What better way to get over the stress of appealing a suspension than by pitching an excellent game in the Bronx in front of over 47, 000 people?
Marcus Stroman and the Toronto Blue Jays went into Yankee Stadium and defeated Chris Capuano and the New York Yankees in a quirky, yet confident fashion. Stroman took the mound for the Blue Jays after deciding to appeal his six-game suspension for throwing at Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph last Monday. The issue was greatly reported and seemed to be a shameful mark on Stroman’s breakout season. You wouldn’t know it by the way he performed last night.
The same could be said for the other Blue Jays. Edwin Encarnacion continued the team’s consistency to score early by hitting his 27th double of the season to score Jose Bautista in the top of the first inning. Bautista seemed in eccentric spirits as he played mind games with the Yankees faithful in the outfield. He looked to throw a ball into the outfield after the end of an inning, but faked the throw and ran back to the dugout. No malice on his face and, evidently, not in his heart either, as he then threw a ball in the next inning into the right field bleachers. The Yankee fan did throw it back (fair enough), yet it was a sign that the Blue Jays did not seem to have a defeatist attitude towards the game or missing out on the playoffs.
The Yankees’ scoring still did not dampen the Blue Jays’ mindset. In the bottom of the third inning, Brian McCann singled to score Derek Jeter. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Francisco Cervelli singled to score Chase Headley. But Stroman had a fairly light amount of work, as his slider and curveball had tons of movement. The righty’s slider would not only drift to the left more than expect, it would also dip down so heavily that Yankee bats had a hard time catching up to it. Even when they made contact, it would be hit off the end of the bat for little impact.
With this type of pitching, Stroman could impose his will on the Yankees without burning out his arm and allowed the Blue Jays to get back in the game. In the top of the sixth inning, Capuano could not say the same thing. After giving up a leadoff walk to Bautista, Encarnacion singled off of the fourth sinker thrown to him in his at-bat. As second baseman Stephen Drew fielded the ball, he threw it away haphazardly, allowing Edwin to reach first base and moving Bautista to third. While many Boston Red Sox fans would find Drew’s error amusing, the Yankees fans did not. Especially when Dioner Navarro got walked on four pitches to load the bases. Danny Valencia made the Yankees pay with a ground-rule double to left field, scoring Bautista and Encarnacion. John Mayberry completed the Capuano nightmare by hitting a sacrifice fly to score Navarro.
The Blue Jays forced the Yankees to pitch strikes to them through good at-bats. They saw a great deal of the same pitches throughout their plate appearances and hit what stayed straight in the strikezone. Bautista took advantage in the seventh inning by driving his 34th home run of the season over the right field fence against Chase Whitley, who relieved Capuano in the sixth inning. Bautista was walked three times last night, making the Yankees pitch to him or else getting on base easily. Navarro finished the Jays’ scoring in the top of the ninth, singling to center field to cash in Bautista.
Brandon Morrow made an appearance in the bottom of the ninth, getting work in after having another disappointing season being injured. He got Cervelli to ground out, but allowed Brett Gardner to single and Derek Jeter to double the run in to home. Shortly after, Casey Janssen was brought in to relieve Morrow’s short night. And as the first pitch, a 90-mph fastball, struck McCann, many Blue Jays fans were likely worried that Janssen would give them a horrific night of their own. But Janssen then made quick work of Brendan Ryan and Chris Young to end the game and earn his 24th save of the season. The Blue Jays won 6 to 3.
Sep 20, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista (19) high fives through the dugout after scoring during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Stroman did not let his pending suspension get to him. He threw 6.0 innings, striking out seven batters without giving up a walk. He only gave up two earned runs on eight hits. Bautista did not let the Yankee hecklers get to him. National Post writer John Lott reported Bautista saying after the game, “They were chirping at me…I was blowing them some kisses. They got a little rowdy and threw a ball to the field. At first I thought it was some innocent back-and-forth, but after the ball was thrown, I decided not to continue to have interaction, because what’s going to happen next?” It seemed more like the Yankees fans felt the heat. Maybe when you hit seven home runs against them during the season, they get a little testy.
Maybe when you know you are out of the playoff hunt, even if not mathematically, you can start to relax. But you don’t want your players mailing it in. You want to see your team fight for every play, right to the end of the season. The tension of potential failure may have been gone from the Blue Jays last night, but the chip on their shoulders didn’t go anywhere. The only question for Jays fans is whether that mentality was there during the season, before the playoffs were just a dream.