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Photo Credit: © Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Series Recap: One Step Forward, One Step Back, Another Forward, Another Back

The Blue Jays managed to split a series with the Angels, which seems like a solid improvement on the surface, but yet again the team failed to capitalize on an opportunity to string multiple wins together and really turn their season around.

What happened?

On Friday, the Jays and Angels played a marathon 13-inning game that probably seemed longer than it actually was because it didn’t start until 10:00 ET. Toronto took the lead quickly, the Angels answered, the Jays battled back and pulled ahead in the eighth inning, then Anaheim tied it up immediately after. Ryan Tepera shut the door for three shutout innings before Jose Bautista clubbed his first home run of the season in the top of the 13th. The Angels almost rallied again in the bottom half, but Joe Biagini cleaned up Aaron Loup’s (and the infield’s) mess with a very impressive showing. 8-7 Jays.

On Saturday, Casey Lawrence made his first career start as the Jays looked to build on the momentum from the previous night’s exciting victory. He pitched decently well. His big mistake came in the third inning when the light hitting Andrelton Simmons smacked a grand slam over the wall in centre field. The bats, after getting shut down by Tyler Skaggs, showed some life in the eighth and ninth innings, but it wasn’t enough to complete the comeback. 5-4 Angels.

On Sunday, some guy you’ve literally never heard of started for the Angels and, yep, you guessed it, shut the Jays down. Thankfully for the bats, Marcus Stroman was so dominant, the team had all game to pull themselves together. Stroman tossed a complete game, allowing just one earned run on seven hits. Then, in the eighth inning, it all came together. Devon Travis, Ryan Goins, and Kevin Pillar all hit home runs off the Angels bullpen. It was a great rally, showing shades of 2015 when the team could score at will. 6-2 Jays.

On Monday, the team had a chance to win its first series of the season. They went up against Jesse Chavez, who got drilled in a relief appearance just a few nights earlier, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to really get things rolling. But it didn’t go as planned. The umpiring was poor, sure, but Chavez shut the Jays down over six innings of work, and Francisco Liriano’s decent start wasn’t enough to compensate for the bats that got left behind yet again. 2-1 Angels.

One step forward, one step back, another forward, another back. Just like the title suggests. The Jays seemed to grab momentum one game, but immediately lost it the following game. This was a perfect opportunity, facing a weak Angels squad, to turn the season around, but the bats couldn’t take advantage of medciore pitching. Two wins in four games is an improvement for a team winning at a .250 clip, but you can’t help but think this series could have offered more.

Things that were good

  • Jose Bautista’s home run in the 13th inning of Friday’s game was like a fucking miracle. There haven’t been many fun moments like that at all this season, but for those who bothered to stay up and watch that one really got a treat. It’s hard to explain a moment like that. Your team having a terrible start to the season, Jose having his own personal nightmare at the plate, the game just trudging along, everyone kind of just expecting a loss, somehow, someway, and boom, a three-run bomb just jolts you up. This team has life in it somewhere. Deep, deep down the magic is still there. Hopefully they can find a way to bring it out before its too late.
  • Marcus Stroman had a dominant start against the Angels, which is a great sign, because he had struggled mightily with them previously in his big league career. It’s always great to see a pitcher put up a great showing like that against a lineup they’ve been hit by before, I think, because it shows they’re making adjustments and looking to improve. I mean, hell, we all know that big league pitchers are doing that stuff, but Stro’s start on Sunday really was exceptional, I felt.
  • I think Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence did a solid job filling in this weekend. When Sanchez and Happ went on the disabled list simultaneously, we all threw our arms in the air and said the sky was falling. But Lawrence and Latos were decent and gave the team a chance to win, which is all you can expect from your No. 6 and 7 starters facing Mike Trout and Friends.
  • Russell Martin went 5-for-11 with two walks over the series, and is hitting the ball hard for the first time all season. Justin Smoak has continued to hit well, and has his OPS up to an .842 figure at this point, which is great.

Things that weren’t good

  • Bautista clubbed that massive home run on Friday, but didn’t do much else otherwise. He went 3-for-13 in the series but did manage four walks. The team’s success offensively comes down to Bautista hitting the ball like he can. So far this season, he hasn’t. There were signs of him coming out of his slump this weekend, but there were also a lot of ugly swings and whiffs at balls he usually would have hit in the past.
  • Troy Tulowitzki injured himself in Friday’s game advancing from second to third on a wild pitch. He immediately pulled himself from the game and was placed on the 10-day DL the following day. That’s a bat the Jays really can’t afford to lose for an extended period of time.
  • The bats, again, of course. They weren’t very good. They showed bursts, like I said earlier, but still, there isn’t any consistency. It doesn’t seem like the team is ever threatening to score runs. So frequently the opposing pitcher is able to cruise through the lineup without the Jays putting up much of a fight. They struck out 39 times in the four games, but walked 19 times, which is sort of a good sign. Still, though, they don’t seem to be aggressive at the plate, and seem to be letting a lot of hittable pitches go by for whatever reason. Maybe that’s a biased observation because the team is struggling and I’m feeling sour, but it’s hard not to notice how many times a very hittable pitch is taken for a strike.
  • Gregg Zaun’s words on Marcus Stroman celebrating after the game on Sunday, my goodness. I mean, hell, the team has had a nightmare season, they played a damn good, complete game for, what, like, the second or third time all year, and Stroman had a masterful start in which he looked like a Cy Young calibre pitcher. He was fired up, he wanted to get his teammates fired up. That’s what he does. I can’t imagine being so fragile to be bothered by that, but hey, here we are.

Up next…

The Jays will head to St. Louis for three games with the Cardinals before heading home this weekend for three against Tampa Bay. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Adam Wainwright, the team’s big three, will start for St. Louis, so it’ll be a tough series for the team to score runs. Hopefully the pitchers, Estrada, Latos, and Lawrence can go above and beyond to help steal some wins.