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Photo Credit: © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Series Recap: Walk-Off Dingers and Brooms — They’re Alive!

Oh those Blue Jays. Just when you want to write the season off, they go and do something like this.

The Jays got swept in Cleveland last weekend, dropping them to 10 games under .500 and well out of a playoff spot. All hope seemed lost as the team appeared completely outclassed. But then the Oakland A’s rolled into town and Toronto scratched, clawed, and homered their way to a four-game sweep.

There’s still a long ways to go, but this team is alive.

What happened?

On Monday, Francisco Liriano was solid through two innings, the bullpen locked the door for four innings of their own, and the offence was able to smack a few runs off of journeyman Chris Smith. 4-2 Blue Jays.

On Tuesday, Cesar Valdez, who was waived by the A’s earlier in the season, had his revenge outing. Valdez, the journeyman who spent six seasons in the minors in-between big league appearances, held Oakland to one run over six innings of work. The Jays had a big four-run inning and it was all they needed. 4-1 Blue Jays. 

On Wednesday, Marco Estrada made possibly his last start for the Blue Jays. It’s been a rough go for him these past few months, but Estrada was solid in this one, tossing five innings while only allowing a couple of runs. The Jays got nothing going with the bats until the ninth when, in a span of under a minute, Justin SMoak tied the game with a home-run and Kendrys Morales walked it off with a bomb of his own. 3-2 Blue Jays. 

On Thursday, Marcus Stroman took the mound looking for the sweep. He got roughed up in the first inning and ultimately navigated through four-and-two-thirds before being tossed by home plate umpire Will Little. Despite losing John Gibbons, Russell Martin, and Stroman to the ump show, the Jays pulled back into the game, as Morales clubbed a game-tying homer in the ninth before Steve Pearce walked if off with a grand slam in the 10th. It was the first time in franchise history the team had his back-to-back walk-off homers. 8-4 Blue Jays. 

Things that were good

  • Cesar Valdez tossed an excellent game on Tuesday. It was also great to see that come against his former team, of course. But it was also an emotional win for Valdez, who, as I mentioned above, spent six years in the minors between big league wins, because it was his first since his father passed away in 2015. “He was always the guy who would push me and drive me to stay in baseball,” Valdez said. “So when he passed away in 2015, everything I do now, it’s in his name. When I win, when I’m in the big leagues and when I pitch, everything I do, it’s for him.” That’s some beautiful stuff.
  • Kendrys Morales had himself a series. My goodness. He clubbed the walk-off homer on Wednesday and then followed that up with two more homers on Thursday. For the season, Kendrys has 20 homers now, and nobody has had more game-tying or go-ahead bombs this year in the majors than him. We all hate talking about the clutch gene, but damn, Kendrys has certainly come through in key situations for the team this season.
  • The bullpen pitched a very good series this week as Valdez was the only Blue Jay starter to reach six innings. All told, the ‘pen allowed only one earned run over 16 1/3 innings, giving the bats an opportunity each game to claw back and win.
  • Marco Estrada might have thrown his final start as a Blue Jay as the trade deadline is right around the corner. Over the past couple of years, Estrada has achieved legend status with the Jays thanks to a handful of incredible playoff starts. In the 2015 ALDS, he shut Texas down on the road in the ever-important Game 3, then he tossed a masterful Game 5 in the ALCS against Kansas City to keep the Jays alive again. He’s struggled recently, but no matter what happens you can’t take away what Marco has done for the franchise the past couple of years. If this was his final time throwing as a Blue Jay, it’s fitting we got to see him make his last out on a strikeout with the changeup.

Things that weren’t good

  • The ump show! Will Little had himself a hell of a game on Thursday. The strike zone was all over the grid, Marcus Stroman struggled because of it, and, to be fair, the Jays benefitted from it in the 10th inning. The worst part, of course, was when Little tossed Stroman for no real good reason in the fifth inning, then tossed Russell Martin for getting in-between them, and Gibby for good measure. The league badly needs to do something about this. 40,000 people didn’t show up to this thing to watch an umpire take over the game.
  • There are probably things that weren’t good that are worth talking about, but… fuck that. The Jays just swept a four-game series with two walk-off homers. It was a damn good time. Yes, it was the A’s. Yes, they’re bad. Yes, the Jays also looked bad at times this series. But let’s enjoy this. There haven’t been all that many memorable moments in 2017. It’s been a few ups and a lot of downs, but this week’s sweep was incredible. Enjoy it! Baseball is good!

Up next…

The Jays will host the Angels over the weekend for a three-game series before hitting the road to take on the White Sox. I mentioned after the Cleveland series that it would take a 10-game win streak against Oakland, Anaheim, and Chicago to reach .500… Well, we’re off to a good start.

  • lukewarmwater

    Out here in God’s country, Jays single A Vancouver squad gave the Jay’s 28th pick in the first round his baptism as Nate Pearson who has the physique of Don Drysdale, 6 foot 6 and 245 lbs. had the radar guns humming as his fast ball hit 100 miles as he threw 2 innings. Obviously he has totally recovered from a high school elbow injury. Young Pearson is a huge fan of Nolan Ryan as he stated he models his game after the Ryan Express. Baseball America stated that this young man isn’t just a hard thrower in its pre draft scouting report. They claimed his change up projects as a plus pitch, showing late fade when he locates it down in the zone. He also employs a slider and curveball. I was fortunate enough to see Stroman, Sanchez and Syndegarden come through Vancouver. It looks like the Jays potentially have another good one in Pearson.

  • IMW

    “We all hate talking about the clutch gene, but damn, Kendrys has certainly come through in key situations for the team this season.”

    You can’t predict clutch, but god damned can you ever enjoy the moment when a player IS clutch for that little sliver of time!

    • lukewarmwater

      IMW it indeed is fun to watch a guy get into that groove where that old rawhide is the size of a beach ball as he swings and just drills the seams off that ball way up into the stands. A lot of times other guys start to feed off Kendrys or Smoak and all of a sudden the club starts to pound the ball. Hopefully this is the case for most of the rest of the season.