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Series Recap: Sweep, Streak, Climb

A four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners! Ladies and gentlemen, baseball is fun again.

What happened?

The Jays are beaten up badly. Damn near half of their team is on the disabled list, and they’re grinding through day to day with a scrapheap, ragtag lineup. The only other team possibly hurting more? The Seattle Mariners. Not only did the Mariners roll into the four-game set this weekend with literally their entire pitching rotation (King Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Gallardo, and Smyly) on the shelf, but Robinson Cano wasn’t good to go either. Could the timing be more perfect?

On Thursday, Marco Estrada went up against former Blue Jays farmhand Chase De Jong, who had been traded by the team a couple years back for international free agent slot money. So I imagine shutting the Jays down was pretty high on his bucket list. But that didn’t happen. The Jays tagged De Jong for six runs with a five-run explosion in the fifth inning, and Estrada was strong as usual. 7-2 Blue Jays.

On Friday, Joe Biagini made his second career start against Christian Bergman, a Mariners depth pitcher. Biagini was even better this time than last, shutting down Seattle over five innings. A two-run bomb by Jose Bautista fuelled the offence, and Biagini and the bullpen completely shut the Mariners down. 4-0 Blue Jays.

On Saturday, Marcus Stroman put up a strong start, holding the Mariners to two runs over six innings while striking out nine. The Jays were having a weirdly difficult time with Ryan Weber, who was making his first career start, but the rookie hurt his elbow and had to leave the game in the fourth inning. After that, the Jays jumped all over the Mariners’ bullpen, scoring six runs in the last four innings off of homers from Bautista and Kendrys Morales. 7-2 Blue Jays.

On Sunday, with a chance to earn a four-game sweep, Aaron Sanchez took the mound for the first time since his one-inning outing a couple weeks ago against Baltimore. Sanchez was solid, though noticeably uncomfortable, and held Seattle to one unearned run over five innings. Ryan Tepera pitched an excellent two-and-one-third innings in relief before Kevin Pillar walked the game off with a solo homer. 3-2 Blue Jays.

Sweeeeeeeep! Let’s go streaking! The Jays are on a five-game winning streak, are 9-4 since the beginning of May, and are up to a respectable 17-21 on the season. It’s amazing how quickly a hot streak can turn around what appeared to be a dead season.

Things that were good

  • Hell, pretty much everything. The Jays outscored Seattle 21-6 over the four games, which is pretty damn incredible considering the Mariners’ pretty solid lineup.
  • The starting pitching! Estrada had a great start, holding the M’s to two runs over six innings, which is pretty much the standard you can expect from him every single tim eh goes out there because he’s a goddamn magician. Joe Biagini was excellent, too. Through two career starts now, he’s tossed nine innings and hasn’t allowed an earned run, and at this point, it’s starting to look like the rotation should be his permanent home. Stroman’s start was solid, considering the worry about his sore arm that sidelined him in New York, and Sanchez grinded through five impressive innings after not having pitched really since mid-April. The rotation was a question mark with J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano on the shelf, but everyone left has really stepped it up.
  • The bullpen! Holy hell! They combined to pitch 14 innings and allowed only one earned run, which was the solo homer off of Dominic Leone in Sunday’s game. Aaron Loup had three clean appearances, Ryan Tepera had a couple of excellent appearances that spanned more than one inning, and Roberto Osuna and Joe Smith had shutdown late inning showings. All in all, the bullpen has been huge for the team, which isn’t something anybody expected to say.
  • Jose Bautista is back. After a terrible April, the Revenge Tour is finally rolling. Jose had two home runs over the series, and went 3-for-11 overall with a handful of walks and fewer strikeouts than before. His .182 average is bad, but his .641 OPS indicates improvement.
  • Justin Smoak has been ridiculous this season. If not for Smoak’s strong play at the plate, the Jays likely wouldn’t be climbing back up the standings. Smoak hit a couple of big home runs against Seattle, and went 6-for-14 overall. His OPS is up to .812, which is better than anyone expected.
  • Kevin Pillar and Zeke Carrera have also been huge catalysts at the top of the order. Pillar went 7-for-14 and Carrera 6-for-15, helping spark offence at the top of the order.
  • All in all, fuck yeah! That was great stuff. Obviously the Mariners are an easy target because of how broken they are, but still, this group scraping out wins is going to be huge come August and September when, knock on wood, the Jays are healthy.

Things that weren’t good

  • Steve Pearce left Sunday’s game with an injury. As poor as Pearce’s start has been, the Jays obviously can’t afford any more injuries. How many times have I said that now?
  • I guess in a similar vein, Aaron Sanchez’s messed up finger was bleeding during his start Sunday. He said it wasn’t an issue and he didn’t feel pain, but the fact that this is still an issue is worrisome.
  • There are probably some bad things to talk about from this series, but after a four-game sweep, I won’t bother with it. Let’s enjoy this.

Up next…

The Jays will host the Atlanta Braves for two games on Monday and Tuesday, and then they’ll travel down to Atlanta for two games at SunTrust Park to complete the four-game home-and-home. The Jays won’t see R.A. Dickey, unfortunately, as he’s pitching on Sunday, so they’ll get Big Sexy Bartolo Colon, Jaime Garcia, Mike Foltynewicz, and Julio Teheran. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but a sweep of Atlanta, which is certainly doable, would put the Jays back at .500 for the first time since they were 0-0.

  • Rob Ray

    What a difference an 8-2 homestand makes. we are now just 7 games out of first. Baltimore and New York both have their closers on the DL, we’re one game behind Tampa for fourth place and only three games out of the second wild card. What me panic? Noooooooooooooooo,

    • AD

      Ummmmm… its middle of may right now. Still so much time left in the season for smoak to make himself look like a shitbag. I hope he proves me wrong but im not optimistic. Very rare a guy just” figures it out” at his age. Although, i have been verryyy impressed by pillar this year. Never saw that .360 obp coming.

  • Teddy Ballgame

    Three thoughts – as I said in the other article, those Mother’s Day uniforms were condescending and hideous. Second, I think Maile is disproving Stoeten’s saw that all backup catchers suck equally. Fuck Thole and Salty, if they are not gonna hit I’ll take Maile’s superb defense any day. Third, I’m thrilled for Justin Smoak. Who knows if it lasts, but it’s great to see him realize even a bit of the promise he showed as a Ranger prospect. And especially since he was used as a punching bag by so many Jays fans this offseason.

  • lukewarmwater

    Cam good summary of the 4 game sweep. Man it felt good using the old broom again. Superman along with Smoak carrying the team and oh so good to see Joey Batts hitting those bombs again. Got to think Smoak particularly enjoyed having a heck of a series against his old team.
    Earlier in the year we were losing one run games, losing in extra innings but now thanks to the rag tag collection clawing, biting, scratching out there we are winning these close games. Btw yesterday’s game must have driven certain people crazy, with the club stealing third, double steal, hitting the runner along, sacrifice flys and even some bunts laid down this series. But the big bombs should keep that crowd happy as the long ball is complimented with the occasion dare I say it, small ball.
    As you astutely point out Cam, we are quite capable of sweeping this series. With all the key injuries, guys struggling in April, who would have thunk this type of turn around. Got to love it and happy mothers day to all the ladies out there.

      • The Humungus

        I feel like there are a lot of people who think that “small ball” and “productive outs” are synonymous.

        Obviously they’re not. But people think they are. You can’t have small ball without productive outs, but you can certainly make productive outs without playing small ball.

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    Whether or not Smoak continues to hit well, the constant crying in the offseason about a $4 million extension was childish and ridiculous. Maybe next offseason people can remember that.