After a beating at the hands of the Red Sox over Canada Day weekend, it was damn near impossible to have any optimism heading into the Blue Jays series in the Bronx. But the team came to life this week, taking two of three from the Yankees, good for the Jays’ first series win since Seattle in mid-June.
On Monday, Marcus Stroman was putting together a solid start, but had to leave because of the blister, or, the achilles heel of the 2017 Blue Jays. The Jays bats didn’t get anything going until the top of the ninth, but by then it was too late. 6-3 Yankees.
On Tuesday, J.A. Happ had himself a damn good outing, holding the Yankees to one run over six innings. The jays bats exploded for a four-run rally with two outs in the third inning, that was enough for Happ and the ‘pen. 4-1 Blue Jays.
On Wednesday, the Jays and Yankees went back and forth in kind of a home run derby. The Jays pulled ahead 5-0, but the Yankees stormed back to make it 6-5. Immediately after, Russell Martin tied the game with Toronto’s fourth homer, then drove in the winning run with bases loaded walk the following inning. 7-6 Blue Jays.
I don't always play well, but when I do, it's on the Fourth of July at Yankee Stadium pic.twitter.com/g6dqjre5QC— Blue Jays Nation (@thejaysnation) July 4, 2017
Things that were good
- J.A. Happ’s start on Tuesday was damn good. His first start coming off of the 10-day disabled list in Oakland was a little shaky, which is to be expected considering he only took one rehab start before returning. But since then? Happ has made five starts, has made it at least six innings in all of them, and has allowed more than two runs just once. In other words, he has five quality starts in a row. The J stands for Jays. The A stands for Ace.
- The offence was actually pretty solid this week after being shut down by the Sox and Orioles. The Jays managed 28 hits over the three games, highlighted by a home run explosion on Wednesday afternoon. Justin Smoak, Russell Martin, Kevin Pillar, and Kendrys Morales all homered, but on Tuesday, the team showed a more diverse approach, scoring four runs in a two-out rally without the long ball. Over those two games, I saw a team who showed it could score in more than one different way. That’s obviously a good sign considering how limp the offence had looked recently.
- Jose Bautista has been a major catalyst at the top of the Blue Jays lineup. He went 5-for-11 with three walks this week, setting the table for the rest of the team. His OPS is up to .763 now, which isn’t too shabby for a guy who was apparently over the hill. It’s hard to say what role he’ll have with the Jays moving forward as the deadline approaches, but still, it’s great to see Jose still contributing.
- The bullpen also deserves a pat on the back. Roberto Osuna, especially. He was left off the All-Star team, which is pretty terrible. This week, Osuna picked up two saves. In the first, he tore through Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Tyler Wade. In the second, he got Aaron Judge to strike out with the tying run on base. Damn good stuff. Nails, Osuna is.
Things that weren’t good
- Marcus Stroman likely would have ended up in the things that were good category, but he was forced to leave the game with a blister. Goddamn blisters, what the hell, right?! Aaron Sanchez has missed damn near the entire season with a terrible one, and now Stroman, who’s enjoying a breakout season as a top-of-the-rotation guy everyone figured he’d become, is hurting from one too. Stroman plans on making his next start and doesn’t expect to miss any time with this issue, but that’s what we thought about Sanchez back in April, too.
- Sticking with pitchers, Marco Estrada had a rough outing. Actually, he looked excellent in the first three innings, as he carried a no hitter into the fourth. But that’s when the wheels fell off. Estrada walked Brett Gardiner and allowed a homer to Aaron Judge, then in the fifth, Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Ji-Man Choi homered. He allowed two more walks, a single, and a double before being pulled. Overall, Estrada went four-and-two-thirds, allowing six earned runs on five hits and hour walks. I have a lot of faith in Estrada to work through this blip, but this is seven forgettable starts in a row now, which is very troubling.
- Josh Donaldson has had a rough time recently. You have to wonder if he’s playing at full health. He sat out Wednesday’s game after going 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in the first two. I’m picking sort of a random date here, but at the end of the White Sox series a few weeks ago, Donaldson had a 1.002 OPS. Since then, it’s slid all the way down to .807. Obviously Donaldson didn’t forget how to play baseball, he’s a damn good player for a season, but like I said, he must be working through a tough injury right now.
The Blue Jays will head home for a four-game series against the Houston Astros, the best team in the American League East. It’ll be their last series before the All-Star break.