TORONTO – As they have on several occasions this season, the Toronto Blue Jays bounced back beautifully from an embarrassing loss in a game many believed they “needed” to win.
The Jays snapped out of a four-game losing streak on the heels of a phenomenal pitching performance from Drew Hutchison, who had been very shaky lately. Hutchison retired the first four Orioles he faced, allowed a mammoth opposite-field home run to Chris Davis in the second inning, and then retired the next 22 Orioles who came to the plate in a near-perfect outing before walking Nick Markakis with two out in the ninth and handing things over to Casey Janssen for the final out. It was his sixth career start against the Orioles, and they’ve never beaten him.
Hutchison threw seven shutout innings at the Orioles on June 13, but going into Wednesday night’s start he’d posted a 6.64 ERA and .811 opponents’ OPS in the eight starts since then, prompting calls to have him skipped in the rotation, or even demoted. The young righty silenced those critics, showing no signs of fatigue in delivering the goods and giving the Blue Jays a chance to take the series in Thursday night’s finale.
Not only did Hutchison deliver the goods, he also delivered one of the greatest pitching performances ever by a Blue Jay. There has only been one no-hitter in the history of the franchise, by Dave Stieb on Sept. 2, 1990, in Cleveland. The closest a Blue Jay has come to throwing a perfect game was Stieb again, retiring the first 26 New York Yankees he faced on Aug. 4, 1989, before Roberto Kelly broke it up with a double down the left-field line.
Stieb had two other no-hitters broken up with two out in the ninth – in back-to-back starts at the end of 1988 — and Brandon Morrow and Roy Halladay each had one as well. Hutchison didn’t get it to two out in the ninth without giving up a hit, but he did retire 26 of 27 batters to start the game, and only two other Blue Jays have ever done that: Stieb in the 1989 near-perfecto, and Roy Halladay in his second career start in 1998.
It was sheer and unadulterated domination, and something the Blue Jays were thrilled to see from the 23-year-old, whose career high in innings pitched as a professional is 149.1 split between single-A double-A back in 2011. This year, Hutchison is up to 131.1 with over a quarter of a season to go (plus playoffs, potentially).
Hutchison was backed by an offence that took advantage of a couple of early chances to score, something the Blue Jays failed to do in dropping three straight games in Houston this past weekend.
The Jays pounded out nine two-out hits in the game, including three singles in a row in the bottom of the first that resulted in two runs. In the second, Melky Cabrera started a two-out rally with a double to right-centre, and Jose Bautista followed with a second-deck shot to left field, his 22nd home run of the season.
Bautista had come up twice as the tying run on Tuesday night. With two on and one out in the fifth, he bounced into a double play; in the seventh he drilled a sacrifice fly to right field with the bases loaded and one out, but the next batter, Dioner Navarro, bounced into an inning-ending double play. The Wednesday night homer was the first of three hits for the Blue Jays slugger. He wound up a triple shy of the cycle.