The Blue Jays offence came roaring back to life on Friday night, scoring 15 times on the way to a 15-8 win against the last place Minnesota Twins. The Jays got the party started early, scoring five times in the second inning off Twins’ starter Pat Dean. Dean, the soft tossing lefty who was able to limit the Blue Jays to just two runs on three hits in his May 21st start, was not able keep the Jays’ bats down for a second time. Francisco Liriano labored through five innings but kept the Jays close – surrendering 4 runs in 5 innings of work, this despite allowing only two hits. After Matt Albers was able to hold the Jays at bay momentarily, Pat Light surrendered a three-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning to Russell Martin that put the Jays up by five runs. Just for good measure, the Blue Jays batted around again in the seventh inning, adding five more runs, two more of which came on a Russell Martin once home run once again. While the bullpen was a bit shaky, it wouldn’t matter tonight as the Jays offence was unstoppable.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Unsurprisingly, Justin Smoak’s second inning home run off Pat Dean was the top play of the game by WPA. The home run staked the Jays to a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game. The hit was the first of three for Justin Smoak on the night and increased the Blue Jays chances of winning by 25.2 percentage points.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
With the Blue Jays up two runs heading into the bottom of the 6th inning, Joe Biagini ran into a bit of trouble. After surrendering a sacrifice fly to Eddie Rosario, Brian Dozier stepped to the plate with two out and the tying run in scoring position. Biagini’s strikeout of Dozier snuffed out the Twins rally and decreased their chances of winning the game by 7 percentage points.
While you wouldn’t want to read too much into a handful of starts, Francisco Liriano hasn’t been terrible in his four Blue Jays appearances this month. While Liriano struggled in Pittsburgh this season, he came into the night with a 3.57 ERA, having struck out 16 batters in 17.1 innings. Liriano struggled with his control tonight against Minnesota, but fought through 5 innings, walking four and surrendering four runs (3 earned) in 5 innings of work. On a night when Aaron Loup once again struggled to get outs, its hard not to think about moving Liriano into the pen. If the Blue Jays other starters remain effective (which is not a given) through September, the possibility of moving the lefty into a relief role still remains intriguing to a Blue Jay bullpen that is lacking a left-handed set up man.
Smoak Breaks Out
After going 0 for his last 29 with runners in scoring position and having not started a game since August 19th, Justin Smoak broke out of a prolonged slump with a three-run homer in the second inning. Surprisingly, the home run came while Smoak was hitting right-handed, only the third of his 14 homers to come against a left-handed pitcher this season. Smoak then contributed RBI singles in the 4th and 7th innings finishing the night 3-5 with 5 RBIs. While the often-platooned Smoak typically struggles to make contact, he isn’t as bad as we’ve seen over the past few weeks. Toronto should be able to reasonably expect a few more games like tonight from their backup first baseman/DH.
Devon Travis Sits Again
Having not played since last weekend’s series in Cleveland, Devon Travis was held out of the lineup once again on Friday night. Travis, who is nursing an injured finger, was said to be returning to the lineup tomorrow afternoon, according to John Gibbons. As many have already pointed out, the Blue Jay lineup is much more formidable when their starting second baseman is healthy enough to play. Knowing that Travis is close to a return and unlikely to require a stint on the disabled list is positive news for Jays fans.
The weekend series against the Twins continues tomorrow afternoon at the Rogers Centre. The perpetually almost-acquired Ervin Santana (6-10, 3.33 ERA) takes on Marcus Stroman (9-5, 4.47 ERA) as the Blue Jays look to continue their offensive barrage into the second game of the series.
Lead Photo: Dan Hamilton – USA Today Sports