WP: Marcus Stroman – 9.0IP, 3H, 0ER, 8K
LP: Jacob Turner – 6.0IP, 7H, 5R, 4ER, 2K, 1BB
The Toronto Blue Jays handled the Chicago Cubs easily in the series opener on Monday night, coming away with an 8-0 win in what may be one of their strongest team efforts this season. Marcus Stroman was electric in one of this season’s finest pitching performances, while Jose Bautista hit his 200th home run as a Blue Jay to lead an offence that featured a base hit from every starter.
Following a scare from a sharp line drive against the first batter of the game, Marcus Stroman seemed to be in a league of his own as he recorded a complete game shutout. Allowing only three hits while striking out eight and walking none, Mighty Mouse used his dominant fastball to get ahead in nearly every count. An inexperienced Cubs roster was forced to swing early and miss often, as Stroman was required to throw just 93 pitches.
Also throwing 93 pitches on the night was Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jacob Turner, who did not fare as well. The 23-year old has faced struggles through the 2014 season, and surrendered seven hits and four earned runs through six innings on Monday.
Danny Valencia started the Blue Jays roll in the bottom of the second inning with an RBI single, as he continues to make his case for a position in 2015. Dioner Navarro would add a sac-fly RBI in the fourth before Jose Bautista delivered the big blow in the fifth. With his 3-run home run, Bautista continues his incredible power streak of late and may be ready to put the Blue Jays on his back down the stretch. Insurance runs were cashed in by Kevin Pillar and Navarro again, as it never seemed in doubt that the Blue Jays would win convincingly.
The Blue Jays also put forth one of their stronger defensive efforts on Monday night behind Stroman. Ryan Goins proved again that he is an elite defensive 2nd baseman in this league, and treated fans to a superb bare-handed play on a groundout that ended the game. Not to be outdone, Marcus Stroman showed his athleticism several times on short grounders. A chopper in the 5th inning saw the former college 2nd baseman spin off the mound before grabbing the ball and throwing to Adam Lind with what looked like a fadeaway shot from the hard court.
As the Blue Jays continue their playoff push, a sweep against the Chicago Cubs seems almost necessary. Thankfully, it also seems achievable. The Blue Jays will send veteran lefty Mark Buehrle to the mound on Tuesday night. Buehrle will be eyeing a repeat of Stroman’s performance as he is at risk of falling short of the 200IP benchmark for the first time as a starter. If Buehrle can provide a quality start for Toronto, the Blue Jays will look to keep their bats hot against Jake Arrieta. Still five games back in the AL East Wild Card race, the Blue Jays must continue to focus on the singular goal: just keep winning.
MVJ: Marcus Stroman, with second place and an honourable mention also going to Marcus Stroman. The Blue Jays can not afford to have a starter have a bad start at this point in the season, and Stroman’s performance should be contagious with the rest of the rotation. If the young gun can stay hot down the stretch, the Blue Jays outside chances at the playoffs could begin creeping up.
Tomorrow’s Probable Starters (7:07 ET, Rogers Centre):
TOR: Mark Buehrle (11-9, 3.34ERA)
CHC: Jake Arrieta (8-5, 2.81ERA)