The Blue Jays were back in action on Wednesday looking to take the series from the rival Orioles and looked to be in good shape until the game’s final two innings. There were no late game heroics for the Jays, who dropped the second game of the series after failing to cash in on offensive opportunities and left Roberto Osuna with a razor thin margin that he couldn’t handle.
Ezeqiuel Carrera did some nice work out of the leadoff spot tonight, reaching base each of his first three trips to the plate. He led off the game reaching first thanks to a Chris Davis error and advanced to third on an error by pitcher Chris Tillman. Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly brought Carerra home to give the Jays a 1-0 lead. Kevin Pillar notched a sac fly of his own in the 2nd, scoring Troy Tulowitzki from third after he doubled and was advanced by a Michael Saunders single. That pushed the lead to 2-0, where the score would remain until the 8th.
The Jays had a few chances to score but played their way out of runs, notably when Jose Bautista was doubled off second base after a nice grab in left and when Melvin Upton Jr. struck out with the bases loaded to end the 8th. For their part, the Orioles also weaved their way in and out of run-scoring opportunities but were shut down each time by Francisco Liriano.
Liriano was wonderful tonight, tossing 6.2 innings of shutout ball while racking up 10 strikeouts. In our series preview we discussed Liriano’s swing-and-miss potential and that nasty stuff allowed him to work out of a few tense moments. Each of the six hits he surrendered were singles and he only issued one free pass on the night. Liriano has now gone two starts without allowing a run and has definitely vaulted himself into the playoff rotation conversation.
While he was excellent throughout the game, two singles in the top of the 7th were enough to bring John Gibbons out of the dugout. With his typical 7th inning options unavailable, Gibbons called on Brett Cecil to take on right handers Nolan Reimold and Adam Jones. Cecil struck out Reimold (despite three pitches right down the middle) and retired Jones to strand the runners and preserve a two run lead. Cecil started the 8th and got Davis (now 3-24 against Cecil) to strike out before ceding way to Jason Grilli, who gave up a long homer to Mark Trumbo and a double to Pedro Alvarez before getting Matt Weiters to fly out to escape the jam.
Roberto Osuna came in to work the 9th and gave up a single and a home run to Hyun Soo Kim on the 9th pitch of the at bat to put the Orioles in front 3-2. Zach Britton came on and locked things down without any trouble to secure the win for Baltimore. The Jays completely blew their chance to shovel some dirt on Baltimore’s postseason hopes and have let another team stay nipping at their heels.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
The top play of the game is of course Hyun Soo Kim’s home run in the top of the 9th. The dinger not only won the game but may have saved Baltimore’s season considering how tight the wild card race is. His go-ahead shot was worth a whopping .597 WPA.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
Tonight’s bottom play came in the top of the 5th when Liriano struck out Chris Davis to end the inning and strand the bases loaded. Davis’ K was worth -.097 WPA.
Donaldson Dinged Up?
Josh Donaldson pulled up with a grimace after hustling his way to first base on a potential double play ball in the bottom of the 5th. He looked to be running a little gingerly on the next ball in play but managed to stay in the game. The team has to be hoping he avoided any re-aggravation of the hip problem that’s dogged him recently. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Darwin Barney at the hot corner tomorrow but we’ll have to wait and see how the reigning MVP feels overnight.
With Joaquin Benoit unavailable, much has been made over how the Blue Jays will get the ball to Roberto Osuna in the 9th. John Gibbons has spoken about stretching his starters a little bit further and Liriano certainly held up his end of the bargain. With the tying runs on base and new 7th inning guy Joe Biagini unavailable, we saw a little bit of Brett Cecil circa 2015. Cecil was tasked with facing two right handers in front of Chris Davis and delivered tonight.
Jason Grilli, on the other hand, continued to struggle. He conceded a second deck dinger to Mark Trumbo and a double to Pedro Alvarez and may be losing his grip on the 8th inning. If Grilli continues to falter it’ll make the late innings even more of a minefield for the Jays (Ryan Tepera warmed up in the 8th tonight) so keep an eye on how they tackle outs 18-24 going forward. With three straight blown saves, the solution in the bullpen can’t come soon enough.
The Jays wrap up their regular season home slate tomorrow night in the series finale. Marcus Stroman (9-9, 4.34 ERA) will take on Ubaldo Jimenez (7-12, 5.71 ERA) with first pitch set for 7:07 PM ET. A win would go a long way to securing a playoff spot, lest they tempt fate and wait to get the job done over a rainy weekend in Fenway.
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