The discussion all morning before Sunday’s game began involved the new leadoff hitter in the Blue Jays lineup, as Manager John Gibbons elected to cut bait on Kevin Pillar up top. Gibby said that he wanted to take some of the pressure off the centre fielder, and acknowledged that a scuffling offense needed to put baserunners on in front of the three hot hitters. The only other hitter who has had much success this year at his disposal is left fielder Michael Saunders, and he drew the assignment in Pillar’s stead. However, Aaron Sanchez hijacked the expected narrative in this game by opening with four and two thirds hitless innings of work and finishing seven beautiful innings while only allowing one run.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Toronto spent most of the ballgame clinging tenaciously to a 2-0 lead thanks to Sanchez’s domination of Boston hitters, but breathing room was at a premium. After the Red Sox scored their first run on consecutive two out singles in the fifth inning, things got even more tenuous. That began to change with one out in the seventh inning when Josh Donaldson delivered a double to center which scored Ryan Goins from first base to get the team back to a two run lead and also boost the chance of winning by 13.5%.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
After Travis Shaw hit a two-run home run in the ninth inning off of Roberto Osuna to get the Red Sox within one, Chris Young stepped up to the plate hoping to continue to tighten the ballgame. However, as he so often does against righties, he struck out, lowering the Red Sox chances of winning the game by 4.9%.
Sanchez Dominates. Again.
Aaron Sanchez went seven strong and only once did a runner advance past first base. He walked four (David Ortiz twice) and gave up two hits, one a broken bat flair for rookie second baseman Marco Hernandez just behind third base, and the other a Mookie Betts single which drove Hernandez in from third. Meanwhile, he struck out seven batters and completed seven innings on 104 pitches, a rather efficient start for the “fifth starter”.
John Gibbons tried to spark the offense by making Pillar bat eighth again, and heeding the calls from many to put Saunders up top. And, exactly as scripted, Pillar went three for four while Saunders didn’t get his first hit in five at-bats until the top of the ninth inning. Meanwhile, the spotty offense put up two runs in the first then slumbered for the next five innings until Steven Wright left the game. Uncharacteristic of their season so far, they woke up thereafter. Beginning with Ryan Goins’ lead-off single to open the seventh, they went on to have eight hits and tack on three more runs off the Boston bullpen.
Tomorrow morning, on Patriots Day in Boston, the Blue Jays will try to take advantage of floundering Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz. Toronto will counter with J.A. Happ with the first pitch scheduled for 11:05 AM. Morning baseball!
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