The story coming into Sunday’s game was pitching. For Toronto, it was the fact that Aaron Sanchez was sporting a sparkling 1.71 ERA over his previous three starts. For the Rangers, it was that they denied the Blue Jays a chance to bash lefty Derek Holland again (they pounded him for 11 runs in 2.2 IP on May 5) by starting lefty journeyman Cesar Ramos in his place.
The early part of the game played out according to that presumed narritive, Toronto getting hits but not scoring runs, and in the process driving up the pitch count on Ramos such that he had to leave after four and a third innings with the bases loaded and over 90 pitches under his belt. However, the next Blue Jay at the plate, the scorching hot Justin Smoak, promptly hit into a double play to end the threat. In the middle of the fifth inning, the Jays led the Rangers 7-2 in hits but were tied 1-1.
Sanchez, for his part, had limited the Rangers to just two hits to that point, one of those an RBI double in the 3rd by Ian Desmond. In the bottom of the 5th another RBI double put the Rangers in front 2-1 and Jays fans, myself at least, were already grumbling about the missed opportunity in the top half.
But the shaky Rangers bullpen has proven to be a nice solace for the increasingly-less-anemic Toronto offense. Rookie Andrew Faulkner and veteran Tom Willhelmsen combined to load the bases again in the 6th and Jose Bautista doubled in all three runners to put the Blue Jays out in front. Sanchez labored in the seventh as his pitch count approached 100 and had to leave with two outs and two on clinging to a two run lead. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Reliever Jesse Chavez hung a fat curve and the Blue Jays were down 7-6 just like that.
Leading off the 8th, Matt Bush was designated to be the guy who plunked Jose Bautista for last year’s playoff event. Boy did THAT not end well. After both benches were warned, Encarnacion flied out and then on the next play Bautista slid hard through second base on a double play ball. Rangers 2B Rougned Odor got mad, took a punch at Bautista and chaos ensued.
Multiple players were ejected (I don’t even know where to mention that Tim Lieper and John Gibbons had already been tossed in separate incidents earlier in the game) including DeMarlo Hale and Jesse Chavez being tossed after Chavez plunked Prince Fielder in retaliation for Bautista. From then on the game shambled to an ignominious end and the Blue Jays are left not only with the lingering anger from the fight, but the nasty taste in their mouth of letting yet another game they were in control of end up in the loss column.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
That would be the aforementioned Chavez curve that Desmond pounded over the fence with two outs in the 7th. That put the Rangers ahead 7-6 and increased the Rangers win probability by 52.9 percentage points.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
The Justin Smoak double play grounder that left the bases loaded in the fifth inning dropped the Jays win expectancy by 19.2 percentage points.
Let the Suspensions and Fines Ensue.
The lineups and rosters for upcoming games will surely be impacted in a major way by MLB suspensions. Gibbons was back on the field during the brawl and he’ll get popped for that. Hale and Chavez will take a hit for the revenge HBP. Bautista, Donaldson, and Kevin Pillar all look likely to get a few games off. Certainly Odor will get hit hard for the Rangers (as he should) and possibly others.
Trend to Watch
Troy Tulowitzki, in the four games leading up to this one, had a 1.456 OPS. Today he went 3/5 with a double. He’s long overdue to get on track and one can only hope this is not a mirage.
The Blue Jays get back home on Monday to face the lacklustre Tampa Bay Rays who’ll be without their best hitter. The Toronto squad is now 8-6 in May and the opportunity exists to build up some much needed momentum with a couple of series’ against the Twins and Yankees coming up after the Rays leave town, if they can use this game as a spark and not a distraction.
Lead Photo: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports