Photo credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jays’ Canada Day Weekend series against Cleveland had absolutely everything. I don’t think I could ever do it justice. But justice is a good word to use here, because after four games’ worth of battling (two of which took place within Friday’s incredible 19 inning marathon), the Jays emphatically sealed a well-deserved
sweep split with a laugher on Sunday.
The club — in case you missed it watching Iceland’s disappointing exit from the Euros, or simply enjoyed a gorgeous afternoon — teed off on former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (and unfortunate reliever Tom Gorzelanny) for 17 runs before it was all over, behind a sparkling performance from J.A. Happ.
It was a game that belied all that had come before it in the series: Thursday’s domination at the hands of Carlos Carrasco; a 9-6 Jays victory on Saturday that was closer than it looked — the Jays down 6-5 in the bottom of the 7th when Josh Donaldson tied the game with his 20th home run of the season, and tied an inning later when it was Donaldson again who plated Ezequiel Carerra (barely) with the go-ahead run on an RBI flare between second base and the centre fielder; and, of course, the wild 19 inning affair on Friday that saw Ryan Goins pitch, among all manner of other ridiculousness — particularly from garbage ump Vic Carapazza, who soiled himself both figuratively, and perhaps literally when Russell Martin exploded in his direction in the 14th inning.
Goins is now the Jays’ fifth best reliever by WPA, because… ugh, this bullpen. Except on Friday, when Cecil, Grilli, Osuna, Biagini, Chavez (with three hitless innings!), Storen, Schultz, and, of course, Goins all held Cleveland scoreless while the Blue Jays’ hitters shot blanks.
It feels crazy that so much happened, and yet here the Jays are, six games above .500, just like when the series started. But hey, at least the dumb Orioles went to Seattle for four games and got swept. The Jays now sit 3.5 games out in the AL East, with the trash Royals coming to town next (while Baltimore heads to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers). That’ll do. That’ll do…
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Stroulo Watch (?)…
Part of the reason that Jays fans can feel especially good about the way their club pulled this weekend’s series out of the fire is that two of their most closely watched players — two would-be stars that sometimes haven’t looked the part — might be turning things around. They would be, as you likely have guessed from the shitty portmanteau in the heading, Marcus Stroman and Troy Tulowitzki.
Stroman’s Friday start was his fourth best of the season by Game Score (72), as he kept the ball in the ballpark, kept getting ground balls, avoided walks (1), missed bats (6K, 11.5% swinging strikes), and produced his lowest rate of hard contact since May 11th. I must concede that his heatmap (via FanGraphs) doesn’t exactly look like that of a guy who has suddenly found how to paint at the bottom of the zone, but it sure felt better too, so… um… let’s not think too much more about that than we have to, shall we?
Meanwhile, we can think all we want about the streak Troy Tulowitzki has been on. It’s like the Tulo of old showed up, eleven months into his Blue Jays career, and that has to be a scary thought for the rest of the American League — because if, over the long haul, he’s anything like the guy who put up over five wins of value on a 170 wRC+ over 92 games in 2014, holy shit.
For now Tulo is “just” a shortstop with elite defence and a league-average 101 wRC+. But since coming off the DL on June 18th, he’s hit .321/.373/.698 over 59 plate appearances, with six dongs, two doubles, and a 177 wRC+. He’s been incredible, no matter how you slice it.
When Dave Cameron raised red flags at FanGraphs because of Tulo’s in-zone contact rate back on May 12th it stood at 79%. Since then it has been 90.3%. Tulo’s fine, it turns out. And that’s fucking awesome.
I At Least Gotta Mention…
Brett Cecil looking like the old Brett Cecil? Hell yes.
On Sunday, Nick Cafardo, mongerer of only the truest rubbish, reported in the Boston Globe that the Blue Jays and Astros may be up to something, as the Jays are supposedly heavily scouting the Astros system right now. Noted teen Chris Cotillo tweets that Frances Marte, a double-A starter who ranked as the 20th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America (via MLBTR), intrigues the Jays, which… sure he does. But what are they going to trade for him? And before you rush to shout something like “Edwin!” or “Bautista!!” please kindly piss off.
(Actually) Worth A Read…
Somone at TSN.ca gave Dirk Hayhurst’s latest a clickbait-y headline about the Jays’ next big free agent loss, but it’s actually a pretty thoughtful look at the situation the Jays are in with Michael Saunders, and at how Saunders put himself to be a key cog on this team, including with some mechanical tweaks that have helped him hit for more power than ever before.
Speaking of Troy Tulowitzki (weren’t we?), Shi Davidi of Sportsnet talks to him about how he’s finally enjoying his first real hot streak since last summer’s trade. “I don’t think some Blue Jays fans have had a chance to see really what I’m capable of,” he says. Too true, Tulo. Too true.
Everything John Lott writes is outstanding — and please don’t miss his piece for us on the mystery of Franklin Morales, or the one on Russell Martin’s candid comments after his Friday ejection, from over the long weekend — but definitely take a look at his great piece for Vice Sports about Gavin Floyd and his sad and remarkable run of bad luck.
Lastly, though it’s not baseball-related, you’ve got to check out Richard Whittall (aka Richie Fucking Football) on Gladwell, Granny Shots, and Why Sports Aesthetics Matter over at Front Office Report.
What Do You Meme?
Oh, look, it’s Trevor Bauer with the digital equivalent of a meat-head-as-fuck “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant after he (brilliantly) pitched five innings of the 19 it took his sad Cleveland team to beat the team he’s gloating at in this tweet. *COUGH*
— Trevor Bauer (@BauerOutage) July 1, 2016
Also: Minor Leaguer wins the new week:
Even though I am Canadian, I still feel that the Fourth of July is a great day to stick it to the Royals.
— Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer) July 4, 2016
Speaking of which…
Monday – Wednesday @ 7:07 PM ET, vs. Trash Royals
Thursday – Friday @ 7:07 PM ET, vs. Tigers
Saturday – Sunday @ 1:07 PM ET, vs. Tigers
Followed by the All-Star Break!
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