19 innings is a lot of baseball for a team to have to endure. It is especially painful when the bullpen has to throw 15 and 2/3 of those innings while your team scratches and claws its way back into the game.
That is just what the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen did on Sunday afternoon (and evening). With the Blue Jays down 5-0 in a hurry and Tigers hitter reaching start Mark Buehrle for 9 hits and 5 runs (2 earned) in just 3.1 innings of work, John Gibbons emptied his pen like a clown car, rolling out an endless succession of Todd Redmond, Aaron Sanchez, Brett Cecil, Dustin McGowan, Aaron Loup, Casey Janssen, and Chad Jenkins.
That’s right, you read that correctly. The Blue Jays used all seven members of their bullpen and even had R.A. Dickey warming up in the bottom of the 19th if the game went to inning number 20. All they did was hold the powerful Detroit Tigers line-up to 0 runs on 12 hits, 5 walks, and 13 strike-0uts over the final 15.2 innings.
Redmond stepped into the game in a tough situation, taking over after Buehrle had given up a one-out, RBI double to Ian Kinsler. He proceeded to strike out Miguel Cabrera on 5-consecutive sinkers. Redmond then intentionally walked Victor Martinez before inducing an inning-ending fly ball from Torii Hunter.
Redmond would proceed to throw 2.2 innings, limiting the Tigers to 1 hit and 2 walks, mixing in a pair of strike-outs in the process.
For a rookie with just 9.1 innings of work to his name, Aaron Sanchez came up with some big innings on Sunday afternoon. The 22-year-old may be on an innings-limit for the remainder of the season, but he didn’t hold anything back against the Tigers, throwing 3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing only a Nick Castellanos single, and striking out 3 hitters.
In the process, the stud prospect reduced his ERA to 2.19 and raised his K/BB ratio to 10:2.
Cecil is starting to come back around a bit, and it showed on Sunday when he went back to dominating hitters out of the bullpen. The 2013 All-Star threw 1.1 innings, recording 3 of his 4 outs via the strike-out and all three via the curve ball.
Former starter Dustin McGowan proved once again that his move to the bullpen was the right one for him and the Blue Jays. On Sunday, he was a nice compliment to Cecil, tossing his own 1.1 innings, allowing just 1 hit and a walk while striking out 1.
Aaron Loup/Casey Janssen
After throwing on both Friday and Saturday night, the Jays only went to Loup for 1 out on Sunday, getting Don Kelly to ground out to end the top of the 12th.
That opened the door for Janssen, who put his rough Friday night behind him and pitched a scoreless 13th. He had a bit of luck on his side though, as Melky Cabrera caught Andrew Romine trying to stretch a single into a double and a replay challenge gave the Blue Jays the out.
The star of the game easily goes to Chad Jenkins. The 26-year-old former first round pick and last man out of the pen, put the team on his back on Sunday and threw 6 innings of shut-out baseball, scattering 7 hits and a walk while striking out 4. Jenkins threw 42 of his 53 pitches for strikes and induced weak contact batter after batter.
The biggest effort of the night came in the top of the 16th. After getting Rajai Davis to ground out, Jenkins surrendered back-to-back singles to Ian Kinsler and then intentionally walked Victor Martinez, all with one out. Jenkins proceeded to jam Torii Hunter with an inside fastball, inducing a 1-2-3 double-play to end the innings and keep the Tigers off the board.
He would give the Jays three more innings of work after that, earning the win in the process. Unfortunately for Jenkins, his efforts and those of the rest of the pen likely mean he becomes expendable in order to get a fresh arm in the bullpen. The Blue Jays have already optioned Ryan Goins and recalled Brad Mills from Buffalo, but with Adam Lind expected to be activated from the disabled list on Monday, Jenkins could find himself the odd man out on Monday afternoon.
That all said, without his efforts, or those of Todd Redmond, Aaron Sanchez, Brett Cecil, Dustin McGowan, Aaron Loup, and Casey Janssen, this could have been a very disappointing loss indeed.