ANAHEIM, Calif. – Sam Gaviglio had all kinds of thoughts swimming through his head when he took the mound for the Toronto Blue Jays on Father’s Day. The right-hander carried lots frustration from his previous outing, when he allowed five runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings at Tampa Bay in the shortest start of his career, and pitching coach Pete Walker was trying to build up his confidence, repeatedly telling him that he wasn’t that far off.
Typically, that would have been stressful enough. On that day, his wife Alaina was also home in Medford, Ore., preparing for the imminent birth of the couple’s first child, and Gaviglio was on call, ready to fly home at a moment’s notice. He allowed three runs, two earned, in four innings that afternoon against the Washington Nationals before flying to San Francisco, where he caught a flight to Medford and got home to watch daughter Livia’s arrival at 2:10 a.m. Tuesday.
“I couldn’t get home quick enough,” said Gaviglio. “I had a middle seat in between two guys, it wasn’t very comfortable with three larger guys in a row. We were expecting at any time and I wanted to be there.”
The 28-year-old returned to the mound for the first time since then on a spectacular SoCal afternoon Sunday, retiring the first 11 batters he faced before hitting a blip, allowing five hits and committing an error through his final eight hitters. Manager John Gibbons pulled him with two outs in the fifth and the tying run in, and after shoddy defence in the eighth wasted sixth-inning homers by Aledmys Diaz and Curtis Granderson, Kendrys Morales’ pinch-hit solo shot in the 10th lifted the Blue Jays past the Angels 7-6 to secure a four-game split.
“That’s one of the games you have to win,” Gibbons said afterwards. “If you end up coughing that up and losing that game, that sucks it out of you pretty good.”
Gaviglio’s effort highlighted why he’s a bit of a riddle right now for the Blue Jays. In flashes, his predominantly sinker-slider mix looks like it can really play, but without a reliable third offering he can also hit a wall, the way he did Sunday.
Thus, the Blue Jays are asking themselves whether he is what he is now, or can he unlock another gear and become more than a quality sixth starter/swingman type?
A Justin Upton solo shot ended Gaviglio’s run of 11 in a row to start the game and right after, he let a sky-high Albert Pujols pop-up drop by the mound as confusion seemed to reign in the infield as to who should field it. Granderson made a sliding catch in right on a Luis Valbuena liner to end the inning, but in the fifth, the Angels opened the inning with three straight singles to bring in one run, while a two-out Ian Kinsler laser tied the game 3-3.
“I was probably getting the ball up a little bit, but I was also getting into deeper counts that I was able to stay out of early in the game,” said Gaviglio. “That got me in a little bit of trouble.”
Unwilling at that point to have Gaviglio face Mike Trout a third time, Gibbons called on Joe Biagini to escape the inning.
“He has great command but I think when that’s off a little bit (the ball) comes up, the last inning anyway, the ball started coming up and he just gets hit,” said Gibbons. “It’s not easy to just add something else because he has really perfected what he’s got. He’s done a nice job and a big week for him. He had the baby and pitched a hell of a game for us. He’s been very good.
“We love throwing him out there.”
Diaz and Granderson untied the game off Noe Ramirez in the sixth, while a three-run homer by Devon Travis in the second off Felix Pena opened the scoring. In the eighth, former Blue Jays righty Deck McGuire threw away a Diaz comebacker for a three-base error and Luke Maile’s sacrifice fly cashed him in for a 6-3 edge.
The Blue Jays gave the lead back in the bottom half spurred along by a pair of errors.
An Albert Pujols smash caught Travis in the delicates and Justin Smoak was unable to scoop his looping relay. “Yeah, it got me good,” said Travis, who was bent over in agony for a few minutes. “They actually caught the ball though, it didn’t even hit my glove. Pretty strong. That was very different. I wish I made a better throw, that’s for sure.”
Then with two outs Yangervis Solarte’s wide throw after fielding an Andrelton Simmons grounder pulled Smoak off the bag. After Aaron Loup issued a two-out walk to Kole Calhoun, Martin Maldonado mashed a three-run double off Ryan Tepera to knot things up.
“That eighth inning was crazy, everything just happened so quick,” said Travis. “I looked up at the scoreboard and it was a tie ballgame and I felt like I didn’t even understand what just happened.”
Things stayed there until the 10th when Morales, batting for Diaz, crushed a Hansel Robles slider 406 feet over the wall in right.
“When you don’t start, you’re always trying to be ready for that situation and when that situation happens, you always try to hit the ball hard in the air,” Morales said through interpreter Josue Peley. “He threw me a good pitch and I got a good swing on it.”
Tyler Clippard handled the bottom half for his fourth save.
Gaviglio rejoined the Blue Jays on Friday having stayed active by throwing a ball against a net in his garage Wednesday and playing catch Thursday.
Leaving his wife and daughter “was hard, my wife got a little emotional,” he said. “But she’s strong, she’s tough. Her mom is there right now and my mom isn’t too far away. It’s hard but they’re healthy. That puts my mind at ease. And FaceTime has been big. Makes it seem like they’re not too far away.”
He’ll have quite the wild first day back on the mound to tell them about.