TORONTO — The best-pitching team in the American League was facing the top-scoring team in the league. The worst-pitching team in the American League was facing the second-worst scoring team in the league.
Using the old “good pitching beats good hitting” logic, every game of this Toronto Blue Jays-Los Angeles Angels series should be a tight, low-scoring affair.
Well, they have three more tries to get that done after the Blue Jays blew the doors off the Halos in the series opener.
Angels’ starter C.J. Wilson had gone five straight starts without allowing more than two runs, but the Jays got to him for a four-spot in the bottom of the second. When Ryan Goins came to the plate with runners on second and third and one out, he was carrying a big weight — the Blue Jays had been hitless as a team in their last 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position going into Goins’ trip.
Goins hit a weak ground ball to first, and Albert Pujols grabbed it. Angels’ catcher Chris Iannetta was out in front of the plate, pointing at Pujols to concede the run and take the out at first, but Pujols threw home anyway. There was a play at the plate, but Iannetta had taken himself out of position and Chris Colabello slid home untouched with the game’s first run. Goins was credited with an RBI infield single, and the Jays’ streak of futility ended.
A new streak of success began, as the next four Jays’ hitters followed with safeties, all but one of them with runners in scoring position. In the absence of Devon Travis, out a second straight game with continued soreness in his left shoulder/collarbone area, manager John Gibbons moved “The Gauntlet” up to the first three spots in the order.
After the Goins hit, Josh Donaldson singled in a run, Jose Bautista doubled in Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion singled to score Bautista, capping a four-run frame. It was the Blue Jays’ biggest outburst since they put up a pair of four-run innings in last Tuesday’s win in Baltimore and the first inning that big without help from opposition errors since May 3 in Cleveland.
The Blue Jays added another four-run frame in the sixth inning, doing all their damage with two outs. It started when Angels’ reliever Mike Morin lost the plate with Goins on first. Morin walked Bautista and Encarnacion on four pitches each before giving way to Vinnie Pestano, who couldn’t wriggle out of the bases-loaded mess.
Pestano, a side-armer who had allowed just five of 22 right-handed batters he’d faced this season to reach base, got in a battle with Russell Martin. He got ahead of Martin 1-2, then the Jays’ backstop fouled off a pitch before taking a couple of pitches to run the count full. Pestano’s first 3-2 pitch was fouled off, but Martin straightened out the next one, driving it into centrefield for a two-run single to put the Blue Jays back on top. Danny Valencia followed by smacking an 0-2 pitch into the gap in right-centre for a two-run double.
Bautista gave the Blue Jays some added breathing room with a mammoth two-run home run in the seventh. It extended the Jays’ lead to five runs, but they were unable to put it into cruise control as Aaron Loup couldn’t get out of the eighth without help after getting two quick outs. Loup gave up a solo shot to Chris Iannetta, and a couple of singles followed before Steve Delabar came in to bail him out, retiring Erick Aybar on two pitches. Even with a four-run lead, Gibbons called upon closer Brett Cecil to handle the ninth, the win being that important given the Blue Jays’ recent struggles. Cecil pitched a perfect inning.
The offensive outburst covered up another insufficient outing by a starting pitcher. Smack dab in the middle of a 20-game stretch without a day off, the Blue Jays chose to give their struggling rotation a breather by calling Todd Redmond up from triple-A Buffalo, hoping Redmond might be able to give them five innings. The journeyman righty wound up giving them four, but only three good ones as Redmond’s old issues of struggling after he gets through a lineup once showed up yet again.
Redmond breezed through the first three innings, needing only 29 pitches over that span, walking a batter but not giving up a hit as the Blue Jays built that four-run lead. It was a different story in the fourth, after Redmond started it off by striking out Mike Trout. The next batter was Pujols, who destroyed a hanging sinker for his seventh home run. Kole Calhoun then doubled off the wall in dead centre, moved up on a single and scored on a wild pitch. After Marc Krauss popped up, Iannetta doubled to right-centre to score another run. With the tying run in scoring position, Redmond got Collin Cowgill to fly out to deep-centre to finally end the three-run, 32-pitch inning, having given almost all of the four-run cushion back.
In the Angels’ first look at Redmond, they hit .000/.111/.000 as a group. In their second, it was .500/.500/1.125. Usually the drop off isn’t nearly that bad, but for his career Redmond came into the game having baffled the opposition to the tune of a .197/.263/.369 mark in his first trip through a batting order, while the opposition had knocked him around at a .296/.357/.574 clip second time around.
Ryan Tepera took over, and the rookie restored order with a shutout fifth inning, but he gave up the lead in the sixth on David Freese’s leadoff homer. Tepera gave way to Roberto Osuna after giving up a one-out double to Iannetta and in a rare hiccup, Osuna gave up the go-ahead run — Angels’ nine-hitter Johnny Giavotella lofted a soft single to centre to score Iannetta.
But after the Blue Jays took the lead back with their second four-run inning of the day, Osuna came back out for the seventh and cut through the heart of the Angels’ lineup with ease, getting Trout and Pujols to fly out and striking out Calhoun. Osuna wound up with his first major-league win at the tender age of 20 years and 100 days, becoming the youngest Blue Jay ever to pick up a big-league victory.
Even though Redmond could only get through four innings, the Blue Jays’ bullpen wasn’t especially taxed on Monday afternoon, with only one of the relievers throwing as many as 30 pitches (Loup, 31), and they could all conceivably be used if need be on Tuesday night with Mark Buehrle having thrown a complete game on Sunday.
So the Jays continue the series with a relatively fresh ‘pen and with their entire starting rotation having had an extra day off. We’ll see if that’s the formula to get things back on the rails as the Jays begin the season’s second quarter sitting four games out of a playoff spot, four-and-a-half games out of first in the AL East.