On Star Wars night at Target Field, this wasn’t the Blue Jays offense you were looking for. Despite a reshuffled lineup that featured Jose Bautista leading off, the Blue Jays struggled to score and had to work hard to capitalize on another great start from Marco Estrada. They finally received some timely hits and were able to earn a victory, defeating the Twins in 11 innings.
This game was certainly a pitcher’s duel, as Ervin Santana and Marco Estrada both completed 8.0 innings of two run ball. Estrada only allowed five baserunners all evening and was in total control after some early missteps. The game was breezing along with the teams combining for seven hits through the first eight innings.
Minnesota scored a run on a Miguel Sano sacrifice fly in the 1st and added another on a Joe Mauer RBI single in the 3rd. Toronto’s scoring came on one swing by Edwin Encarnacion, who smoked a two run home run following a Josh Donaldson walk in the 6th. While the Blue Jays started the game with a leadoff single by Jose Bautista and another from Edwin, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders were unable to cash in, continuing a troubling trend that would rear its ugly head again in the late innings.
The Blue Jays had a chance to take the lead in the top of the 9th when Saunders laced a two out double into the right center field gap. Troy Tulowitzki hit a fly ball deep to center field and was robbed of a hit and the go-ahead RBI on a leaping grab by Danny Santana. Jimmy Paredes led off the 10th with a double and advanced to third thanks to a good at-bat from Russell Martin. Kevin Pillar proceeded to groundout to third before Jose Bautista was denied a hit and an RBI on a nice diving stop by shortstop Eduardo Nunez. Roberto Osuna worked a clean 9th and 10th and made his first two inning regular season appearance since last July, keeping the Twins at bay until Toronto could finally deliver in the 11th.
Edwin Encarnacion led off with a single before singles by Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowiztki scored pinch runner Ezequiel Carerra for Toronto’s third run of the game. Russell Martin had a chance to bring home some insurance runs after a walk to Paredes loaded the bases, but struck out looking instead.
Joe Biagini stepped up and converted his first career save, including a nice pick off of an impatient Danny Santana.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Troy Tulowitzki’s RBI single in the 11th was tonight’s top WPA play. The clutch hit increased Toronto’s chances of winning by 35.7 percentage points (.357 WPA).
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
Kevin Pillar produced the bottom play of the game when he grounded out in the top of the 10th. With Jimmy Paredes at third and only one out, Pillar’s inability to drive in a run lowered Toronto’s win probability by 18.9 percentage points (-.189 WPA).
Marco Estrada turned in yet another absolutely masterful performance tonight. He mowed through 8.0 innings on just 104 pitches, surrendering three hits and one walk while striking out nine. One of his runs was unearned, as Joe Mauer scored five hole on new second baseman Jimmy Paredes which allowed Brian Dozier to move from first to third before Sano’s sac fly. Estrada has been a steadying presence for the Blue Jays all season long and dropped his ERA to 2.61 tonight, but felt the wrath of an anemic offensive attack.
New Look Lineup
The Blue Jays shook things up tonight, batting Jose Bautista in the leadoff spot in hopes of kickstarting a once-vaunted offensive attack. The players themselves requested the changes and took ownership of the teams’ struggles so far. The one game returns weren’t great, but the Blue Jays did pick up a victory. It’s probable that we see a similar lineup tomorrow, but whether this look extends beyond the Minnesota series remains to be seen.
After finally notching a win, the Blue Jays will look to take the good vibes into tomorrow night’s game. Aaron Sanchez (3-1, 3.29) will oppose right hander Tyler Duffey (1-2, 1.85) tomorrow night in the second of this four game set. First pitch is set for 8:10 EST.
Lead Photo: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports