The Jays took the series opener 5-1 against Baltimore at Camden Yards. They are now beginning to assert their dominance as the premier bird in the AL East, pushing their lead to a commanding four games over the Orioles. Hardy hit a home run to left field against Estrada in the first inning. Melvin Upton Jr. had a bead on the ball and time his jump at the wall perfectly. What he did not account for was a Baltimore fan with a glove directly above him. As Upton rose to catch the ball in the stands, the fan stuck his glove out and essentially inhibited Upton’s glove from continuing it’s upward trajectory. The ball fell right into the Baltimore fan’s glove. Kudos to him for denying Upton an absolute web gem. The Jays were in a hole quickly, but it didn’t remain there for long. In the 4th, Josh Donaldson hit his 34th home run to tie the game, and Tulowitzki singled home a run for the lead later in the inning. From there on out, the Jays didn’t allow a run, and piled on three more of their own, including a Jose Bautista solo shot. A shoutout to Estrada who adapted to the Baltimore strategy and strung together seven impressive innings of work. In doing so, he cast away the doubt that was surrounding him and his performance as of late.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
In a game with few runs, it is unsurprising that the top play is awarded to a swing that deposited a ball on the other side of the fence. Keeping up with his performance from Sunday’s game, Josh Donaldson continued to put the middle of the bat on the baseball. His solo home run in the 4th inning tied the game 1-1. The Jays never trailed for the remainder of the game, never allowing another Baltimore run to score. Donaldson contributed 0.126 WPA with that swing. An honorable mention goes to Jose Bautista for his solo home run in the 6th inning. He compiled 0.120 WPA while increasing his home run total to 16 on the season.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
In the 7th inning, with the Orioles trailing by two runs; Matt Wieters stepped to the plate and hit a rocket. Unfortunately for him, it was straight into the waiting mitt of first baseman “Smoaky Bear”. Mark Trumbo, who was on first, took a surprising step farther off the bag which made it an extremely clear cut double play. Even if Trumbo broke back immediately, he probably didn’t have a chance to reach the bag before Smoak. Wieters gets credit for a hard hit, worst play of the game. He detracted 0.133 WPA from his team’s chance to win the game. That’s a tough way to pick up this award, Matt.
Estrada Returns To Form
Going into this start, there was general trepidation surrounding Marco Estrada place amongst the starting rotation. In his last two starts, he had failed to make it past the 5th inning in either occasion. All told, he allowed 11 earned runs in only 9.0 innings of work. This late into the season, Estrada was able to increase his ERA from 2.95 to 3.47; a remarkable feat for starts number 21 and 22. However, Marco reverted to his previous form tonight, going seven innings, allowing only four hits which amounted to only one run.
I thought the Orioles hitters were sitting on his change up early on in the game. This is a trend that appeared evident in the last two starts when Estrada struggled. In about the third inning, it appeared that Martin and Marco altered the gameplan. They began throwing more curveballs early in the count and jamming righties with fastballs. After they had established the curve, and to a certain degree, the cutter; Estrada began to toss in more change ups once again. The ability to pick up on what hitters are looking for and adjust mid-game is truly an impressive feat. With Marco’s philosophy of not shaking off the catcher, Martin likely deserves the credit here; but in any event, the Orioles hitters struggled between innings three and seven, accumulating only one hit.
There isn’t much new to say about Josh Donaldson. The man is in another realm right now. In the first inning, he tagged a ball to dead center field that required an impressive catch by Nolan Reimold to prevent extra bases. Reimold found himself flat on his back after his encounter with the wall. Donaldson wasn’t to be denied. In the 4th inning, Josh did what Josh does best, bring the Jays back to square one with one crack of the bat.
This was only the opener and the Jays are in for two more thrillers. J.A. Happ takes the mound for the Blue Birds tomorrow night, with Aaron Sanchez coming back up from Dunedin on Wednesday. Their counterparts are
recently demoted Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo respectively.
Lead Photo credit – Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports