TORONTO – As an agreement was reached to send Seung-hwan Oh to the Colorado Rockies and negotiations continued with others about J.A. Happ, the Toronto Blue Jays were grinding on the field in a preview of what things may look like beyond the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Starter Sam Gaviglio barely survived a 35-pitch second inning and then struggled to deliver five frames of work. A vulnerable bullpen surrendered nine runs, the decisive final six with two outs in the top of the 11th. More fundamental flaws – two by Kendrys Morales and one by Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the basepaths, were exposed. And as a heartening eighth-inning rally that tied the game ultimately went for naught, the growing pains of a transitioning core were all around.
A 12-6 victory for the Minnesota Twins – Max Kepler was hit by Jake Petricka with the bases loaded to open the floodgates in the 11th – completed a three-game sweep by the Minnesota Twins before a crowd of 32,686 as the sell-off of assets commenced.
Oh was put off limits before the game started and the Blue Jays and Rockies were still finalizing a deal that an industry source told Sportsnet will return A-ball first base prospect Chad Spanberger and another player. The Denver Post reported Spanberger’s teammate at high-A Asheville, Sean Bouchard, a first baseman/outfielder, was also part of the transaction.
Oh didn’t address media afterwards but did go into manager John Gibbons’ office and the coaches’ room to pay his respects.
“I love the guy, he’s done a tremendous job for us, he really has, but I don’t know if anything is going to happen, I know the word is out there,” said Gibbons. “Pretty good pitcher. He’s showed us a lot, great command, great competitor.”
They certainly could have used him Wednesday, as the Blue Jays once again found a way to shoot themselves in the foot in extra innings after struggling defensively in the first two games of the series.
Joe Biagini let a close game slip away in the eighth, and after the Blue Jays tied it, Petricka lost the zone with two out in the 11th, eight consecutive Twins reached base and it was hard to not to think what a challenge it will be for Gibbons to plot out the end of games from here forward.
En route to pull Petricka for Luis Santos in that final frame, Gibbons chirped at home plate umpire Sean Barber and earned his 50th career ejection in the process.
The same worries about the bullpen apply on the starting end, too, especially once Happ’s reliability every five days is soon removed from the mix.
Gaviglio nearly left his team in a deep bind Wednesday during a spinning-his-wheels second inning, when Gibbons was forced to warm Petricka. After Mitch Garver’s RBI single tied the game 1-1, a second run came in on a Jake Cave fielder’s choice, a smash that Gurriel couldn’t field cleanly and managed to only get one out on instead of two.
The inning extended, Joe Mauer doubled in a third run and Gaviglio walked Eddie Rosario before striking out Eduardo Escobar to end the frame.
To his credit, Gaviglio managed to reel things back in over the next three innings, during which he threw 17, 13 and six pitches to deliver a five-and-dive that under the circumstances was welcomed.
“(The second inning) did take a little bit out of me,” said Gaviglio, who finished with 88 pitches. “But there was a lot of ballgame left and I tried to stay positive and move forward. …
“Really battled. Each inning had runners on, nothing was coming easy. I thought Luke (Maile) did a great job behind the plate, I didn’t execute pitches the way I wanted to and they took advantage of it.”
Over the long term, without Happ to consistently eat innings, the short outings will catch up to a bullpen that was thin beforehand and will soon lack far fewer options.
Aaron Loup, another pending free-agent reliever the Blue Jays hope to deal, didn’t bury a 92-m.p.h. sinker down and in enough to Garver, who hammered it for his fifth homer of the season.
Biagini, who surrendered three homers in his previous two appearances, allowed three straight hits to start the eighth, the last another RBI single for Garver, before Ryan Tepera came in to clean up the mess. He gave up an RBI double to Mauer but held the damage there.
Gurriel, meanwhile, doubled in the fifth and was in position to score the tying run on a Justin Smoak single but he misread the ball, broke back to the bag before turning for home and had to be held at third. Morales took him off the hook with a sacrifice fly that tied the game 3-3, but it was the second time Gurriel has failed to score on such a play, and is obviously something he’ll have to improve on.
Morales got doubled off at second base on a Yangervis Solarte liner in the first to end that inning. Then, far more inexcusably, he got doubled off again in the ninth, this time at first base on another Solarte line drive with the Twins playing a five-man infield and Gurriel on third base representing the winning run.
There was no reason for Morales to have taken a secondary lead in that situation since his run was irrelevant.
On the other end of the spectrum Teoscar Hernandez, whose misplays in left field in the last two days cost the Blue Jays, entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and in the seventh, tracked down a Mauer laser to the outfield, drawing cheers from the crowd.
The Blue Jays then tied the game 6-6 on Maile’s two-run single and an Aledmys Diaz RBI fielder’s choice to set up the frustrating finish.
Yesterday’s pain for today’s gain isn’t exactly an exciting rallying cry, but as the sell-off takes place, it’s all the Blue Jays will be left with.