Our Toronto Blue Jays started their first road trip with a 3W – 4L record. A poll ran in the Facebook Group “Jays In Focus“, had 51 of a possible 88 votes suggesting the Blue Jays would earn a split during their 4-game series in Cleveland. Let’s see how it played out!

Game one started with the following tweet plus news that Justin Smoak would not play the field forcing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to play 1st base for the first time since he left Cuba:

With the bases loaded in the 3rd inning Socrates Brito was completely overwhelmed by Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer. In the 8th inning when Jon Edwards took over for Bauer on the mound, Brito was his first batter faced. Being overwhelmed by Bauer is one thing but Edwards making you look foolish is another. They say you cannot undo a first impression but I ask Blue Jay fans to be patient with Brito. Some Anthony Alford fans are already angry that Brito is here instead of AA but here’s a reminder of their respective seasons in the minors last year:

  • 24-year-old Alford Triple A Buffalo .240 BA, 5 homers, 17 stolen bases in 105 games
  • 26-year-old Brito Triple A Reno .318 BA, 17 homers, 15 stolen bases

Alen Hanson made the better first impression of the two acquisitions. He reached base in the 3rd inning after being hit by a pitch and collected the team’s second hit of the night in the 9th inning. I want to suggest the scorers were kind to Hanson in the bottom of the 3rd granting the batter a hit instead of him an error. Of all the fielding worries, it was relief pitcher Tim Mayza who was the only one charged with an error in what was a rough 7th inning salvaged only by Sam Gaviglio coming in to get the final out and stranding the bases loaded.

Back in the 4th inning the Cleveland team loaded the bases and it was the only time Gurriel Jr’s inexperience at first base showed. If this wasn’t his first game at the position and/or if Smoak was playing first base, the only play on the ball was to sell the runner interference. Sometimes experience teaches you to use the rules in your favour, you cannot blame Gurriel jr. for not having the experience.

Loaded bases were the order of the day and it BAFFLES me that TWICE the Blue Jays were able to load the bases in the first 8 innings without once collecting a hit! The Jays had collected 10 runners on base heading into the final frame still hitless, that’s is the same or equal amount of basepath noise as the Royals and Nationals who both scored 4 runs each last night.

  • The 8 walks only moved the Blue Jays up to 12th in the league in free passes.
  • The two hit-batters moves the Jays into a tie for 4th overall in the league.
  • Teoscar Hernandez‘s double in the 9th is the 18th extra-bases hit of the season for the Club. If you are positive, they are tied for 14th in the league. If you are negative, they are tied for 20th.

Of course the focus of the fans will be the lack scoring during the early part of the game. Including this game, here is the distribution of runs scored by club:

  1. 1
  2. 0
  3. 1
  4. 7
  5. 0
  6. 0
  7. 4
  8. 7
  9. 4

For positive news, here is a look at some keys pitching stats:

  • Runs allowed: 5th least
  • 2nd in the league in ERA (2.19)
  • 5th in WHIP (1.01)

You hear about Brito’s speed but it doesn’t really translate into stolen bases. You know what it translates into? Defence. A prime example was out number two in this game. The error being charged to Brito in the 5th should have been attributed to Richard Urena on the catch.

The stolen base that should have been called an out in the 8th is on Freddy Galvis. In today’s baseball of frame-by-frame reviews, you are suppose to hold your tag as long as possible. If Galvis is not as cocky standing up asking for a review, he easily re-applies the tag on Ramirez who was clearly off the bag. That said, the “war room” got that one wrong.

Instead of focusing on the bats that are underperforming, let’s give Galvis some love. His .320 start is raising his career batting average to .246. In 2017 and 2018, he had 12 and 13 homers respectively. He’s on pace for 18 which is two short of his career high in a season.

A single in the 2nd, homer in the 5th, and double in the 8th were all the Blue Jays hits in game 2. In the above game 1 recap we looked at season runs scored per inning. Well to score runs you need hits, so let’s look at the Jays hit total per inning through 9 games.

  1. 3
  2. 2
  3. 2
  4. 8
  5. 4
  6. 4
  7. 8
  8. 9
  9. 8

Thornton game 1 threw 75 pitches, 47 for strikes (62.6%) Only 2 fly balls. Tonight’s encore featured 92 pitches, 52 for strikes (56.5%). 0 fly balls. Warrants another start in my opinion.

2 2/3 inning of zero hit ball by the bullpen. One bad pitch and game over. Captain Obvious here: the offence needs to help the pitching.

For the second time this season the Blue Jays collected 10 hits during the course of the game. Heck they even had at least one runner on base each of the first seven innings. The four doubles on the evening raised the Blue Jays from the bottom three in the league in the category into an 8-team logjam tie for 11th overall. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the lack of productive outs. A productive out is when you are out but you still advance the runner on base forward. Tellez led the 2nd inning off with a walk, never left first base because of a strikeout and a flyout. Gurriel Jr. led the 3rd inning off getting on base after taking a breaking ball to the love handle, like Tellez never left first base because of a flyout and a strikeout. In hindsight, 1-out single by Tellez in the 4th could have been a run if the next batter had not struck out and managed to move him forward 90 feet because in that case he would have easily scored on Jansen’s double. There is nothing less productive than strikeouts. The 14 total strikeouts bring the bats season total to 95 which is most in the league.

In the 3rd inning the Jansen passed ball is mute as the runner advancing to 3rd did not score because of it. Focus on all the balls in the dirt he’s blocked especially the first few of pitches by Elvis Luciano and not the wild pitch that he could not contain in the 5th inning. The 6th inning error being charged to Jansen on the throw to third was not so bad that is should have got past Drury and Galvis. Admittedly I held my breath when he threw behind Santana at first. It was a tough night for the young catcher, stay faithful fans.

The bottom of the 5th inning begins with the play where Brandon Drury cuts in front of Galvis on a grounder and ends up eating the ball after failing to get a grip on the ball to throw it. Generous of the scorekeeper to credit the batter with an infield hit. Sam Gaviglio takes over the mound inheriting loaded bases and his first pitch is hit at Galvis. Fielded on his knees, Freddy made the decision to throw home. If fielded cleanly then yes, throw home. Fielded on your knees, get up and get the guy out at first. So much easier to say than do though.

Thomas Pannone, who was saviour on Monday when he came in long relief of Sean Reid-Foley, was Reid-Foley’d in the start he earned himself. Where 69 pitches got him through four innings against the Orioles, Pannone was only able to throw 60 pitches against Clevelend before being removed from the game after only 2 2/3 innings and 4 runs charged. With Clay Buchholz and Ryan Borucki unavailable, Jays fans figured this spot in the rotation would be a sore sport and it has been. Theoretically, Buchholz should be able to take the next turn.

Bullpen arm Tim Mayza recovered nicely from a rough outing in the series opener with a 1-2-3 7th inning. Veteran Javy Guerra pitched his third consecutive scoreless appearance.

When the struggles of your offence is seemingly all the talk about your baseball team, you can ill afford your ace to give up two runs in the first inning. Credit to Marcus Stroman though, he tweaked his usual pitching menu to include a heavy dosage of breaking balls. He kept Cleveland off-balance for the duration of his five innings allowing only one more run. The bullpen would come and breeze through the final two innings striking out three of the six batters faced.

Most of the stats I use will come from baseball-reference.com but here are some stats pulled from ESPN highlighting the successes of the Jays pitching staff so far:

  • Starter’s ERA 2.44 (4th lowest), Bullpen ERA 3.20 (9th lowest)
  • Starter’s batting average against .205 (4th lowest), Bullpen batting average against .177 (tied for lowest in league)
  • Strikeouts by starters 68 (3rd most), strikeouts by bullpen 51 (2nd most)

Throughout the article, it has been chronicled the struggles of the team’s bats. Your mainstream options for media are, to the point of beating a dead horse, focusing on the strikeout problems plaguing the offence. For a positive spin on things after struggling through another game today, let’s see which bats are leading the team:

  • Batting average: 10+ games played, Galvis .324 – under 10 games played, Urena .412
  • Hits – Galvis 11, Drury/Hernandez/Urena 7
  • Extra-base hits – Grichuk 6, Galvis 5
  • Walks – Hernandez 6, McKinney 5

FINAL THOUGHT:

I agree with Sportnet’s Buck Martinez when he states that he would rather have a team that struggles at-bat than on the mound. Heading into the first day of the season in a weird two games in four days series in Boston, the Jays sit tied with the Red Sox in the standings. In a season where the Blue Jays are widely not expected to be a playoff team, everyday ahead of the defending World Series Champions is a good day.

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