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Toronto Blue Jays: A Closer Look at Game One

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Feb 24, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) shares a laugh while he works out at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2016; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) shares a laugh while he works out at Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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3:15pm – Settled in with a nice plate of tasty nachos and an ice cold imported beer to appreciate some Toronto Blue Jays pre-game interviews and general televised shenanigans.

3:21pm – Jamie Campbell truly believes Edwin Encarnacion might accept a one-year qualifying offer from the team rather than become a free agent. He spends an ungodly amount of time trying to convince a bemused Gregg Zaun of this point while I spend an ungodly amount of time sprinkling cheese on my nachos and wondering if I have enough beer to handle this spectacle.

3:36 pm – Evan Longoria is probably immortal and will likely still be playing this sport well into his 40’s. Thanks to Spencer Redmond, I suddenly recall that Kiermaier and Pillar have many similarities.  I wonder if Kevin of the Rays hitting in the eighth spot realizes that Kevin of the Jays is now his team’s leadoff hitter. I know I’d be jealous.

3:51pm – In an MLB The Show Playstation video game simulation done beforehand, viewers are informed that the Jays are projected to win 4-3 over the Rays featuring a Donaldson solo home run and our hitters striking out 11 times throughout the game. Considering we finished the actual game with 15 strikeouts, I’m thinking simulations are generally evil and should be outlawed. Besides, I’m an Xbox One guy myself – that’s me in yellow scoring on a solo rush with a bunch of west coast buddies who think the Giants will win it all. Pffbt!

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4:05pm – Pre-game introductions are met with the stunning realization that roughly 1,000 fans are in attendance at Tropicana. They clearly love their team and I certainly love their orange juice. Team organizers get clever and play Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” while the Jays waltz out for the starting lineups and I’m thinking it’s all really great…until I suddenly remember the next verse in the song and it all gets subliminally condescending. 

4:07pm – Michael Saunders is back. I’m trying to convince myself I don’t miss the thought of Jay Bruce.

4:15pm – Chris Archer is an absolute stud. He’s got perfect control, changes speeds like a maestro, and will end his day with 5 innings, 5 hits allowed, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, and 12 strikeouts. He’s also the best value in baseball. I look at this contract and suddenly it’s easier to believe in the tooth fairy and Roswell aliens.

4:16pm – It’s revealed that our beloved MVP Josh Donaldson hit .241 last year with two strikes. My jaw almost hits the floor upon discovering this but not before noticing him stroke an opposite field base hit with two strikes. Viking rage indeed.

4:22pm – Buck Martinez & Pat Tabler remind the audience how Edwin doesn’t have a single official spring training at-bat and he promptly gets a hit as they look on and gush like proud parents. How ironic it must be to know that Tabler was baseball’s greatest clutch hitter with the bases loaded while Buck hit .225 for his career.

4:27pm – Tulo takes a seven pitch walk and Archer’s sitting at 35 pitches barely into the second inning. Something about Tulo reminds me how I felt when the great Don Mattingly strode to the plate at Yankee stadium with the best batting stance in all of the seven kingdoms. You always had this glorious feeling that you were watching a real demigod of the sport whose injuries brought him down to earth and kept him from the Hall of Fame. It was either that or his facial hair.

4:35pm – Stroman is dealing but the indomitable Longoria shows him a resilient lion in winter and belts a two strike double into the gap. He may be a little long in the tooth but he’s still one of the best players in the game and remains a high leverage beast to be avoided in close games.

4:37pm – Chris Colabello shows his athleticism and claim to holding down first base for most of this year. I still can’t get over the fact his BABIP was the highest number in over 90 years…

4:42pm – Martin is robbed on a great defensive play by Forsythe and Archer. He will end up hitting three scorched balls with nothing to show on the scorecard but I like what I see.

4:47pm – Pillar hits an opposite field double and my heart races with glee. I’m noticing a dedicated effort with plate coverage and he seems to have an actual plan when he’s up there. Will we miss Revere by June? Do we really miss him now?

4:52pmBiosteel commercial between innings features Marcus heroically pitching while a cinematic trailer narrator implores us to “Drink the pink.”

4:58pm – Colabello reminds us that he’s still learning the position as he does some footloose dancing with Kiermaier over at first base which ends up being reviewed. Gibby’s face while he’s waiting for DeMarlo to signal the challenge to the umps reminds me of John Wayne in True Grit. 

5:01pm – Edwin is absolutely robbed during his next at-bat with a couple of pitches that are clearly low and outside. Buck & Pat are unimpressed and half my nachos get dumped on the floor. The umpire must still be in spring training mode and wrestled with this game all day – he seems oddly familiar.

5:03pm – Archer at 60 pitches in the third with one out. Methinks he struggled with nerves early and finally figured himself out. His last three innings were nothing short of magnificent as he strikes out six consecutive hitters while the Jays do their best Buffalo Bisons imitation.

5:12pm – Disaster strikes as Ryan Goins commits as uncharacteristic an error as you’ll ever see, and I mean it. His next one is scheduled for 2017. But I’m still in shock.

5:18pm – MLB chief and all-around genteel boss Rob Manfred magically appears sandwiched between our broadcast team and gabs away with Buck & Pat much to the chagrin of every television viewer in Canada. Buck pretends the game is on pause and proceeds to ask him about baseball flourishing in the Dominician Republic while referring to comments JoBau made to the media on the subject of growing the game in Latin countries – to which Manfred sarcastically responds: “Jose had a comment? I’m shocked.” All three proceed to laugh for an inordinately uncomfortable amount of time. I clearly need more nachos.

5:20pm – Manfred sums up the travesty that was the Expos leaving Montreal with one word: “Money.”

5:25pm – Buck tries to impress the commissioner by lauding all the current young talent in MLB and the rise of discerning millennial viewers who “are all into music and hip-hop and the fashions.”  Sometimes Buck acts like he’s 107 years old and still remembers watching Honus Wagner in his prime.

5:27pm – Meanwhile, Superman Pillar shoots another opposite field stinger and, for one night, has me thoroughly convinced that he’s the second coming of Rickey Henderson. Incidentally, Rickey played baseball for a quarter century and could leap over tall buildings.

5:29pm – Tsar Manfredovich leaves our intrepid broadcasters halfway through the inning which impresses me enormously because he’s probably the only man in baseball who can do that without being criticized. After all, he’s an exceptionally busy and powerful man.

5:31pm – Bautista goes down on yet another terrible strike call by umpire Mike Everitt. For conspiracy theorists at home, this is the same umpire who was in left field on October 14, 2003, and refused to call intereference on Steve Bartman.

5:33pm – In the bottom of the seventh Bautista has the ball go off his glove for an error while Buck tries to convince viewers at home that he must have lost it in the lights. He sells it way too much and I’m not convinced – I just hope he limits these kinds of mistakes as they will no doubt marginalize his value in the eyes of fans and management. Buck’s a big fan though and his new book is neat.

5:35pm – Arguably the game’s turning point, Kiermaier, who was an absolute spark plug on this day and involved himself in half a dozen crucial moments, inexplicably tries to steal third with two outs and is thrown out by a Russell Martin laser. A silly, careless play that drives managers and coaches to early graves and all but cripples Tampa’s momentum late in the game.

5:39pm – Archer’s day is done and he finishes with 12 strikeouts in 5 innings using 108 pitches. At this rate his arm will physically break off his body in June and the Rays already have plans to replace it with a cybernetic implant.

5:42pm – More brilliant defensive wizardry from Tulowitzki. He ranges deep in the hole to throw out yet another runner while reminding me that Jose Reyes would likely have botched three fielding plays and committed four throwing errors by now. That is not an exaggeration – just ask Tim & Sid.

5:43pm – Logan Morrison gets all bent out of shape from something Stroman may or may not have uttered after he flies out weakly. Really he’s just jealous of HDMH and how cool Marcus truly is. 

5:59pm – Dickerson strikes out on a nasty Stroman sinker which he throws 40 times during the afternoon. Forty times.

Next: 5 reasons this could be the Blue Jays year

6:23pm – Tulo mashes a ball into the left field bleachers off Ryan Webb and suddenly I’m legitimately intrigued at the kind of season he might have if he stays healthy.

6:31pm – Barry Davis shamelessly plugs the network by reminiscing on how he taught Dickey to use the Rogers app for checking baseball scores before the game and that we should all give it a try.

6:33pm – Logan Morrison returns to the plate to avenge his humiliation at the hands of Stroman’s imaginary taunting and proceeds to strike out on three pitches. His thirst for revenge is growing exponentially and he’d better hurry – only 18 more games left against the Jays in 2016.

6:46pm – Dickerson tags on a home run in the ninth as Stroman is denied his chance at a complete game. Some might take exception with Gibbons bringing him out to start the inning but I’m fine with it. His pitch count was low and he felt great – that’s how an ace is supposed to act and Marcus is clearly on his way to becoming just that.

7:00pm – Osuna closes out the game and the Jays have their first win of the campaign. Outside my window the snow is coming down relentlessly in the city and suddenly April feels more like December…but really, who cares? Baseball is back and this team is ready to keep us all warm for the next 6 months. It’s going to be a scorcher, folks.

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