The Jays badly needed to have a big series against the Red Sox this week. They almost did. I mean, they got hitting, great starting pitching, and strong relief. Unfortunately, it wasn’t at the same time, and they also got bad starting pitching, dismal hitting, and disastrous relief.
It was close to being very good. But this is baseball. Close doesn’t mean anything.
On Tuesday, in what appeared to be the most winnable game of the series, the Blue Jays got offence, but couldn’t get any pitching. Marcus Stroman, who’s been nails otherwise so far this season, got knocked around by the Red Sox lineup, a team he’s had trouble with throughout his career. Stroman lasted just four-and-two-thirds innings, getting tagged for six runs on 11 hits. It was a very mid-2016 Stroman start, where his pitches were hanging over the middle of the plate and he wasn’t painting the bottom of the zone like he had been during his dominant starts. The team did manage seven runs and 12 hits of their own, but it wasn’t enough. 8-7 Red Sox.
On Wednesday, Francisco Liriano lineup against last season’s Cy Young winner, Rick Porcello. The Jays got to Porcello early, scoring three runs in the second inning, but couldn’t touch him for the rest of the game. Thankfully for the bats, Liriano was absolutely filthy. His slider was working, confusing the Red Sox hitters who haven’t seen him much in the past. Liriano didn’t allow a run over five-and-one third, striking out six, then the bullpen, Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli, and Roberto Osuna came in to lock the game down. 3-0 Blue Jays.
On Thursday, oh god. Oh man. Ugh. What a heartbreaker. Marco Estrada went up against Chris Sale, meaning he had to be at his best. And he was! Estrada was magnificent again, tossing six scoreless innings to match sale, who was virtually perfect for eight. In the ninth, Roberto Osuna allowed the Sox to grab a 1-0 lead, but Kendrys Morales tied the game in the bottom half with a clutch bomb off of Craig Kimbrel. But then Jason Grilli came in and everything went to hell. The Sox piled on three runs, capped by a Mookie Betts bases loaded double before Kimbrel came back in for a second inning to get the very bizarre blown save/win/save trifecta. 4-1 Sox.
The Jays got offence in the first game, but it wasn’t enough. Everything came together in the second game, and it was great. Then, in the third, with a chance to squeak out a surprising win, the relievers couldn’t pull it together and everything went to hell. Another day, another problem. What a sport.
Base ball? More like rip yer goddamn heart out and make you eat it ball, am I right?!
— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) April 20, 2017
Things that were good
- That’s back-to-back excellent starts for both Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano. Both were good last weekend against the Orioles, and both followed it up with another strong performance against the Red Sox. Estrada, over his past two starts, has gone 13 scoreless innings, while Liriano has allowed just two runs (while striking out 16!!!) over his past 12. With J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez on the DL, the Jays badly need these two to consistently be good.
- Kevin Pillar had himself a monster series, and really seems to be cemented at the top of the lineup right now. He went 7-for-13 with only two strikeouts, and now had an eight-game hitting streak. Unfortunately, the guys batting behind him who are supposed to drive runs in straight up aren’t.
- Kendrys Morales launched a solo home run off of Craig Kimbrel. He seems to have a knack for coming up with big homers for the team. Morales has come as advertised. Nothing overly spectacular, but solid nonetheless. It’s been nice.
That's why he's known as ACEstrada around these parts. pic.twitter.com/hubJtQbsgM
— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) April 20, 2017
Things that weren’t good
- The bats, again. This seems to be the theme, and I’m guessing it will be for quite some time.
- Jose Bautista had himself a very, very rough series. Damn, it was really hard to watch. It’s getting to that point where you’re starting to wonder if he’ll actually turn it around. I don’t mean he’s going to be a .100 hitter forever now randomly, but it feels like 2016 Bautista is the way it’s going to be now, and the Bautista of old might be gone. Maybe I’m just feeling down after that ugly series and it’s a recency bias, but man, that was painful. Bautista went 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts over the series. Yes, seven strikeouts. Him in the middle of the order has turned into a black hole.
- Russell Martin hit his first home run of the season on Tuesday, which was good. But the rest of the series? He went 0-for-7 aside from that solo jack. He’s started slowly in all of his seasons with the Blue Jays so far. Steve Pearce went 1-for-7. Devon Travis went 1-for-10. Man, it’s ugly. Somebody needs to snap out of this funk soon, right?
- Can the real Jason Grilli please stand up? On Wednesday, he came in for the eighth inning, allowing a single and a walk but managed to get out of it unscathed. Perfectly fine. Then on Thursday, he came in for the tenth inning, and as you know already, got completely lit up. He allowed a walk, single, walk, and double, and really just simply couldn’t find his command at all. You have to wonder, north of 40, though he still has good stuff, will Grilli be an issue as the season wares on? Fuck, will it even matter if there aren’t any leads for him to hold anyway? Sooner rather than later, though, we’re going to have to talk about giving the eighth inning to Joe Biagini or Joe Smith, or something of the sort, because it seems like the Grilli might run out of gas.
When it's mid-April and you're starting to dread the games pic.twitter.com/qh9nYL2SgW
— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) April 18, 2017
The Jays played an early game today because they’re about to hop on a flight and travel to Anaheim for four games against the Angels. It’s going to be a tough grind, as they travel to St. Louis after that, come back home for three against the Rays, then go to New York for three with the Yankees. Their next off day isn’t until May 4th.
In the Angels series, we’ll see Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence make spot starts on Friday and Saturday before things get back to normal and Marcus Stroman and Francisco Liriano take the ball for the games on Sunday and Monday. Latos? Lawrence? Ughhhh. Thankfully, the Angels aren’t exactly swimming in pitching depth of their own, as they’ll throw out Alex Meyer, some 27-year-old who’s never made a start in the majors before, and our old pal Jesse Chavez to somewhat compensate for the fact the Jays are trotting out their No. 6 and 7 starters.