WP: Aaron Loup (3-2, 3.20ERA)
LB: Grant Balfour (0-3, 5.60ERA)
S: Casey Janssen (14, 1.29ERA)
The Toronto Blue Jays outlasted the Tampa Bay Rays 8-5 on Friday night to earn a rare win at Tropicana Field. Steve Tolleson, who entered the game late as an injury replacement for Munenori Kawasaki, delivered the late game heroics with a two-run single down the right field line in the top of the ninth, breaking a 5-5 tie.
Starter Mark Buehrle seemed unable to miss a bat early in the game, lasting only 5.0IP, but he did manage to limit the damage to just 2ER despite surrendering 9H and 1BB. Rays starter Chris Archer was locked in early, striking out 5 of the first 6 Blue Jay batters he faced, until 2B Munenori Kawasaki poked a hole in the dam in the top of the 3rd when he singled home the Jays first run.
Despite the early feelings of “here we go again”, the Blue Jays rallied to score twice in the 3rd, and three times in the 4th to extend their lead to 5-2. This lead lasted until the bottom of the 7th, when Dustin McGowan entered the game and promptly walked the first 2 batters he faced, before giving up a 3-run HR to DH Sean Rodriguez. McGowan seemed terribly hesitant to attack batters, and gave up the Rodriguez big fly on a hanging slider that was begging to leave the ball park. Mark Buehrle may not have deserved a W in this game, but McGowan’s struggles caused him to be handed yet another no decision.
After Aaron Loup (1.1IP, 0H, 3K) entered to put out the fire, the Blue Jays rallied again in the top of the 9th. Dan Johnson led off the inning with his 4th (four!) walk of the ball game, eventually coming around to score the game winning run on Tolleson’s single. A sac fly by Jose Bautista (2-4, 2RBI) off of the wild-firing Rays RP Grant Balfour stretched the Blue Jays lead out to 8-5, before Casey Janssen entered the game and pitched exactly like Casey Janssen does (1.oIP, 0H).
In injury news, Nolan Reimold left the game in the early innings with what has been diagnosed as a calf strain, and will be listed as day-to-day going forward. Munenori Kawasaki also left the game with a right hamstring strain, and will join Reimold under the day-to-day designation. The Blue Jays, strangely enough, are at a point where injuries to Munenori Kawasaki and a recent waiver add are still quite significant. Reimold’s injury history is worrisome, and it’s hard not to root for a player with such promise who was finally back close to “full” health. The doctor in me feels less worried about Kawasaki’s strain, given his elaborate and often hilarious pre-game stretching routines, but the Blue Jays will be hoping that each player only requires a day or two of precautionary rest.
Last night was exactly the type of game that the Blue Jays cannot afford to lose going forward. Blue Jays bats finally awoke in this one, and the Jays were finally able to go 6-11 with RISP, something that has hindered them greatly in recent weeks. Balls finally seemed to be dropping for Jays hitters, as they hope to turn a series win in Tampa into a small wave of momentum entering the All Star Break. The coming break will be greeted with open arms by the wounded birds. Hopefully much of the Blue Jays vacation is spent with a room of doctors, and Adam Lind‘s mother.
MVJ: Last nights Most Valuable Jay goes to the only man not to hit a ball in play: Dan Johnson. Special mention to Jose Reyes (3-5, 2RBI), but Johnson’s ability to show such control at the plate in his first MLB action of the season was a big reason that the Blue Jays walked away on top. Johnson’s 4BB and 3R kept the Jays lineup moving when it needed to, and Johnson showed that he may make a case to stay with the big club even after Adam Lind‘s return. Maybe we could room him with Juan Francisco on the next road trip…
Tomorrow’s Starters (4:10ET at Tropicana Field):
TOR: Drew Hutchison (6-7, 3.86ERA)
TB: Jake Odorizzi (4-8, 4.10ERA)