With sports on pause as the world tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, there are still ways to fill the void created by the lack of games. In order to provide a distraction from the much more serious things going on in the world, Sportsnet’s Blue Jays radio broadcaster Mike Wilner will be simulating each scheduled Blue Jays game in what was supposed to have been the 2020 season and providing weekly updates in this space. You can follow the games as they happen on Twitter @Wilnerness590. The simulation is being done using Dynasty League Baseball, a cards-and-dice tabletop (and online) simulation game.
This is the first update since Opening Day, so we have a bit of catching up to do as we get set to begin what was supposed to be the second full week of action in the 2020 Major League Baseball season.
After the Toronto Blue Jays dropped the simulated season opener, they went on to lose the next two games as well, struggling to an 0-3 start to the season. Tanner Roark got knocked around for five runs over just two innings of work in a 10-3 loss in the season’s second game, and the Jays wasted a masterful performance by Matt Shoemaker the next day, failing to score a run in support of his seven innings of one-run, four-hit work in a 1-0 loss. The bats sputtered out of the gate, scoring only three times in the first three games combined, all of them in Game 2. To this point, Travis Shaw had the team’s only home run.
The Jays finally got things going in the finale of the four-gamer with the Red Sox, and in a big way. After falling behind 4-0, they exploded for six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning – on three-run homers by Rowdy Tellez and Joe Panik. They added a run each in the fifth and sixth and cruised to an 8-4 win behind three perfect innings of relief from Sam Gaviglio. Panik got the Sunday start to give Cavan Biggio a break, as Biggio had been off to a 1-for-11 start with nine strikeouts.
With the win, though, Panik wasn’t coming out of the lineup – or the second spot in the batting order – as the Cincinnati Reds came to town to open a three-game series.
The Blue Jays won the first two games by identical 4-3 scores, but in very different fashions. In the opener, Rowdy Tellez broke a 3-3 tie with a sixth-inning homer off former Blue Jays’ prospect Anthony Desclafani. Shun Yamaguchi got the win with 2 2/3 innings of one-hit relief of Trent Thornton. Teoscar Hernandez had tied the game with a solo shot in the third, and to that point was hitting .467/.556/.867 in his first 18 plate appearances of the simulated season.
In the second game, the Blue Jays struck early, taking advantage of a rare Joey Votto error that extended the first inning so that Tellez could come up with two outs and club a three-run double. In his second start, Hyun-Jin Ryu took a two-hit shutout into the 6th before giving up a two-run homer to Eugenio Suarez, but the Jays led 4-2 into the eighth, when Ryu allowed a leadoff solo shot to Nick Senzel. With set-up man Anthony Bass having pitched three days in a row, Wilmer Font took over for Ryu and was perfect, and Ken Giles finished up for his second straight save.
The Jays couldn’t complete the sweep though, as Roark was absolutely crushed in the finale. He managed to record only one out in facing eight hitters, allowing six runs on five hits. The big blows were a two-run homer by Votto and two-run doubles by Nicholas Castellanos and old pal Freddy Galvis. The Jays never recovered, as Thomas Pannone (2 innings, 4 runs) and A.J. Cole (back to back homers by Suarez and Mike Moustakas) got lit up as well, and it was 12-0 Reds before Tellez hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth to prevent the Jays from getting shut out a third time in seven games.
In his two starts so far, Roark has lasted just 2 1/3 innings, allowing 11 runs on nine hits for a 42.43 ERA. But one of the reasons the Blue Jays signed him is because he answers the bell, so he’s got another 30 starts or so to get things right.
The Blue Jays would have spent this past weekend in the Bronx, so that’s where our simulation wrapped up the week.
Another tremendous performance by Shoemaker helped to ruin the Yankees’ home opener. The righty went seven innings of three-hit ball and didn’t allow an earned run, but the score was tied 1-1 into the sixth when the Jays finally got to Masahiro Tanaka. Back-to-back doubles by Tellez and Hernandez put the Jays in front, and Randal Grichuk’s two-out single scored Hernandez with an insurance run. That was more than enough, but they tacked on another in the eighth on back-to-back doubles by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. After an inning each of perfect relief from Bass and Giles, Toronto wound up with a 4-1 win.
The middle game of the series saw all the runs scored in the third inning. The Blue Jays pounced on J.A. Happ for a five-spot that included a two-run double by Gurriel and RBI singles from Biggio and Grichuk, but Chase Anderson couldn’t handle the prosperity. With two on and one out, he gave up back-to-back home runs – a three-run shot to Gleyber Torres was followed by a Giancarlo Stanton bomb to get the Yankees back within one. After a walk, Yamaguchi took over, and things continued to go sideways. A wild pitch, a Guerrero Jr. error and another walk loaded the bases, then Yamaguchi hit Mike Ford to force in the tying run. The Yanks took the lead on a fielder’s choice grounder and added one more to make it a seven-run inning. The teams combined for just three hits the rest of the way in a 7-5 Yankees’ win.
The Blue Jays were trying to get back to .500 on the season in the rubber match, plus a series win at Yankee Stadium is always a good time, right? They got all they would need on one swing of the bat in the second inning – Bo Bichette went deep with two on to make it 3-0 and Trent Thornton and the bullpen took it from there. Thornton allowed just a run on six hits over seven innings, with 11 strikeouts, and Brandon Drury provided some insurance with a three-run shot of his own in the eighth. A 6-2 win left the Jays at 5-5 through the first 10 games of the simulated season.
Coming up this week, two games in Philadelphia, then a day off and four at home against Kansas City. Follow along!