The Blue Jays locked horns with last years’ surprise team, the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have demonstrated in the early going that last year was no fluke. Despite the loss of some personnel, Buck Showalter has the O’s playing exceptional defense and pitching very well. Chris Davis’ unbelievable start to the season—4 HR, 16 RBI in his first 4 games—helped to jump start them as well.
JA Happ and Chris Tillman were brilliant in the first half of the game, holding their respective opponents to goose eggs. Happ blinked first, giving up a single run in the bottom of the sixth, but an exceptional defensive play by Brett Lawrie on a deflected ball saved Happ any additional damage in the inning. His return has indeed solidified the infield defense.
Happ blinked first, but Tillman blinked, too. In the top of the seventh, Encarnacion and Arencibia got on base. Colby Rasmus singled through the hole between first and second to plate Encarnacion, tying the score at one run apiece. Chris Tillman was pulled from the game after Colby’s single; Darren O’Day came on in relief. Brett Lawrie walked to load the bases, but Emilio Bonifacio struck out (surprised?) to end the threat.
Through seven innings the top of the Jays’ batting order has been quiet, with Kawasaki, Melky and Bautista going 0-9. It was the bottom two-thirds of the order that provided the patience to wait out Chris Tillman and tie the game. Surprisingly, Adam Lind drew another walk (6 in his past 3 games) to move his OBP into the rarified air of the .390 mark. JP Arencibia also walked—his second of the season—and singled. Rasmus’s single allowed the Jays to score their first run. Bonifacio walked earlier in the game.
Buck and Tabby just made an important observation. The Jays’ ‘pen has worked 69+ innings so far, the second-highest total in the AL after HOU. By contrast, the Central division leading Royals have only used their ‘pen for about 40 innings thus far. It’s not a stretch to believe that John Gibbons is using the ‘pen as a stop-gap until the starters get settled. Certainly that’s one of the primary functions of the bullpen, but in this case TOR has five starters who are capable of going deep into games on a consistent basis.
Colby Rasmus fist-bumped JA Happ, congratulating Happ for a good start. It’s not really the kind of thing you see Rasmus do with the older veterans, but it’s right in line with something that I’ve noticed over the last 2-3 games: the Blue Jays are noticeably ‘looser’ as a team. I think Munenori Kawasaki has contributed enormously here. The energizer bunny, Brett Lawrie, has also contributed. Even Jose Bautista clowned around in the dugout throughout the game; it’s notable that Bautista clowned around even after Kawasaki hit a screaming foul ball into the dugout that almost clocked him.
Munenori Kawasaki drew a base on balls leading off the eighth inning. It was the fifth walk of the game for the Jays, who appear to be seeing a lot more pitches than usual. Through eight, Chris Tillman and Darren O’Day had combined to throw 131 pitches. Jim Johnson threw 14 more. If this continues, the Jays will become much more disciplined at the plate. Being selective at the plate is a very Red Sox/Yankees thing to do. It’s a good habit to develop.
Th game remained tied 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth when Aaron Loup clipped Chris Davis on the elbow with the first pitch of the inning. An excellent sacrifice bunt by JJ Hardy moved Davis to 2B. An intentional walk followed by an ill-timed error by Mune at shortstop on a simple ground ball that load the bases preceded a base hit by Nick Markakis for a 2-1 win.
All-in-all it was good effort by the Jays until Loup entered the game. Loup is a very solid lefty who has struggled with his control lately: it doesn’t seem like something about which to be concerned. The Jays would have made it to extra innings if not for the error by Kawasaki however are we surprised that Baltimore won the one-run game?