Game Threat: Defending First Place (Again!), Blue Jays (66-51) vs Astros (61-56)

Russell Martin brought this team and fanbase back to life yesterday afternoon with a 2015-esque three-run bomb backed by an excellent performance from Aaron Sanchez. Can Marcus Stroman carry the torch? His pattern of having a bad start followed by a very good one would suggest he can! 

Yesterday 

After having a somewhat rough outing last time out in Kansas City — largely due to the small ball garbage and inexplicable batted ball luck the Royals are famous for — Aaron Sanchez reminded everyone why he was kept in the rotation despite virtually everything pointing at him being shoved back into the bullpen. 

He had a first inning, allowing a single and two doubles to the meat of Houston’s order, but after that he settled down and completely shut the Astros out for six innings. After the two-run first inning, Sanchez only surrendered two hits and three walks, which was very necessary, considering the Jays offence looked completely lifeless. 

In the sixth inning, with Collin McHugh cruising and striking out just about every second batter he faced, the Jays finally mounted a rally. Edwin Encarnacion smacked a one-out single to centre field even though he had already taken what should have been ball four, then Michael Saunders beat the shift by laying down a bunt to third base. 

The Astros went to the bullpen, and James Hoyt, with some help from the home plate umpire, was able to get Troy Tulowitzki to ground out, advancing the runners to second and third in the process. Please, Russell, please, just a goddamn single! 

Russ took the first three pitches, then on what should have been ball four, was given his first strike, then, next pitch was fouled off, moving the count to full. On the full count offering, Russ clubbed a home run to centre field, giving the Jays a much needed stab of life and a 4-2 lead. It was a good thing the home plate umpire’s strike zone was so erratic, I guess! Otherwise we could have been looking at a bases loaded situation for Justin Smoak instead. 

After that, Sanchez pitched one more inning, Jason Grilli came in and struck out three guys in the eighth and got probably as fired up as we’ve ever seen him, then finally, Roberto Osuna came in to close out the game. And later on, the Trash Birds lost in San Fransisco! So we’re in first place again! 


News and Scuttlebutt


It looks like Zeke Carrera is almost ready to return from DL stint, meaning one of Darrell Cecilanni or Junior Lake will be banished back to Triple-A soon. Say what you want about Zeke, but I’m confident in saying he’s an upgrade on the roster to either of the two aforementioned players. 


Sticking with Arden Zwelling, here’s an excellent piece he wrote today about everything you’ll ever need to know about Blue Jays ace Marco Estrada. 

“It’s been like that my entire life. I’m so used to it by now. I’m always fighting for it,” Estrada says. “And that’s fine. Really, it is. Not everyone’s going to be, like, [Clayton] Kershaw or whoever, where you’re just incredible and ‘the man’ your entire life. Some of us take longer to put it together. And I just went through enough crap, I guess, to get to this point where I’m feeling pretty good about myself. It’s been a long process.”


Today 

Blue Jays: Devon Travis 2B, Josh Donaldson 3B, Edwin Encarnacion DH, Michael Saunders RF, Troy Tulowitzki SS, Russell Martin C, Justin Smoak 1B, Melvin Upton Jr CF, Darrell Cecilani LF

Marus Stroman: 8-5, 4.76 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 1.310 WHIP, 9.5 H9, 2.3 BB9, 7.2 SO9

Astros: George Springer RF, Alex Bregman 3B, Jose Altuve 2B, Carlos Correa SS, Marwin Gonzalez 1B, A.J. Reed DH, Jason Castro C, Teoscar Hernandez CF, Tony Kemp LF

Mike Fiers: 8-5, 4.46 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 1.331 WHIP, 9.9 H9, 2.1 BB9, 6.6 SO9 

Marcus Stroman had what was most likely his best start of the season a couple weeks ago against Houston, as he tossed seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits and collecting 13 strikeouts. Then, in his next time out, he was knocked around a little bit by the Kansas City Royals. But that’s kind of been the theme for Stroman recently, it seems. He has a good start, we figure he can build on the success, then he goes out and has a rough go of it the next time out. Well, ideally, that trend would continue today, as his pattern suggests today will be one of his good ones!

Performing in a very similar manner to Stroman, though without the same, very predictable pattern, is Mike Fiers. Fiers had a nice outing against the Jays the last time they met in Houston, but had a rough start earlier this week against the Twins. He allows a fair amount of contact, doesn’t strike many guys out, meaning he should be a good time for the Jays offence, but I said that about Collin McHugh before him, and save for Russell Martin’s home run in the sixth, the bats looked pretty lifeless.