They almost blew it, but luckily Drew Storen was able to lock this game down by getting David Ortiz to strikeout looking in the ninth inning. As a result, the Blue Jays came away with a 4-3 victory and a split of the four game series. After a pitcher’s duel between Clay Buchholz and J.A. Happ occupied most of this game, the Red Sox called on their elite setup duo of Koji Uehara and, eventually, Craig Kimbrel to lock down the game. Three walks, a hit batter, a couple of outs, and two singles later, it was 4-1 for the Blue Jays. After Brett Cecil shut down the Red Sox in the bottom of the eighth, Storen tried to undo all that by allowing the Red Sox to score two runs on three hits in the ninth inning, and pinch hitter David Ortiz coming to the plate. Thankfully, as soon as Pat Venditte was warming up and the pressure was on, Storen promptly punched out the veteran slugger and closed out the game. On the offensive side of things, Kevin Pillar continued his torrid play in the eighth spot, getting three hits in his three at-bats, and also registering his first walk of the season.
Top Play of the Game
With the bases loaded and one man out, John Farrell made the logical move to call on closer, and strikeout pitcher extraordinaire, to come in and put out the fire. It started well for the Boston closer, as he fanned Edwin Encarnacion with ease (which actually had the worst WPA of the game at -.145). Troy Tulowtizki stepped up, still continuing his early season slump, and immediately fell behind 1-2. He laid off of a tough curveball to make it 2-2, then Kimbrel missed wildly with two fastballs to walk Tulo and give the Blue Jays the lead (WPA of .226). Not to be outdone, Russell Martin stepped up and worked a nine pitch at-bat, before singling in the third and fourth runs of the game (WPA of .168). These runs ended up being crucial, with Boston putting up two scores against Storen in the ninth.
Bottom Play of the Game
Fans may have been expecting to see Roberto Osuna close out this game, but he was unavailable thanks to a minor injury he suffered on Monday:
Gibbons on Roberto Osuna not avail: he's got a cracked fingernail (had one last yr). No timetable for his return. #BlueJays
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) April 18, 2016
Instead, John Gibbons handed the closer duties for Monday over to Drew Storen. The former Washington National had his problems, however, allowing two runs to score and bringing up David Ortiz with the tying run on first base. Somehow Pat Venditte wasn’t brought into the game to face the power-hitting lefty, but Storen managed to wiggle out of trouble with a high fastball at the top of the strike zone to end the rally, and end the game. Aside from the aforementioned Encarnacion strikeout, the game ending K for Ortiz had the lowest WPA of the game at -.102.
Forget Strikeouts, Double Plays Are All the Rage Nowadays
You may have heard that the Blue Jays set a record yesterday by having struck out 136 times in their first 13 games. Today, the Blue Jays decided to tone down the strikeouts, only doing so five times (and actually drawing seven walks). However, they also grounded into five (!!!) double plays, three of which came off the bat of Jose Bautista. Obviously this isn’t something you want happening on a regular basis, and it definitely hurt the Blue Jays today as they wasted numerous early chances to score. Of course, the Blue Jays don’t choose when they hit their ground balls, whether a runner is on or not is irrelevant, so this isn’t something to get up in arms about. Maybe it’s a positive actually, as at least today the batters made contact, and weren’t striking out at historical rates.
Trend to Watch
After letting David Price walk away over the off-season, many were doubting the ability of the Blue Jays starting pitching to have success in 2016. 14 games in, and that has proven to be false. They currently lead baseball in innings pitched by a rotation with 121, and sit ninth in ERA at 3.42. Today’s contributor was J.A. Happ, who has looked every bit like the Happ who was under the tutelage of pitching guru Ray Searage in Pittsburgh in 2015. Happ has now pitched 19 innings over his three starts, and has given up just four earned runs after his seven plus inning, one run masterpiece from today. Mark Shapiro aimed to improve the Blue Jays starting depth, and Happ having success is going a long way toward making that come to fruition.
The Blue Jays will look to continue their recent winning ways for a three game series in Baltimore against the first place Orioles. At 7:05 PM on Tuesday night, Marcus Stroman (2-0, 4.22) will take the mound against Mike Wright (5 IP, 7.20).
Lead Photo: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports