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Photo Credit: © Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Series Recap: *Stirring Motion*

It’s been a nightmare start to the season, there’s no doubt about that. But the Blue Jays are heading out of April with some momentum after stringing back-to-back wins together (and coming out of a series with a win) for the first time this year.

What happened?

On Friday, Marcus Stroman tossed an excellent game, but the bullpen imploded, allowing five runs in the final two innings. The baseball gods, they hate us. Why do they hate us? 7-4 Rays.

On Saturday, Francisco Liriano gutted out five innings of work, the bullpen redeemed itself, and Justin Smoak and Russell Martin came up with two big hits. 4-1 Blue Jays

On Sunday, Aaron Sanchez’s return to action was halted after one inning, but Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup, Dominic Leone, Joe Smith, J.P. Howell and Roberto Osuna combined to pitch eight innings of one-run ball and the bats finally woke up in the eighth inning. The baseball gods, are they okay with us? 3-1 Blue Jays.

Things that weren’t good

  • Let’s mix it up this time and talk about things that weren’t good before getting into all of the positives from the series so that we can exit with positive vibes. The series got off to a hideous start on Friday, but the team rallied hard and earned two huge wins on Saturday and Sunday, so I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the bad stuff.
  • The bullpen was junk on Friday night. Marcus Stroman pitched a gem, giving the Jays a 3-2 lead with just five outs left in the game. But Jason Grilli came into the game and imploded, immediately allowing a home run to Evan Longoria to tie the game. Grilli walked a guy and got a strikeout, then Dominic Leone came in and added fuel to the fire, allowing a two-run homer, and another homer and double in the ninth. All told, Grilli and Leone allowed five runs while only managing to get two outs. Really, really ugly stuff in a very winnable game.
  • Aaron Sanchez returned on Sunday after spending two weeks on the 10-day disabled list, but only managed to pitch one inning before getting pulled due to a split nail on his blistered finger. In his one inning, Sanchez clearly had command issues, and didn’t throw anything other than fastballs. It’s an unfortunate outcome for the Jays who badly need Sanchez healthy, but it also really sucks for him, because I imagine being held out by things like blisters and broken nails is just ridiculously maddening.

Things that were good

  • The bullpen was bad on Friday, but they certainly made up for it the next two games. On Saturday, Francisco Liriano put forward a gritty outing, in which he battled through five innings without his best command, allowing just one earned run. Joe Biagini came in and stranded two runners with nobody out, then pitched another clean inning before Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna closed the game in the eighth and ninth innings. Big Joe, Little Joe, and Joe-suna combined for four innings of work, one hit, one walk, and four strikeouts. Very, very good stuff.
  • Also encouraging was the fact that Osuna’s velocity was back up to 96 mph after his poor showing in St. Louis that prompted some worry about his health.
  • On Sunday, as I mentioned before, Sanchez was only able to pitch one inning, but the bullpen managed to toss a damn good game in relief, combining for only one earned run over eight innings.
  • Ryan Tepera had likely the best showing of his Major League career, tossing three-and-one-third innings, allowing just one hit while striking out five. Aaron Loup came in after, and pitched two scoreless innings thanks largely to his ability to induce ground ball contact. Leone managed to redeem himself, pitching two-thirds of an inning with a big strikeout. Osuna ended up getting the save, giving him back-to-back clean outings, which is a major positive. All told, the relievers tossed eight innings, allowing just one run.
  • Jose Bautista got his 1000th hit as a Blue Jay, and it was a big one. With Darwin Barney on second base down 1-0, Jose clubbed what appeared to be a home run (thank you, Buck) off the wall, scoring the tying run. Joey Bats is the ninth Blue Jays to record 1000 hits with the club.
  • The team up with big hits this weekend, which is something we haven’t been able to say much. On Saturday, Russell Martin clubbed a double and Justin Smoak hit a two-run homer, giving the team badly needed runs. Again Sunday, Bautista had a big hit, scoring a leadoff walk in the eighth inning, and Martin and Zeke Carrera squeaked out a couple of hits to pull ahead. Hopefully the tides are turning.

Up next…

The Blue Jays will head to New York for 2017’s first meeting with the Yankees. It’ll be Marco Estrada, Mat Latos, and Marcus Stroman going up against Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and CC Sabathia. Both Estrada and Stroman have pitched the Yankees very well in their careers, but the Bronx Bombers have come back to life recently, and are crushing the ball like mad. After that series, the Jays will have a much-needed off-day Thursday before travelling to Tampa Bay for three more against the Rays.

  • Mike Wilner

    Can’t blame the BlueJays offence. They have really really good track records, so it’s just a matter of time before they heat up. Justin Smoak is really really good. Has the most raw power on the American League East.

  • lukewarmwater

    The Jays like that cornered Wolverine, snarling, scratching, biting, clawing as they take on the whole freaking baseball world. Fortunately a buddy came over and got me out of the garden to head to a watering hole to watch the last 4 innings as the Jays bull pen absolutely superb for two straight games. Guys getting big hits, way to go Joey Batts on that big 1000th hit. Heh it is just a two win streak but man, nice to win a series and gain some momentum.
    Tremendous to see the young man with the best record for his age as a reliever get that out pitch back up to 96. Way to go Roberto. Keep it going Jays against those damn Yankees.

  • Rob Ray

    I’ve been following the Jays from day one. I haven’t seen the list of players who have had 1,000 hits as a Blue Jay. So I’ll guess- Ernie Whitt, Lloyd Moseby, Vernon Wells, Carlos Delgado, George Bell, Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez, Bautista (obviously) and Shannon Stewart. Others I’d consider- Adam Lind, Jesse Barfield, Damaso Garcia John Olerud, Willie Upshaw, Edwin Encarnacion. The only reason I’m not considering Alomar is because he was only there for five years and I know he didn’t average 200 hits a year.

  • Warren_

    Ryan Tepera’s best MLB outing? Maybe, I’d argue that today’s outing is equal to — but not better than — his 3-inning outing against the Angels, all in extras. One mistake ends that game. Tepera had a much less stressful buffer to work with today.