Reigning Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello was on the hill for Boston tonight, hence the lefty-leaning version of our line-up, notwithstanding Darwin Barney, who as the righty in the utility-infielder combo with Ryan Goins, got the start batting over .400.
John Gibbons did seem to be trying to mix things up a bit tonight, with Ezequiel Carrera in the 2-spot in the lineup for example. The biggest question mark leading into tonight is the Jays starter: which Francisco Liriano would show up?
The other thing to look for was Kevin Pillar who was coming off a very productive night, slashing for multiple doubles opening night of the Boston series. Bautista going into the night was 0/10 with RISP, but had a chance to change that by facing Rick Porcello, batting .421 against him, with 4 HRs, 11 RBI and 7 walks, good for a 1.259 OPS against him.
Liriano came out dealing, getting Dustin Pedroia to fly out, striking out Andrew Benintendi and inducing Mookie Betts to ground out to short, good for a 3 up, 3 down opening frame.
Porcello was coming off a terrible start, carrying a 7.56 ERA. Things didn’t start well for him right off the bat with our lead off batter Kevin Pillar reaching base by beating a ground ball into the turf up the middle, getting Bogaerts to lay out for it, but to no avail for him. Carrera had the hit-and-run on when he put a ball in play but since Pillar was moving on the play, Boston could only get the out at first. Unfortunately the Jays were unable to capitalize on the early opportunity.
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Pillar looked really good at the top of the 2nd too with a leaping and catching a ball at the wall off Hanley Ramirez’s bat. Liriano then set up Moreland for his wipeout slider that Moreland was totally fooled on, swinging wildly and missing badly as the ball broke away from him. The 3rd batter of the inning, Bogaerts though managed to flail at a pitch with 2 strikes and striking it into right field for a softly hit oppo single. Chris Young got wrung up on a check swing to end any threat though.
The bottom of the inning saw Tulowitzki digging in on Porcello to start things off. Quickly 0-2, Tulo grounded to Pablo Sandoval who then air-mailed the throw across the diamond. Mitch Moreland missed another groundball off the very next batter, Russel Martin. The gold glover went to his backhand, the ball skipping under his glove allowing Martin to reach safely.
Porcello got Justin Smoak to strike out before he get touched up by Darwin Barney, with a 2-run single up the middle for Barney, cashing in on Boston’s 2 errors. He would also come around to score on an Ezequiel Carrera single later in the inning.
Liriano mostly cruised until he walked Bogaerts to open the 5th and it looked like the runner was about to be extinguished on the next play – what seemed destined for a 6-4-3 double play. Unfortunately on the pivot at second, the ball was thrown high and forced Smoak off the bag at first. Runner on first for Sandoval who shortened up with 2 strikes and shot the ball through the right side, bringing runners to first and second with 1 away and Leon up. Beautifully, Liriano induced him into a double play ball to thwart any threat, and not allow Boston to turn their line-up over on the rally-that-wasn’t.
Pedroia came in to the game 6-11 versus Liriano but, into the 6th, Liriano had managed to stymie the scrappy second baseman, inducing a ground out to third to open the inning. Next up Benintendi knocked a single, getting Pete Walker up to make a call to the bullpen. Biagini got warm quickly just in case, as Liriano worked to Betts who lined a single into left, moving Benintendi up to 2nd. With that hit, Gibbons was on his way to the mound and Liriano handed the ball over to the skipper, to a resounding ovation from the hometown crowd.
Biagini extinguished any mounting pressure from Boston with a quick inning-ending double play off the bat of Hanley Ramirez, preserving the shut out as we entered the bottom of the 6th, and he also cruised through the 7th as well.
Porcello still pitching in the bottom of the 7th, induced weak contact from Travis who managed a weak liner to short for the first out. Pillar however continued his batting tear, driving a ball back up the middle. Pillar then picked up the Jays first stolen base of the season while Eduardo Rodriguez started to warm in the Bosox pen. Grilli was already hot, ready to come in for the 8th. Pillar stole 3rd base too: no throw from Leon as the pitch was in the dirt. Bautista was at the plate with mounting frustration on his face eventually striking out, nullifying Pillar’s advances on the base paths.
Staked with a 3-run lead, Jason Grilli took the ball to protect the lead in the 8th. The Panda turned around to bat from the left side, lifting a curveball over Travis’s head for a single to start the inning. Leon also turned around to bat lefty against Grilli but Grilli elevated with 2 strikes, sending Leon back to the bench after swinging under a high heater. Smoak then snagged a ball off Pedroia’s bat, well, off Grilli’s shin actually, but Smoak scooped it up and made the play himself, stepping on the bag for the 2nd out.
Grilli earning his pay, got to 3-2 on Benintendi. Just missing outside, Betts came up to the plate after Benintendi’s free pass. Gibbons not taking any chances, got Osuna up early in the pen. The precautionary measure proved unnecessary though as Grilli got out unscathed, getting a routine groundball to Tulo.
Osuna came into the 9th to face Boston’s 4th, 5th and 6th batters. After a few pitches he got Hanley Ramirez to ground out to short. Moreland with 3 Ks tonight donned the infamous Golden sombrero, but salvaged his night slightly with a single. With some heads-up play, Carrera kept Moreland on first on the play, bare-handing the ball off a carum and coming up firing. Osuna worked quickly striking out Bogaerts. Over-powering him with a fastball the young shortstop had no chance at. A ground ball to third marked the final out of the game. That shortens the Jays win/loss gap to 3-11.
Liriano gets the win, Osuna gets the save. Liriano looked much better tonight after his disastrous first appearance of the season. He struck-out 6 through 5.1 innings, allowing only one free pass while scattering 4 hits.