DUNEDIN, Fla. — The Toronto Blue Jays’ magical spring continued with a walk-off win over the Boston Red Sox Friday in their first extra-inning affair of the pre-season.
Jon Berti was the hero, with a first-pitch ground ball single up the middle with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 10th to win the game for the home side.
Here’s what stood out about the victory that improved the Blue Jays to 9-1-1 in the fake standings:
BURNS BABY BURNS
Andy Burns has slowly worked his way up the Blue Jays’ minor-league ladder since being drafted in 2011, spending most of last season in Buffalo, where he hit .293/.351/.372. He’s been getting a good look down here and is definitely making the most of it.
Burns came on defensively for Dalton Pompey late in Friday’s game and wound up with two plate appearances. He walked on four pitches to begin the eighth and eventually came around to score the game’s first run on a single by A.J. Jimenez. Burns also led off the 10th and drew a walk then as well. He was on third when Berti bounced his game-winning single up the middle and came in to score the winning run, setting off the celebration.
Thursday against the New York Yankees, Burns belted a three-run home run and added an RBI double. He’s played in 10 of the Blue Jays’ 11 games this spring, and is hitting .385/.529/.923, having played second, third and left field -- often switching positions in the same game.
THE STRO SHOW
Marcus Stroman continues to have a fantastic spring, exceeding expectations by throwing 4.2 shutout innings at the Red Sox on Friday. The Blue Jays' opening day starter-in-waiting was only supposed to throw four frames, but he was so efficient they sent him back out for the fifth before pulling the plug after a single and a double-play ball.
It’s not fair to say Stroman barely broke a sweat in his outing, but he certainly did breeze through the 14 outs he recorded, striking out four, getting seven more outs on ground balls and not issuing a walk.
There continue to be those who doubt Stroman’s ability to front a big-league rotation -- after all, he has only made 27 starts in the major leagues -- but the stuff is there, the command is there and he really does appear to be the total package. The doubts only serve to add fuel.
The Blue Jays got a shutout inning of relief from each of their big three in the bullpen, with Drew Storen working the sixth, Brett Cecil the seventh and Roberto Osuna the eighth, then Jimenez’s RBI single gave them a 1-0 lead going into the ninth and the call went out to Rule Five pick Joe Biagini.
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The big righty had been impressive so far in camp, with a fastball in the mid-90s and some filthy breaking stuff. He’d pitched an inning each in two other games having allowed just one hit with a pair of strikeouts.
Biagini fell behind each of the first two hitters he faced with ball one, but struck them out to extend his streak of consecutive Grapefruit batters retired to eight and was one out away from closing things out. He also delivered ball one to Boston first baseman Sam Travis, one of the Red Sox’s top position-player prospects. Biagini came back with a strike to even the count, then threw another strike that Travis turned on and belted off the batters’ eye in dead centre for a game-tying home run.
The righty got the next hitter on a first-pitch ground ball, but wound up with the Blue Jays’ second blown save of the spring.
The Jays will look to move their win total into double digits on Saturday when they drive the five miles southeast to Clearwater to take on the Phillies for the fourth time already this spring. R.A. Dickey is scheduled to knuckleball it up against young Phils’ righty Vincent Velasquez, who came over as part of the Ken Giles deal with the Houston Astros this winter.
We’re in full radio mode for that game, as well as for the next eight overall through March break. Jerry Howarth, Joe Siddall and I have the call for you beginning with the pre-game show at 12:30 p.m. ET across the Sportsnet radio network, and also on the interwebs, of course.