Blue Jays dealt disappointing end to well-pitched effort vs. Dodgers

Toronto Blue Jays' Rowdy Tellez watches his solo home run next to Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Will Smith during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

LOS ANGELES — Study sessions are a part of Cavan Biggio’s pre-game routine so in the hours before he stepped into the batter’s box against Walker Buehler, the Toronto Blue Jays second baseman hit the video room.

Sometimes he watches himself, his swing, the specifics of how various body parts are working in case there’s an adjustment that needs to be made. On Wednesday, the 24-year-old was scrutinizing the last start by the Los Angeles Dodgers all-star, seeking clues of what to expect.

“I’m pretty much looking at what his stuff looks like and what he likes to do, specifically to left-handed batters,” says Biggio. “I’ll go up there and see what his heater is doing, if it’s flat, if he likes to pitch up in the zone, if he’s got some run or sink. And then you look to see if he likes to throw his curveball or slider to lefties, see if he has a changeup.

“Basically, it’s knowing what he has and seeing what it looks like as best as possible so when I go up to the plate I have an idea what it’s going to do.”

The prep work helped Biggio deliver a single, one of the only five hits the Blue Jays managed in seven innings against Buehler, in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Dodgers that was the polar opposite of Tuesday’s series-opening beatdown from the National League’s top club.

Biggio’s single came with two out in the third inning and was followed by Randal Grichuk’s double into the left-field corner, which advanced him to third base. Rowdy Tellez followed and after fouling off a 2-0 fastball, he swung through a slider and then a 97.5 four-seamer to end the inning.

The Dodgers took the lead in the fourth, as Will Smith ambushed bulk pitcher Zack Godley’s first pitch of the evening and sent it 366 feet away over the wall in left to open the scoring.

The next batter, Chris Taylor, nearly followed with an inside-the-park home run when his catchable liner to right field fell in between Grichuk and Teoscar Hernandez, who bumped together but avoided a more serious collision in right-centre. Grichuk retrieved the ball and relayed it to Biggio, who threw a strike home. Reese McGuire’s tag survived a lengthy challenge review on whether he failed to give the runner a lane to the plate.

“I was really happy because an inside-the-parker wouldn’t be cool for Godley,” said McGuire. “Just a great relay from the outfield, great relay by Biggio, throwing a one-hopper right on the money. I did the most that I could to put the tag down so I was happy it stood.”

Still, it was a hard way to get what should have been a much easier out, and Grichuk and Hernandez spent part of the review talking things over.

“I thought for me to make a play I would have had to slide and when I peeked up he was right there,” said Grichuk. “It was right in between, and you can’t really hear dudes at the stadium and we didn’t want to collide. It’s one of those tough spots.”

The averted run played big in the ninth, when Tellez fouled off three pitches before ripping his 15th homer of the season, a 401-foot drive to right field off Kenley Jansen.

“He has an elite cutter, one of the best cutters in the game, and I wanted to beat him to the spot. I knew what they were trying to do, they’d been doing it all game,” said Tellez. “He changed some stuff up with his motion to try to get me out of rhythm, I took out my leg kick and got the foot down early and wanted to hit. I fouled some pitches off, some pitches I should have hit, some tough ones, but all in all, I beat him to the punch.”

But the dramatic homer, one that extended concerns about Jansen in the Dodgers bullpen, only served to set the stage for Max Muncy’s walkoff solo shot in the 10th off Tim Mayza. It was a disappointing end to a well-pitched game for the Blue Jays, led by Godley’s 3.2 innings of two-hit, one-run ball, recovering nicely from a rough start.

“The best way to do it is to just move on. It’s all you can do,” Godley said of resetting after the Smith homer. “It’s the first pitch of an outing, guy ambushes you and takes you deep, you can’t do anything but tip your cap and move on to the next guy.”

Up until the ninth, the Dodgers looked set to make Smith’s homer stand up behind Buehler’s dominance — he allowed only five hits and eight strikeouts.

As per his season norms, Buehler relied heavily on a four-seam fastball that averaged 95.9 m.p.h., and topped out at 97.6, throwing it 47 times in 91 pitches. His secondary pitch of choice was his slider, thrown 20 times, followed by a cutter he used 12 times, along with a knuckle-curve and sinker sprinkled in six times each.

Biggio struck out on a 97.5-m.p.h. fastball up in the zone in the first inning, singled on a cutter in the third and then lined out to centre on a sinker in the sixth. Buehler struck to the script in that regard, although Biggio said he isn’t big on studying tendencies.

“There’s so much information out there that it can really confuse you,” he says. “At the end of the day, you’ve just got to go out there and compete. When you make more of what it actually is, the harder it’s going to be. Even when you’re facing a guy that’s so good like Walker Buehler, keeping things as simple as possible gives you the best chance.”

NOTES: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wasn’t in the starting lineup “because he missed time with his knee, we’ve got to be careful playing him on back-to-back days,” explained Charlie Montoyo. “That’s the only reason he’s not playing today.” The manager added that Guerrero was available to pinch-hit, “hopefully the bases are loaded,” he quipped, and the first part of that played out when the rookie slugger batted for Zack Godley in the eighth, grounding out to the pitcher. He remained the game at third base, working a two-out walk in the 10th and getting replaced by pinch-runner Richard Urena. … A follow-up MRI on left-fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s strained left quad over Sunday “showed decreased inflammation,” the team said in a medical update. “His functional testing has gone well, and we will look to progress him to running in the coming days.” … Montoyo on his hitters’ approach against Buehler: “We battled. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball and we battled. We had good at-bats. We didn’t get overmatched. It was good to see.”

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