Fresh off the most embarrassing game of the season, the Toronto Blue Jays tried to exact a measure of revenge against the first place Boston Red Sox. Unlike last night, both teams had serious trouble scoring runs on the day, with J.A. Happ and Eduardo Rodriguez both turning in nice games. Thankfully Happ was just a touch better than Rodriguez, allowing the Jays to pull within one game of the Red Sox.
As for the offense, Melvin Upton Jr. tried his best to avoid the boo birds today by scorching a two run homer to left center field in the 2nd inning to give Toronto an early lead. The Jays would tack on another run in the third on a Jose Bautista bloop single that scored Josh Donaldson. The Jays couldn’t add on to the lead despite multiple opportunities with runners on and once again left the game in the hands of the pitching staff.
J.A. Happ was masterful today in an effort that the Blue Jays sorely needed. He cruised for the first five innings, using his pitch mix to keep the powerful Red Sox on their heels for most of the afternoon. Happ started the seventh after surrendering a solo shot to Dustin Pedroia and a deep fly ball to David Ortiz in the sixth and was greeted by opposite field singles from Hanley Ramirez and Aaron Hill. He gave way to Joaquin Benoit and departed with a final line of 6.0+ IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K on 95 pitches.
Benoit did his best to get out of the jam, though a bunch of balls hit to Jose Bautista out in right (a single and two flies, one of the sacrifice variety) did cash in Ramirez to cut the deficit to one. Jason Grilli got through the eighth with the only blemish coming on a Troy Tulowitzki error that allowed Ortiz to reach.
Roberto Osuna came in to pitch the ninth and retired three consecutive batters after a leadoff walk, capping the game with a three pitch strikeout of Jackie Bradley Jr.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Today’s top play came off the bat of Upton Jr., whose home run in the second cashed in a Russell Martin walk and produced a .182 WPA. Upton’s big hit definitely felt good coming off last night’s poor showing, so credit the veteran for bouncing back strong.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
The bottom play of the game came from pinch hitter Brock Holt, whose fielder’s choice in the ninth inning produced a -.106 WPA. After Hanley Ramirez walked to start the inning, Holt had a chance to at least move the tying run into scoring position but failed to get the job done.
Upton’s dinger today was his 20th of the season, his highest total since 2012. He also stole his 26th base of the season, making 2016 his fourth career 20/20 campaign. Upton has taken on a fairly regular role since being acquired by the team before the trade deadline and has had a few big hits mixed in with some seemingly eternal slumps at the plate. If he can get back to the play that made him a hot commodity in San Diego it would be a boon to Toronto’s October aspirations. In a perfect world, today marked the start of his return to form.
We’re Going Streaking
Streaks both good and bad continued today for the Jays. On the positive end, Devon Travis has been on fire this series, racking up six hits in the first two games of the set. He’s been a godsend atop the lineup for a team whose big boppers have been scuffling.
On that note, Josh Donaldson has extended his hitless streak to 20 at bats now. The reigning MVP had a few healthy cuts and a hard hit ball today but can’t buy a hit right now. If the Jays want to stake their claim to the division crown they’ll need their best player to get things back to normal.
The Jays will wrap up this massive series with Boston tomorrow afternoon when Aaron Sanchez (13-2, 2.92 ERA) takes on right hander Clay Buchholz (6-10, 4.99 ERA) with first pitch set for 1:07 ET. A win would draw the teams even atop the AL East, so tune in for another significant showdown.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro – USA Today Sports