The heart of the order, the Donaldson-Encarnacion-Bautista combo that’s supposed to strike fear in the trembling hearts of the league’s poor pitchers, hasn’t been quite right for the past few months. Guys like Devon Travis and Russell Martin have carried the team through stretches, and the core three have gotten hot independently, but we haven’t seen the core three come together to win a game single-handedly in a while.
Jose Bautista changed all of that with one swing in the bottom of the 8th. A two out single by Donaldson, a walk by Encarnacion, and Bautista strode to the plate to a deafening buzz that threw me back to the 7th inning against Texas. Clippard fell behind 2-0 quickly, and on a fastball Jose whipped a go-ahead three-run homer. There was no bat flip this time. Jose kept his head down and went into a quick trot and I can only imagine he was thinking, “Not all heroes wear capes.”
There wasn’t much hitting in this one, so I’ll jump straight into the pitching. Marcus Stroman’s breaking ball was tantalizingly sharp to open the game, and he rode the pitch to a barrage of early whiffs. Buck and Pat maintained that the reason for his slider’s resurgence was his increased fastball usage. Apparently even if your slider is filthy, you can have to much of a good thing because hitters get used to it after a while.
Stroman one-hit the Yankees through seven innings, but was lifted before the eighth after throwing 97 pitches. I get that the Jays rotation is filled with delicate young arms, but he absolutely could’ve gone another inning. Of course handing the ball over to Jason Grilli is never a bad idea, and Gibbons looked smart after getting two strikeouts and a super saiyan fist pump from Grilli.
CC Sabathia was his usual self against the Blue Jays, nipping the corners with average-at-best stuff and forcing the hitters to make their own outs. He got two trouble-quenching double plays early on, and repeatedly worked out of jams to hold the Jays scoreless over seven despite walking three and striking out two.
Roberto Osuna locked down his 35th save easily, giving up a Brett Gardner single but recovering for a quick inning.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Who else but Joey Bats? The monster shot provided all the offence the Jays needed and was worth a grand total of +0.380 WPA.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
The Tulo GDP in the second inning was worth -0.106 WPA, which really isn’t so bad- it happens to the best of us, so let’s not be hard on Tulo.
We Need To Talk About the Double Plays
Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion (almost twice) grounded into weak double plays and now the Blue Jays lead the majors with 144 GDP. Probably not the best list to be on the top of, but you can’t say you didn’t expect the Jays would end up there at some point. There’s not a lot of speed on this team, and most of the lineup scorches their groundballs which gives the opposing fielders more time to make the play.
Digging into it the details, we find that Jose Bautista leads the team with -2.6 wGDP (the cumulative number of runs above or below average a player has accumulated based on their ability to avoid grounding into double plays). If you divide that number by PA’s to account for his relative dearth of playing time, he trails only Yunel Escobar in double play suckage.
Trend to Watch
Stroman got great results by working off his fastball. It’ll be interesting to see whether he keeps this gameplan going into the playoffs or lapses back into his comfortable routine of throwing his devastating slider all the time. His command was the only blemish on this start, as he walked three and continued to suffer through long innings because of it. He’s a ground ball pitcher, and while he has the stuff to live on strikeouts, he’s got to pitch to contact early if he wants to pitch past the 7th inning ever.
The Jays will look for the series win against the Yankees tomorrow afternoon. They’ll throw Marco Estrada out there against the erratic Michael Pineda. New York is looking hopeless right now, and Toronto needs to fatten up with as many wins as possible before closing out the season with consecutive series against Baltimore and Boston.
Lead Photo: Dan Hamilton – USA Today Sports