Winning is great. But do you know what’s even better? Winning against the Baltimore Orioles.
The series opened up on Thursday with Marcus Stroman, who has had a pretty rough go recently, allowing at least six runs in three of his previous four starts, and Tyler Wilson, who is, well, kinda bad. Anyways, the offence did what it could to help Stroman out early on, grabbing four runs in the first two innings, but Baltimore had a very easy time with the Stro Show’s pitches, tagging him for four runs on eight hits over five-and-a-third.
Both starters were knocked out before the end of the fifth, and the Orioles bullpen was able to shut the Jays bats down, while Toronto’s relievers couldn’t do the same. Aaron Loup allowed Chris Davis to club a solo homer in the seventh, then Roberto Osuna allowed the winning run to score in the ninth. 6-5 Baltimore. That was shitty and winnable.
Friday’s game was really the only one that had a chance to be a pitcher’s duel at all, as Marco “He Might Throw A Perfect Game!” Estrada took the mound, and, uh, most of Baltimore’s starters are pretty terrible, and I guess Kevin Gausman isn’t? But really, it’s pretty tough to have a pitcher’s duel between the Blue Jays and Orioles, with all the home runs hitters and all.
Anyways, Estrada was pretty much perfect up until the fourth when Jonathan Schoop hit a solo home run, then in the sixth, he was tagged for a two-run jack by Davis (why do they keep pitching to this guy???) which gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead that would last for about ten minutes, as Russell Martin evened the game up in the bottom half when he singled in Justin Smoak.
So it was another bullpen game, which obviously doesn’t seem too appealing when you’re the Blue Jays. Jesse Chavez, Roberto Osuna, and Drew Storen (YES, Uncle Drew and his Wild Ride) combined for three shutout innings before Edwin Encarnacion clubbed a walk-off home off of Brad Brach, one of Baltimore’s, like, four lights-out closers in the tenth. 4-3 Toronto. Phew. That seemed like it was going to be a repeat of the first game.
Loved this shot of Edwin’s home run from the MASN broadcast. pic.twitter.com/cZkrXxwMK7
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) June 11, 2016
J.A. Happ took the ball on Saturday looking to rebound after a difficult start in Detroit earlier in the week. On the other side was Mike Wright, who (are you seeing a theme here??) isn’t very good, and is somebody that the Jays potent offence should be drilling all over the place. And they did! Over five innings, the Jays mustered three runs on six hits and five walks against WHIP King Wright, but Happ, who was cruising, got kicked around in the fourth inning, allowing homers to Joey Rickard (?) and David (again with this guy!).
In the sixth, legendary manager Buck Schowalter decided to test fate and let his bad starter who had allowed two baserunners per inning through five to come out and get another kick at the can. Kevin Pillar immediately smacked a single, prompting Schowalter to do what he probably should have just done in the first place, and bring in T.J. McFarland, once of their bad arms, because by this point, in the first two games, the Jays had burned through all the good ones.
John Gibbons put on his manager’s cap and went to work after that, showing everybody that, yes, you absolute can make magic happen with three players on your bench. Devon Travis hit a sac fly in a pinch hit for Ryan Goins, Russell Martin drew a walk after he replaced Josh Thole, and Zeke Carrera took a walk of his own to load the bases. Then, after Josh Donaldson gave the Jays the lead with a sac fly, Edwin hammered the rest of the runners home with a three-run bomb, letting everybody know that he’s about to get himself into one of those nuclear hot streaks.
The bullpen made it interesting, but Gavin Floyd settled things down, and Michael Saunders and Edwin smacked two more solo homers in the eighth to put this game to bed. 11-6 Toronto. It didn’t feel like a blowout, or anything, but this was going to be the only game in the series that was settled by more than one run. Woof.
Grilli & Martin’s celebration was pretty great. pic.twitter.com/fr8JDtrO1W
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) June 11, 2016
Save the best for last. That was Sunday’s game. Which, in short, featured the Jays hammering Ubaldo Jimenez out of the game in the first inning, the Orioles hitting as many home runs off of Aaron Sanchez in one game than he had allowed all season, and multiple rallies that ultimately ended in a terrifying ninth inning save for Jason Grilli. 10-9 Toronto.
Hot damn, that was an exciting weekend. Three of the four games were close, and the one that wasn’t, well, felt close the whole time. So after grabbing three of four from Baltimore, the Jays now sit three games (two-and-a-half depending on what happens with Boston today) out of first in the AL East!
Guess who’s only 2.5 back of Baltimore and 3 back of Boston? pic.twitter.com/oqCrM5OVVI
— Ian Hunter (@BlueJayHunter) June 12, 2016
The Jays are now 12-4 against the AL East in this two week stretch that saw them play the Orioles for four games and the Yankees and Red Sox twice. I think we can all agree this was a pretty key part of the season, and the Jays responded to it very, very well. After that Twins series, before getting into the AL East stretch, the Jays were 22-24 and six games out of first place, and now, like I said earlier, are only a couple games back.
The offence is really starting to heat up, which is so so so soooooo important to the success of this team. They scored ten runs in back-to-back games against Baltimore this weekend, which is the first time they’ve done that all season. Actually, they’ve only scored ten or more runs in two other games this year, which seems just considering they were doing it on a weekly basis last season.
Edwin Encarnacion is going into one of his ridiculous hot streaks, and holy fuck, I’m excited for it. After hitting that home run on Friday night to win the game, Edwin reached base eight straight times, which looked like: walk, walk, home run, double, home run, single, double, walk. I don’t know what Mike Wright was going on about when he said they give Edwin too much credit and that he has holes in his bat, but, uh, yeah.
The relievers, for the most part, were pretty good in this series considering how often they had to work. Obviously it wasn’t all great, but a few performances really stood out. The best, in my mind, was Jesse Chavez, who tossed two scoreless frames on Friday in relief of Estrada after the bullpen had been used pretty heavily in the previous game. He also had a three strikeout inning in Sunday’s game which was key to slowing the Orioles down after they scored four in the previous inning.
I hate looking for negatives after a series like this, but it obviously wasn’t perfect, so there are few things worth mentioning.
It seems like ages ago since it was on Thursday, and there was so much action in-between then and now, but Marcus Stroman continued his train of terrible starts in the series opener. If you take away that one against Minnesota, because they’re, ya know, a Triple-A team, Stroman has allowed 24 runs on 41 hits (!!!) over his last 22 innings. His fly ball percentage is up slightly, his ground ball percentage is down, and it seems to have been replaced by line drives, as, overall, his hard hit ball percentage has skyrocketed. It seems to me like he’s overthinking his pitches, trying too hart to place them perfectly in certain spots resulting in very fat, hittable pitches floating in the middle of the zone. I’m not overly worried yet, because baseball is a game of adjustments, but the way the league seems to be figuring out Stroman is somewhat troubling.
To be honest, the starting pitching wasn’t really all that great in the series overall. Obviously a big part of that is the fact Baltimore’s lineup is loaded with great hitters, so I won’t hammer too hard on this, or anything. Both Estrada and Happ found ways to work out of trouble when they needed to, but Sanchez and Stroman looked like young pitchers out there, which they are, of course.
Meh, whatever. I don’t want to dwell too much after a series like this. The only really problem moving forward, to be honest, is a concern over Stroman, because he’s had a rough go against more than just the Orioles recently.
Up next is the annual home-and-home, four-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies. The first two games will be in Toronto, between R.A. Dickey and Jerad “Spellcheck” Eickhoff, then Marcus Stroman and Zach Eflin, who’s filling in for Vince Velasquez, who injured himself in his last time out. In Philadelphia, Marco Estrada will go up against former Tampa Bay Devil Ray ace Jeremy Hellickson, then J.A. Happ will face Aaron Nola. None of this pitchers are great, exactly, as Velasquez is pretty easily the one guy you want to avoid, but they’ve gotten pretty good results this season thanks to the fact they all throw strikes and don’t really walk anybody.
Of course, this is the Phillies we’re talking about here, and although they got off to a pretty good start, they’re still really, really bad. I mean, since they were magically 25-19 on May 22, they’ve only won four times, pushing their record back to 29-33 where it should be in the real world. Let’s keep the good times going!