Since 2013, the Blue Jays had won 21 of 29 games against the Texas Rangers, but were on the wrong side of the matchup tonight.
The early going saw the Blue Jays baffled once again by Colby Lewis while the Rangers capitalized on Marco Estrada’s early struggles to set up what looked like an easy win for the home side on “Bark in the Park Night”. The heart of Toronto’s order had other ideas, with Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki hitting home runs off of Texas closer Shawn Tolleson to knot the score in the 9th and send the game into extras. Unfortunately, the late rally went for naught as Drew Stubbs crushed a Gavin Floyd offering over the left field wall in the bottom of the 10th to end the game.
Estrada had a poor start to the game, and while he felt the squeeze from home plate umpire Lance Barrett, he was ultimately done in by poor fastball command in the first two innings. After loading the bases with nobody out in the first inning, Estrada lost a long battle with Bobby Wilson, who smashed his second home run (and second grand slam) of the season on the 12th pitch of the at-bat. Estrada had walked three batters by the 2nd inning and ended up tying his season high of four free passes in this game.
Credit Estrada for settling down after early issues though, as he only allowed two baserunners after Wilson’s slam: a walk to Andrus in the 3rd and a Ryan Rua triple in the 6th. All told, Estrada’s line was 6.0 IP, 5 R (4 ER), 5 H, 5 K, 4BB.
A rested bullpen performed adequately until Stubbs’ walk-off homer. Brett Cecil, Joe Biagini and Gavin Floyd combined for 3.2 innings with the final hit of the night presenting the only real damage.
The Toronto comeback began with a Ryan Goins home run in the 3rd, while Troy Tulowitzki hit a double and was cashed in on an Ezequiel Carrera single in the 6th. In the 9th, Jose Bautista collected a leadoff double before Smoak and Tulowitzki would go back to back, handing Tolleson his 3rd blown save of the young season. The Texas bullpen has also given up an AL-worst 24 home runs in 2016.
The Blue Jays still have yet to win a game in which they surrender four or more runs.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Shockingly, Drew Stubbs’ 10th inning home run was the top WPA play of the game. The walk-off hit increased Texas’ win probability by 46.2% (.462 WPA).
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
Edwin Encarnacion strode to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 10th following Jose Bautista’s second double of the night. Tony Barnette would induce a ground ball to Adrian Beltre to escape the jam. Encarnacion’s failure to deliver dropped Toronto’s win probability by 10.6% (-.106 WPA).
Jose Bautista: Mr. 1000
Tonight was Jose Bautista’s 1000th game as a Blue Jays player. He became only the 11th player in history to reach that mark with the team. Bautista will almost surely pass Jesse Barfield (1032) and Joe Carter (1039) before season’s end, and may surpass Rance Mulliniks and Willie Upshaw (1115) if he can avoid too many rest days.
Bautista has been sensational in Toronto, leaving an undeniable mark on Blue Jays history. Beyond his impressive set of statistics, he claims ownership over one of the most momentous and memorable marks in Toronto sports history. In his milestone game, Bautista kickstarted the 9th inning rally with a leadoff double and notched another double in the 10th thanks to a misplay by Stubbs.
Late Surge Overshadows Early Outage
They say “no man is an island”, but Marco Estrada remains skeptical at best. This was the first of Estrada’s seven starts in which Toronto has scored more than three runs. Toronto struggled for the second time in as many weeks to generate offense against light-throwing Colby Lewis. Lewis, the owner of a 6.4 K/9 ratio, managed six K’s in his seven innings of work with four called strikeouts while Edwin Encarnacion was caught swinging twice.
What’s more, the Toronto defense let Estrada down tonight. Texas scored their 5th run on a Ryan Rua bloop triple that got past Michael Saunders and Ezequiel Carrera (who was a late addition to the lineup when Kevin Pillar was scratched with chest soreness) followed by a passed ball by the normally sure-handed Russell Martin. Though it all worked out in the end, it would have been nice for Estrada to get some support earlier in the game.
As for the late surge, Troy Tulowitzki is now up to eight dingers on the year, with three of them coming on the current road trip. Perhaps the much maligned shortstop is coming around as the weather warms. With Josh Donaldson in a mini-slump of his own, production from players further down in the order like Tulo and Smoak is a welcome sight.
Additionally, Brett Cecil made his return to the mound, retiring two lefties and surrendering an infield single. After R.A. Dickey’s strong outing yesterday, John Gibbons had a full complement of relievers available so tonight’s deployment could give us a good idea of the team’s bullpen roles going forward. Tonight, Cecil was followed by Joe Biagini, who worked one and a third scoreless innings and has earned a shot at higher leverage work. Gavin Floyd was summoned to work the 9th and 10th rather than closer Roberto Osuna in a move that cost the team tonight.
It’s puzzling, if unsurprising, that Roberto Osuna would not get the call in the bottom of the 10th. John Gibbons needs to reexamine his strategy concerning the team’s high leverage relievers as tonight’s loss comes in part because of suboptimal deployment. In a frustrating season, chalk this one up as another winnable game that slipped through the cracks.
The Jays settle back in at .500 (19-19) and will look to take the series finale tomorrow afternoon. First pitch from Globe Life Park comes at 3:05 ET, as Aaron Sanchez (3-1, 2.58 ERA) will oppose lefty spot-starter Cesar Ramos (0-2, 5.11 ERA).
Lead Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports