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Photo Credit: © Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Series Recap: West Coast Death Coast

The Blue Jays always have a hell of a time on the West Coast. This week was no different.

What happened?

On Monday, J.A. Happ made his second start since coming off the 10-day disabled list with elbow inflammation. Happ struggled keeping the ball in the yard, allowing a couple of home runs to Ryon Healey and the Jays lineup couldn’t get much going off of Sean Manaea. 5-3 Athletics.

On Tuesday, the Jays lineup was once again completely shut down. This time it was by Jesse Hahn, who held them to just one run over six innings of work. The Jays had plenty of opportunities to score, but poor decisions on the bases and inopportune double plays screwed them over. Marco Estrada was solid, but the defence didn’t do him any favours. 4-1 Athletics.

On Wednesday, the defence yet again was very poor, making life for Francisco Liriano unnecessarily difficult. Liriano managed to go four innings before the bullpen took over and completely shut Oakland down. The Jays hit four homers, powering the team to a win that would salvage the frustrating series. 7-5 Blue Jays.

Things that were good

  • Justin Smoak is legit. He went 5-for-12 with three homers over the series, upping his season total to 17, which is just three shy of matching a career-high. Smoak currently holds a .950 OPS, which is significantly better than anybody ever expected from him. It’s easy to be skeptical that this is just a hot streak, but Smoak has looked like a completely different hitter at the plate this season than ever before since he joined the team in 2015. He doesn’t go after those off speed pitches, he works the count, and as a result, he’s getting those fastballs in the zone he can drill.
  • This week was just another friendly reminder of how terrible the Josh Donaldson trade was for Oakland. The MVP went 4-for-9 with four walks and a key homer in Wednesday’s game. He’s got a 1.081 OPS on the season now, though he hasn’t played much, and has injected some much-needed life into this lineup. Let’s hope the Jays front office doesn’t make the same mistake that Billy Beane did and we see Donaldson locked up to an extension this winter.
  • The bullpen was very good yet again this series. That’s becoming a theme this year, which isn’t something any of us expected. On Wednesday, Danny Barnes, Joe Smith, and Ryan Tepera combined to retire 12 A’s in a row, collecting six strikeouts. For the series, the ‘pen tossed 10 innings and the only earned run came against Roberto Osuna in Wednesday’s win.
  • Another very good thing was this interaction between Wendy’s and the A’s:

Things that weren’t good

  • It really wasn’t a very good series at all. Obviously it feels a little different winning the last game, but this series had that typical limp West Coast road trip vibe to it. The defence was sloppy, there were poor decisions on the basepaths, and a lot of at bats looked completely listless.
  • The defence was really bad on Wednesday’s game especially. Liriano was actually quite solid, but the gloves made life very difficult on him. Kevin Pillar goofed on a double to open the game, Chris Coghlan looked totally lost in left field, and even Troy Tulowitzki booted a ground ball. If all the plays were made, Liriano easily could have gone another inning or two, but instead, his line was a mediocre three earned runs over five innings.
  • Left field in general has become a major issue for the Jays. I said this after the weekend series against the Yankees in regards to his poorly timed bunt attempt, but you’re going to be exposed if Zeke Carrera is playing every day. He’s a nice fourth outfielder, he can run, has an OK glove, and can hit weirdly well, but he makes a lot of mistakes. He played some balls poorly on Tuesday, and unfortunately Chris Coghlan wasn’t any better on Wednesday. Hopefully Steve Pearce is back soon, but even then, he isn’t exactly a gold glover out there either.
  • Devon Travis hurt himself in the New York series and is back on the 10-day DL, which is a huge blow for the Jays lineup. Beyond it being bad for the team, it’s a damn shame to see Travis, who seems like a genuinely awesome dude, to have to go through this. His excellent rookie season in 2015 was derailed by injuries, he was forced out of the playoffs last year because of it, and every time he seems to be close to establishing himself as a very good player, he’s back on the shelf. Hopefully it isn’t for long, but yet another knee problem is very worrisome.

Up next…

The Jays will get a day off on Thursday before heading to Seattle for three games against the Mariners. The Mariners have been very good recently, winning eight of their last nine. They’ve been doing so by kicking the shit out of the baseball, as they’ve averaged 10 runs in their last four games. So, uh, this ain’t the same Mariners team that got swept in Toronto back in mid-May.

After that, the Jays will return home for two against Tampa and three against the White Sox.