If I had told you this time last week that the Blue Jays would take two of four games against the best team in the American League, you’d probably say you would be happy with the result. Well, that’s exactly what happened. Unfortunately, earning a split against the Astros doesn’t really soothe the pain of having to watch the Jays get absolutely slammed on two occasions.
On Thursday, Francisco Liriano put together a strong outing and the Jays had a five-run rally off of Lance McCullers in the fifth inning. One big inning was all they needed to take the series opener. 7-4 Blue Jays.
On Friday, Aaron Sanchez made his return from the disabled list. He actually didn’t look bad, but a tight strike zone led to him unraveling in the second inning. 12-2 Astros.
On Saturday, Marcus Stroman put together a masterful performance, dominating the Astros lineup over seven strong innings. A couple of big home runs from Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki gave the Jays a lead much bigger than Stroman needed. 7-2 Blue Jays.
On Sunday, holy hell. It was bad. The Astros jumped on J.A. Happ and didn’t ease up on the Jays bullpen. They hammered the ball all afternoon, handing Toronto their worst beating of the season. 19-1 Astros.
The Jays were outscored 37 to 17 over the series but still managed to come out with two wins. That’s, uh, something. I feel like Sunday’s result makes the entire series look a lot worse than it actually was, because winning two against an excellent team like Houston is pretty good. Still, Friday and Sunday’s games were ugly.
Things that were good
- Marcus Stroman’s start on Saturday was a sight to behold. He tossed seven innings, allowing just one earned run on six hits and three walks while collecting six strikeouts. His slider was ridiculous, as seen in this video game style strikeout of Carlos Correa. After the game, Stroman said he thought he should have been named to the All-Star team and that it provided motivation for him throughout the start. Hopefully that continues the rest of the season, because a fired up, motivated Stroman is the best Stroman.
- Josh Donaldson was having a bad time, but seemed to find his footing in this series. He went 6-for-10, picked up six walks, and had a key three-run bomb in Saturday’s win. He also drilled a ball in Sunday’s game that easily could have been a homer, but unfortunately bounced off the wall and resulted in an out at second base. He also had some gems in the field, highlighted by a run-saving snag early on in Saturday’s game when Stroman was struggling a big with command. All in all, it was a vintage MVP weekend for Donaldson, which is a great sight.
- Troy Tulowitzki had a solid weekend at the plate, which isn’t something we’ve really had a chance to say often this weekend. Obviously the bar has been lowered for a guy who was once one of the best hitters in baseball, but he’s pulled his OPS up to .700 now. I know, I know. I’m reaching. Hopefully he goes on some kind of hot streak after the All-Star break.
Things that weren’t good
- Friday’s game sucked. Aaron Sanchez really didn’t look that bad, the wheels just fell off because the strike zone was so tight. Overall, Sanchez’s return lasted one-and-two-thirds innings in which he allowed five earned runs on seven hits and four walks. On a positive note, Sanchez said his finger didn’t feel bad at all and the blister that essentially derailed the first half of his season wasn’t an issue at all.
- Sunday’s game sucked more. J.A. Happ got knocked around in the second inning after Josh Donaldson made an errant throw to first base. Happ ultimately allowed six runs, only two earned, over four innings. He didn’t pitch all that bad, the Astros lineup is just really good. The bullpen got completely drilled, though. Holy hell. Houston ended up scoring 19 runs in total, giving the Jays their fourth-worst result in a game in franchise history. That obviously isn’t the way you want to roll into the All-Star break.
You have four days off to not have to worry about Blue Jays baseball. Enjoy them. Go outside. Don’t worry about them. This season has been frustrating, you deserve a break.
The stretch heading into the break was difficult, the one coming out of it isn’t much easier. On Friday, we’ll be back at it as the Jays head to Detroit to play three games with the Tigers. After that, they’ll go to Boston for four games and then Cleveland for three.
Also, don’t look now, but the trade deadline is right around the corner. There’s about two weeks of ball left for the front office to decide which path they’re going to take.