the two hits from Joey Bats being two-run bombs, of course. Joe Biagini had a solid inning in relief, as he navigated his way around a leadoff hit and walk unscathed. Otherwise… Meh. It was frustrating to watch. As frustrating as blowing a 7-2 lead? Maybe not. But frustrating nonetheless. 

News and Scuttlebutt 

The Jays apparently sold Scott Copeland to the LG Twins, a Korean team out of Seoul. So while it kind of sucks to lose some decent organizational depth, we can be happy for Copeland because he’ll be making a lot more money playing there than he does here. 

Jose Bautista said, in an interview with MLB.com, that he wasn’t worried about the Jays’ slow start. We basically said it’s a long season, stuff happens, there are cold spells, and they just happen to be going through one right now. 

The Jays have placed left-handed reliever Franklin Morales on the 15-day Disabled List to go along with the activation of Marco Estrada, so neither Arnold Leon or Joe Biagini will have to be let go just yet. 

Today 

Marco Estrada gets the ball today for the Jays in what’ll be his first legitimate start since he spun a dandy performance in Game 5 of the ALCS back in October. 

Last year, Estrada was kind of overlooked as a nothing pitcher, who would mop up some innings in relief and maybe get the occasional start. As we all know, he became a hell of a lot more than that for the Blue Jays. He joined the rotation in June and quickly became arguably of Toronto’s most consistent starter. And didn’t look back from there, as he put up career highs in pretty much every statistical category, and finished fifth in the American League in Earned Run Average and first in Opponents’ Batting Average Against. 

Now, we’ll find out if his performance last season was legitimate or not. Estrada massively over-performed his peripheral numbers last season, getting good luck on batted balls in play and fly balls, yet also seeing a decline in his strikeout rate. As a result, a lot of people believe Estrada’s 2015 season was more luck than the emergence of a legitimately good starting pitcher. But after watching him throw dominant games in incredibly important situations last year — Game 3 in Texas, Game 5 against Kansas City, and multiple times throughout the season — I have faith in Estrada. 

It’s only a week into the season and we need a hero. Please, Marco, be that hero. Become ACEstrada and get things back on track. I can’t handle the end of the 2016 season in April hot takes on Twitter any longer. 

Oh yeah, and the Red Sox. They’re sending Steven Wright, the knuckleballer, out there, so, since we all know about what knuckleballers are all about, we know there isn’t much we can do to predict this one. Wright faced the Jays once last season, and they scored three runs off of him in two innings, which doesn’t really tell us much.  

TV: Sportsnet

Next Game: Tuesday, vs. Yankees 7:07 PM ET

And now, the lineups…

Blue Jays

Kevin Pillar CF

Josh Donaldson DH

Jose Bautista RF

Edwin Encarnacion 1B

Troy Tulowitzki SS

Michael Saunders LF

Russell Martin C

Ryan Goins 2B

Darwin Barney 3B

Marco Estrada SP

Red Sox

Mookie Betts RF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Hanley Ramirez 1B

Travis Shaw 3B

Chris Young LF

Blake Swihart C

Jackie Bradley CF

Steven Wright SP

  • Jays of Thunder

    Great game from Marco today.

    On the small sample size silver lining front, the Jays pitching staff is 9th in xFIP. And I think we all know the offense will come around…

    • Jays of Thunder

      If you click his name, and find the first post he wrote, you’ll find this:First Post

      “Also, you’re probably reading this and wondering “who the hell is this guy?!” I run the Nation website nhlnumbers.com, and now I’m going to be running the game threats and news on weekends for The Blue Jays Nation! Don’t worry, I’m not some random hockey guy pretending to care about baseball because the Jays made the playoffs last year. I’ve been crying tears of pain and joy over this team since Russ Adams was an everyday player. I live in Edmonton, but I usually travel twice a year to watch the Jays live (to Seattle and Toronto). So yeah! Hopefully you all enjoy my warming introductions to games over the weekend! “