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Series Recap: Blue Jays starting pitching dazzles but the bats leave a lot to be desired

For the Blue Jays, 2019’s first series was interesting, to say the very least. Playing against the lowly Detroit Tigers, the boys in blue managed to come away with an underwhelming but exciting split in the opening four-game set.

Playing in front of sold out (then not-so-sold out) crowds at an occasionally leaky Rogers Centre this weekend, the team’s new coaching staff got the chance to test out some of their newest assets and experiment with different lineup variations.

Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the weird from the season’s first series:

Mar 28, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) gestures before delivering his first pitch against Detroit Tigers in the first inning at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Perhaps the only good thing about the team’s play in the opening series was the team’s pitching, particularly their starters. Marcus Stroman, Matt Shoemaker, Aaron Sanchez and Trent Thornton worked a total of 24 innings without allowing a run. The quartet also struck out 28 and walked just nine. With a cumulative WHIP of 0.750 and an insane average of just 14.4 pitches per inning, the starters were simply stellar.

Off the field, fans got to witness the glorious happiness of rookie manager Charlie Montoyo as he celebrated his first two managerial wins at the big league level. After his first win, he was doused with beer in the Blue Jays clubhouse and joked that after getting a win at every level, he can now retire.

Oh, and Montoyo also said that he received between three and four hundred text messages congratulating him on the achievement. The best part is, he said he wanted to respond to them all.

On offence, few hitters were impressive over the first four contests. While Rowdy Tellez (1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Brandon Drury (4-for-17, 3B, 2B), Freddy Galvis (4-for-11, 2 RBI, 2B), and Justin Smoak (3-for-15, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) were all somewhat effective, their performances certainly weren’t anything to write home about.

The Bad

Most of the hitters, mainly Kevin Pillar (1-for-16, 3 SO, 1 TB), Lourdes Gurriel Jr., (0-for-11, 4 SO, BB), and Randal Grichuk (0-for-12, 5 SO, 2 BB, R) were astonishingly bad against a Tigers pitching staff that, on paper, appeared to be nothing to be scared of.

Still, Jordan Zimmermann (7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER), Matt Moore (7.0 IP, 6 K, 0 ER) and Spencer Turnbull (5.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 K) all made the Blue Jays hitters work, establishing quick paces and throwing strikes early on in each at-bat.

On the pitching side of things, Thomas Pannone (1.0 IP, ER, 3 H) and Daniel Hudson (2.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 H) struggled a bit, but there’s reason to believe both will straighten things out with more innings under their belts.

The Weird

19-year-old RHP Elvis Luciano became the first player born in the year 2000 to appear in a major-league game, striking out Mikie Mahtook in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game. Luciano, who made his major-league debut after never appearing in a game above the Rookie-ball level, pitched 1.1 frames and walked one while allowing a single hit.

Interestingly enough, Richard Ureña is tied for the team lead in hits after the first series, despite only appearing in two games and tallying just six at-bats. With two doubles and four hits overall, Ureña also played some sound defence at second base and shortstop.

Catcher Danny Jansen, who served as Sunday’s designated hitter, led off for the first time in his entire life. While it made sense to put Jansen, who last year posted an OBP of .390 at Triple-A Buffalo, in the leadoff spot, he told reporters that he’s never led off before, even in little league or high school.

Looking Ahead

If the team’s starters can keep it up, the team could cruise to a decent record throughout the season’s first month. Sean Reid-Foley gets the ball Monday against the visiting (and even more lowly) Baltimore Orioles.

In the bullpen, Javy Guerra (2.1 IP, 3 K, 1 ER) and Sam Gaviglio (1.0 IP, K) could serve as admirable stopgaps until Clay Buchholz (flexor strain), David Phelps (elbow), and John Axford (elbow) arrive.

Overall, it was an intriguing first handful of games for the team. Though expectations are probably at an all-time low, some players continue to provide fans with a glimmer of hope. Still, the team has yet to be tested, as the Tigers (64-98 record last season) are projected to finish near the bottom of their division, while the next team in line, the Orioles, might be the league’s worst squad.

  • The Humungus

    Also, on the attendance front, it was so dead over the weekend that I was able to get a $5 beer without having to wait in line.

    On the 100 level. In the 7th inning (aka at last call). On a damn Saturday afternoon.

    So, tickets will be easy to get this year, people.

      • Jeff2sayshi

        Sadly the tickets never got cheap. As opposed to the last couple years where people were shedding season tix on stubhub, there is very little secondary market to speak of, since the primary market isn’t exactly booming.

        And a ticket through ticketmaster to the 500 level was still $27.50. I guess dynamic pricing only works in one direction.

        • Mose

          I’m asking out of curiosity… what should a 500 level ticket be worth via Ticketmaster?

          $27.50 doesn’t seem outrageous… wasn’t $20 the entry level ticket before the 2015/16 seasons?….

          • Jeff2sayshi

            I could be crazy, but I recall it being more mid-teens. And when you want to claim dynamic pricing, but have literally thousands of seats to sell and the price doesn’t budge, doesn’t seem too dynamic to me.

          • Jeff2sayshi

            Will give them a shot. Have also used TickPIck, which is good too, especially considering they don’t charge a service fee, it’s in the upfront price.