The Blue Jays continued their winning ways on Friday night at the Rogers Centre, beating the Tigers and pushing their winning streak to 7 games in the process. Despite entering the game with a 4.78 ERA and K/9 of only 4.29, the Blue Jays struggled to score runs off Tigers’ starter Mike Pelfrey, who generated 9 groundball outs, including three double play balls. Darwin Barney doubled and came around to score the only run the Blue Jays’ could muster off Pelfry when Josh Donaldson hit into a double play during the bottom of the 5th inning. J.A. Happ continued to pitch well, striking out 9 Tigers over 5.2 shutout innings. While the Jays weren’t able to get to Pelfrey, they were able to get to a Tigers’ bullpen that has struggled all year long. The Jays scored 4 times in the 7th inning against Kyle Ryan and Bobby Parnell, three of those runs coming on a three-run homer off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion. That would be all the offence needed on a night where the Blue Jays’ bullpen threw 3.1 shutout innings en route to a 6-0 win.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Surprisingly enough, the top play of the game was not the three-run home run off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, but Kevin Pillar’s RBI double that preceded it. Pillar’s double over center fielder Cameron Maybin scored Justin Smoak (who had singled to begin the inning) all the way from first base, making it 2-0 and increasing the Blue Jays probability of winning by 9.9 percentage points.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
When Jesse Chavez came into the game in the bottom of the 6th inning, there were two outs and two on. Chavez promptly gave up a sharply hit single to left field off the bat of James McCann, loading the bases for Mike Aviles. Chavez was then able to induce Aviles to hit a grounder to short that ended the inning. Escaping the inning ensured that the book on J.A. Happ was closed unscathed and reduced the Tigers’ probability of winning the game by 12 percentage points.
Where’s Devon Travis?
While there was no official word from anyone with the team regarding an injury, Devon Travis sat for the second day in a row while Darwin Barney got the start at second base. Barney, who does not own the same upside or power potential as Travis, has filled in quite effectively – posting a .297/.349/.397 line in 189 plate appearances coming into play tonight. While it remains to be seen whether or not Travis is injured, if John Gibbons is opting to go with the hot hand there are worse problems than having three middle infielders playing well at the moment.
J.A. Happ: Strikeout Machine
From the beginning of the season through his June 16 start against Philadelphia, J. A. Happ had averaged 5.82 strikeouts per nine innings (58 K in 89.2 IP). Since June 16, Happ has struck out 31 batters in 22.2 innings. While Happ has pitched well regardless of his batted ball profile or pitch mix, he continues to mix things up. Since June 16th Happ has increased his fastball usage, 5.6%, up to 73.3% from 67.7%. While we don’t know how he will pitch next time out – opting for strikeouts or grounders, there’s a good chance he will do it effectively.
One Year Later: Mark Lowe
While many fans were clamoring for the Blue Jays to re-sign free agent reliever Mark Lowe this offseason, the Blue Jays’ front office decided to let Lowe walk in free agency. Lowe was seen as a logical option to boost a bullpen that was in dire need of reinforcements, and was coming off a season in which he pitched to a 1.96 ERA (2.54 FIP) and 61 strikeouts over 55 innings. Lowe, who signed a 2 year, $11 million dollar contract with the Tigers, has struggled mightily this season, pitching to a 10.33 ERA (7.68 FIP) in 27 innings so far. And we all thought Drew Storen was struggling. Lowe’s return to Toronto this weekend is yet another reminder of just how volatile relief pitching can be and provides yet another cautionary tale of spending your free agent dollars on them.
The Blue Jays’ series with the Tigers continues tomorrow afternoon at Rogers Centre. Aaron Sanchez (9-1, 2.94 ERA) will make his final start of the first half while Detroit has not officially announced a starting pitcher for Saturday afternoon. Despite not announcing, there is a strong chance that the Tigers will turn to Matt Boyd (0-2, 6.44 ERA), the former Blue Jay farmhand who was shipped to Detroit as part of the David Price trade. The game begins at 1:07 PM EST.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA Today Sports