The Jays had essentially lost Thursday’s game with the Red Sox before they even took the field. That’s not really how we should look at it, and I’m sure that’s not how the players looked at it. But Chris Sale was on the hill for the Red Sox, and there are few pitchers in the history of the game so freakish or so casually dominant as he is right now.
Sale delivered on everything that was promised. He was magnificent. And not just real good against a struggling Blue Jays offence magnificent. This was legit. He’s unreal. Sale struck out the Blue Jays 13 times, allowed just four hits and one walk over eight shutout innings. He’s allowed three runs in 29.2 innings so far this season. It’s practically unfair.
The way I saw it, this was a free chance to take some hacks. The loss wouldn’t be troubling in the first place, because how do you beat this guy?
And then Marco Estrada went out and was masterful in his own right.
Estrada is a freak in almost the complete opposite way Sale is, working with below average velocity and nothing particularly unusual in his delivery, except for his unbelievable ability to spin his “cue ball” fastball, and one of the best, most deceptive changeups in the game.
Today Marco was painting. He was keeping the Red Sox completely off balance. He was every bit the ace that Sale was, with one key exception: he wasn’t nearly as efficient.
Estrada only went six innings to Sale’s eight. He struck out seven, allowed just three hits, and walked two. It was a joy to watch both of these pitchers go at it, but eventually Estrada gave way to the bullpen. Joe Biagini and Joe Smith were up to the task, and in the top of the ninth, Roberto Osuna got the call.
Osuna was entirely Osuna-like through two batters. With two outs, he went up 0-2 on Mitch Moreland. But then the Red Sox first baseman smacked 95 mph fastball for a double, just out of the reach of José Bautista.
José crumpled in a heap. Though Statcast noted that it was a play made only 63% of the time, it didn’t much matter. This was a play that underlined the defensive deficiencies of a Bautista — a player whose lack of foot speed in the outfield is tolerated only because of his incredible abilities with the bat. Which… uh… looked as absent on Tuesday as they’ve maybe ever been during his time in Toronto. And that includes the years before his transformation into one of the game’s great power hitters.
Yes, it was Sale. But Bautista earned himself a Golden Sombrero, striking out in all four of his plate appearances. Worse, he’d “earned” cascading boos from some of the trash bags masquerading as Blue Jays fans.
Groping around for what’s wrong with Bautista will take a lot more words than I’m ready to search for in what is ostensibly a game recap. And lecturing lemon-sucking “fans” who trash their own players about how they’re genuinely the worst kind of people doesn’t seem like it’s worth a whole lot of time here, because the vast majority of us are not that.
But this was the story of loss number two. Bautista and his awfulness, and the fans’ awfulness, and of course the next batter, Xander Bogaerts, shot a ball past first base to score the game’s first run. Of course, after all the work Estrada and the bullpen had done to give a glimmer of home, it was going to go the way of far too many games already in this young season.
And then Kendrys Morales changed everything.
Chris Sale didn’t come back out for the ninth, but things didn’t look a whole lot better for the Blue Jays, as Craig Kimbrel — the Red Sox’ lethal closer — took the ball. And then Kendrys took him over the wall.
LIFE! HOPE! BASEBALL!
This game is tied. Thank you, Kendrys! pic.twitter.com/egBNbBHaR5
— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) April 20, 2017
And then, as they have so often this season, the Blue Jays found a way to lose.
Jason Grilli walks a fine line. He’s been especially wobbly on it since around the end of last season. And this afternoon he fell over onto the other side.
Fly out, walk, single, pop out, walk, double.
One could make excuses or provide some context for the badness — minus the walks it’s not too bad! he pitched last night! maaaaaaybe we’re asking too much of him! — or, I suppose, we could go the other way and mewl about nobody else coming in after the inning had gone so sideways, or about the way the bullpen had been used until that point, but that’s mostly just blame-desperate gibberish. Grilli should have been fine, both from the get-go, and to get that final out. More outings like this and his responsibility should be dialed back. No need to be rash. It’s a long season.
But fuck. It’s been a long fucking season already. The Red Sox won 4-1. The Blue Jays are 3-12.