Game Threat: Defending The Division Lead Via The Sweep, Blue Jays (59-45) vs Orioles (58-45)

Have you heard? Probably not. After a dominant month of July that’s been capped off by back-to-back wins over the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays are now in sole possession of first place in the American League East. And today, with Aaron Sanchez on the mound and the trade deadline looming, will be their first test at defending that lead. 

Yesterday 

I wrote a recap for the game yesterday afternoon, but I’ll go through it briefly again here, in case anybody wasn’t watching, or, for whatever reason, went off the grid. 

J.A. Happ and Yovani Gallardo were locked a pitcher’s duel for the first half of the game, as Happ mowed down the Orioles lineup save for one mistake made to Pedro Alvarez in the second inning, and Gallardo continued his inexplicable success against the Jays lineup as they struggled to pick up on him lobbing junk up, down, and around the zone. 

Then, finally, in the fifth inning, after having his way with the Jays throughout four career starts in which he only yielded five earned runs over nearly 30 innings, they got to him. 

Devon Travis mashed a solo bomb to tie the game at 1-1, visibly rattled and afraid to walk the same tightrope in the zone, Gallardo walked Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson who were completely fine with passing the baton to Edwin Encarnacion. Edwin doubled one run in, prompting Gallardo to intentionally walk Michael Saunders to face Troy Tulowitzki, and for Buck Schowalter to go to the bullpen for Mychal Givens. 

It was a Givens at this point that Mychal would allow some runs Givens didn’t fare any better, though, as Tulo took a bases loaded walk before Russell Martin drove in a couple more with a double. And then, after Melvin Upton Jr. struck out, Kevin Pillar drove in another pair with a double. 

The Jays would tack on two more in the seventh, the middle relievers came in and got the job done, J.A. Happ got his 14th win of the season, and the Jays are now in the first place. Fuck yes and fuck you, Baltimore! 

News and Scuttlebutt 

The big news this morning comes not from a move the Jays made, but instead one made by their division rivals in New York. The Yankees sent Cleveland Andrew Miller, arguably the best reliever in baseball, for a massive haul of prospects, headlined by No. 24 ranked outfielder Clint Frazier. I’m not a prospects whiz by any stretch, but geez, that’s a lot of top-end skill to give up for a guy, who, while very good, only pitches one, or maybe two innings per game. 

Damn, I was really hoping the Yankees would be dumb and think they had a legit shot at making the playoffs this year, but instead, they took the smart route and added some serious talent to their farm system. Also, this helps Cleveland, one of Toronto’s biggest obstacles in terms of getting out of the AL come October, get better immediately. So the Jays’ competition got better right now by paying a massive price to a division rival that’ll help them down the road. Yuck. 

Today

Blue Jays: Jose Bautista RF, Josh Donaldson DH, Edwin Encarnacion 1B, Michael Saunders LF, Troy Tulowitzki SS, Russell Martin C, Kevin Pillar CF, Devon Travis 2B, Darwin Barney 3B

Aaron Sanchez: 11-1, 2.72 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.149 WHIP, 7.7 H9, 2.7 BB9, 7.8 SO9

Orioles: Adam Jones CF, Hyun Soo Kim LF, Manny Machado 3B, Chris Davis 1B, Mark Trumbo RF, Pedro Alvarez DH, Matt Wieters C, Jonathan Schoop 2B, J.J. Hardy SS

Chris Tillman: 14-3, 3.47 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 1.217 WHIP, 7.7 H9, 3.3 BB9, 7.6 SO9

Amidst a sea of chaos and burning garbage that is the Orioles starting rotation, Chris Tillman has been a complete rock in Baltimore this season. Before having a poor start his last time out against Colorado, Tillman had a nice streak of four games with seven innings pitched with only one earned run. That said, throughout that streak, and as the season has worn on, Tillman has been striking out fewer batters while also picking up more walks, which signals a dam that’s just waiting to explode. 

And who better to burst that thing open than the Toronto Blue Jays who seemingly love nothing more than to give Tillman a rough time? In 126 career innings against the Jays, Tillman has a massive era of 5.71, and, when looking at how Toronto’s lineup traditionally fares against Tillman individually, you’ll see why. 

Unfortunately, I can’t mention Tillman’s difficulty with the Jays without talking about how Aaron Sanchez has been roughed up by Baltimore, too. Through 32 career innings, Sanchez has a 5.34 ERA against the Orioles, and his worst start of the season came back in early June against Baltimore in which he allowed six runs on 10 hits over just five innings.