Before the series, I mentioned how games against Tampa Bay were especially important because the Jays are absolutely going to have to pass the Rays in the standings if they want to lock down a wild card spot come October. The Yankees and Sox more than likely aren’t going anywhere, so finishing ahead of the Rays is paramount.
On Tuesday, Marco Estrada’s struggles with the Rays continued. Estrada had likely his worst start of the season, getting tagged for six runs on 12 hits over just three-and-two-thirds innings of work. It didn’t matter much because the Jays weren’t able to get anything going off of rookie Jacob Faria. 7-1 Rays.
On Wednesday, Francisco Liriano put together a damn good start in pursuit of his 100th career win. Thanks to a Kendrys Morales bomb, it looked like Liriano was going to hit the century mark, but Joe Smith coughed up the three-run lead in the eighth. Immediately after, though, Russell Martin clubbed a go ahead bomb, then Roberto Osuna closed the door. 7-6 Blue Jays.
A split. Not bad, not great, but fine. The Jays don’t lose any ground to Tampa in the AL standings, though, obviously, they don’t gain any either.
Things that were good
- Was there anything good about that first game? I’m working my way through the box score to remember because it was a reaaaaaaal tough grind to watch. The Jays did manage eight hits, though only one was for extra bases. After Estrada was pulled, the relief pitching was pretty decent. Most notably, Jason Grilli had a shutdown inning in what was his first appearance since the Yankees rocked him to the moon and back more than a week ago. Otherwise? Guh, that was one to forget.
- Wednesday’s game was much, much better. Francisco Liriano was the star of the game. He went seven innings allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks. He also collected nine strikeouts as his slider was working very well. The most impressive part was how Liriano managed to grind through a bases loaded with nobody out situation while surrendering just one run. He had swing and miss stuff, his fastball command was good, and all in all, it was probably Liriano’s best outing of the season. He’s looked very good since coming off the DL, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come.
- Dwight Smith Jr. was recalled from Triple-A on Wednesday as Zeke Carrera became the latest Blue Jay to hit the disabled list (more on this in a minute). He had a very good game, going 3-for-4 with a stolen base. Having speed is a nice element for the Jays, who are a team that relies entirely on power to score runs. Zeke could be out for a while, so this could be a chance for DSJ to shine.
- Roberto Osuna deserves some love for coming in and consistently being nails. He’s well on his way to breaking an MLB record for most saves before turning 24.
- Kendrys Morales hit an absolute bomb on Wednesday to pull the Jays into the lead. I know it’s sort of arbitrary and doesn’t mean much, but nine of Morales’ 13 homers this year have given the Jays the lead. Does he have the clutch gene?! Speaking of clutch, Russ’ homer on Wednesday was a thing of beauty, hell yes.
Things that weren’t good
- Pretty much everything about that Tuesday game! My god, that was painful! Estrada had his worst start of the season, and that’s somewhat worrying because he’s been pretty bad his last three times out now. Estrada has been striking more guys out and walking fewer guys this season, but he’s also allowing more homers than usual. Could this be because he’s using his changeup too often? Whatever it is, I think Marco has been good enough the past two years to be given the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure he’ll work through it.
- The bats were also bad on Wednesday. The Jays managed eight hits, but none for extra bases, and they couldn’t capitalize with runners on base. Actually, the bats weren’t that good Thursday either, though a couple of big homers covered it up. James G, a legend of Jays Twitter, pointed something out that was interesting, or, well, terrifying. He noted that the Jays haven’t hit a ball into the gap to the wall since June 4 against Luis Severino. He also pointed out that they haven’t hit back-to-back extra base hits that weren’t homers since Darrel Ceciliani and Chris Coghlan on May 18. My god.
- One guy who’s been very worrying has been Troy Tulowitzki, who’s just 11-for-58 since coming off the DL. He had that grand slam against the Reds, but otherwise? Only two extra base hits and one run driven in. With Goins, Barney, etc. getting regular at bats, Tulo needs to be hitting better than the .610 OPS (!!!) he’s currently sitting at.
- And finally, as I said earlier, Zeke is on the 10-day DL with a right foot fracture after he fouled a ball off his foot in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game. Steve Pearce will be back this weekend, which is good, but losing Zeke is a big blow for a team that’s needed all of the surprising offence he’s provided this season. Hopefully Dwight Smith can take advantage of the opportunity.
After a day off on Thursday, the Jays will have another chance to finally reach .500 this weekend as the White Sox come to town. After that, the Jays will hit the road to play the Royals, Rangers, and Orioles in what’ll be a massive opportunity to gain ground in the standings.