BOSTON — Imagine showing up at Fenway Park to face the best lineup in baseball. Your closer’s still sidelined and your starter’s making the first start of his big-league career. Safe to say the odds would be stacked against you.
On Tuesday night, that was the Toronto Blue Jays’ reality. Yet five pitchers combined to limit the Red Sox to four runs, allowing the Blue Jays to win 10-4.
“That’s resilience,” catcher Danny Jansen said. “That’s a good hitting team, so they’re going to chip away, but there were some big holds in there. Guys stepped up and threw the ball really, really well.”
Making his third career appearance, Jacob Waguespack attacked the strike zone with much of his family watching from the stands. Xander Bogaerts sent a middle-middle fastball out of the park for an Red Sox lead, but Waguespack held Boston scoreless for the following three frames before running into trouble in the fifth.
Still, as recently as Monday Waguespack was visiting Fenway for the first time in his life, touring the Green Monster and taking photos in the visiting dugout. Starting at such a historic park one day later made for a memorable evening.
“It’s my first time in Boston, so it was great and great to pitch in Fenway Park,” Waguespack said. “It gets pretty loud, though, when you give up some runs. Hopefully next time that won’t happen. But it was a great experience.”
When he left after 4.2 innings of work, he had allowed four earned runs while walking three and striking out two. It was enough to keep the Blue Jays in the game, at least.
“He was throwing strikes,” Charlie Montoyo said. “I’m pleased with his start. He did a good job.”
“He’s got great stuff,” Jansen added. “He’s going to have a great career … It comes to good sequencing with him. He’s got all the weapons. He’s got all the tools. He’s got a great arm.”
Once Waguespack left, the mixing and matching began for Montoyo. Complicating matters, Ken Giles was sidelined until Wednesday despite an encouraging bullpen session Tuesday afternoon. Yet Justin Shafer, Tim Mayza, David Phelps and Daniel Hudson combined for 4.1 innings of scoreless relief as the Blue Jays improved to 36-60.
As Montoyo said, “Our pitching was really good today against a good lineup.”
At the plate, the Blue Jays gradually built up a large margin for error. Teoscar Hernandez hit a three-run homer in the second and Justin Smoak added a solo shot in the sixth before a four-run ninth against Boston’s much-maligned bullpen created some welcome separation for Montoyo.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. emerged from a mini-slump with three hits, including a triple, and Eric Sogard had yet another multi-hit game.
(By the way, you have to think Sogard could help a contender, right? He’s hitting .304 with an .866 OPS. Maybe then Bo Bichette will get his wish and join the big-league team).
As ever, though, questions persist on the pitching staff. Looking ahead two days, the Blue Jays haven’t determined who will start Thursday’s finale. Montoyo mentioned left-hander Thomas Pannone as one possibility, but the club has yet to finalize that decision.
By Sunday reinforcements could arrive. Ryan Borucki made a rehab start at triple-A Tuesday, allowing three earned runs over six innings of work while walking one and striking out one.
The left-hander felt some fatigue during his previous rehab outing, so the Blue Jays will want to be sure he’s at full strength before promoting him, but Borucki told Bisons broadcaster Pat Malacaro he was encouraged by his most recent outing.
“Arm feels good, body feels good, feel ready,” he said.
Five days from now, Borucki looks like a candidate to replace Waguespack. This time, Edwin Jackson was the one cut loose with a designation for assignment that effectively ends his tenure in Toronto.
Jackson will likely clear waivers given his 11.12 ERA, and assuming that happens he can still collect his $2-million salary by electing free agency. Accepting an assignment to triple-A, on the other hand, would mean taking a substantial pay-cut.
The move came after a particularly strong outing from Jackson, who held the Red Sox scoreless over three innings Monday. Less than 24 hours later, Montoyo had to tell Jackson he was off the roster. The Blue Jays gave the veteran the option of packing his bags later, but he came to the clubhouse to wish his former teammates well.
“Awesome,” Montoyo said. “He’s a professional.”
Jackson set an all-time record by playing for the Blue Jays, his 14th MLB team. Based on what he showed in that final outing against the Red Sox, he could get a shot with another club, perhaps extending his record further.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have plenty to figure out, too. Full credit to them for defeating the defending World Series winners with the odds stacked against them. On nights like this, you can see real flashes of potential in the lineup.
But for this rebuild to succeed, the Blue Jays will need to see more arms emerge from the minors and allocate fewer innings to veterans like Jackson. Maybe then they’ll arrive at Fenway as favourites again.