For the second time in 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers hooked up for the first of a brief two game series. The Brewers came into the game in first place in the NL Central and they took two games back in April from the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays were seeking revenge and got it in a 4-3 win over the Brewers.
The pitching matchup for the game saw Joe Biagini for the Blue Jays take on Jimmy Nelson, who had never faced the Blue Jays before. The Blue Jays mixed things up in the starting lineup by putting Jose Bautista at 3rd base.
It was Bautista’s first start at 3rd since early in the 2013 season. They also had the choice of Kendrys Morales or Justin Smoak. Morales got the nod at 1st base while Ezequiel Carrera played in right field for Bautista, and Chris Coghlan in left.
The Blue Jays scored two runs off of Jimmy Nelson in the 2nd inning on a Ryan Goins single which scored Devon Travis. That was followed up by an RBI fielder’s choice for Joe Biagini. It was the second inter-league game in a row where a Blue Jays pitcher drove in a run. As you may fondly recall, Marcus Stroman hit a home run last week Thursday at the Atlanta Braves.
Jimmy Nelson’s day came to an end after 5.0 innings but not before the decision between Smoak and Morales paid dividends for manager John Gibbons. A 2 run home run by Morales gave the Blue Jays a 4-0 lead. Nelson followed a common trend through his 2017 season. The third time through the order for Nelson has not been kind to him. He has been roughed up to the tune of a .306 batting average and 6.00 ERA. It was in Morales’ third at-bat where he took Nelson deep.
While Nelson got through 5.0 innings, Biagini was cruising through 4. He had only allowed 1 hit going into the 5th inning where things started to fall apart for the right-hander. Three straight singles off the bats of Hernan Perez, Manny Pina, and Orlando Arcia plated 1 run for Milwaukee. After a groundout by Jesus Aguilar for the first out of the inning, star shortstop Jonathan Villar plated two with a single. Biagini was then knocked out of the game after walking Eric Thames. With 2 runners on, Danny Barnes entered the game to face Ryan Braun and Travis Shaw. Barnes struck them both out with elevated fastballs to end the threat.
The game remained 4-3 Blue Jays heading into the 7th inning where Blue Jays fans got to witness a career first. The first big league hit for top position player prospect, Anthony Alford. Alford ringed a double off the center field wall off of Rob Scahill, who came in for Jimmy Nelson in the 6th. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, after a Bautista walk and stolen base, Carlos Torres induced a pop-up to shallow left field to end the threat in the 7th.
The game stayed 4-3 all the way from the 6th inning onwards. Barnes threw a clean 6th inning and was followed by Ryan Tepera in the 7th, Joe Smith in the 8th, and Roberto Osuna in the 9th who all threw scoreless innings. Tepera’s frame brought his scoreless inning streak to 17.1 in a row. Smith added two more strikeouts to continue his dominant 2017 season. Smith has struck out 33 batters in 22.0 innings so far. Osuna converted his 7th save of the season. The Blue Jays did not make any further noise off of Neftali Feliz, who threw 2 scoreless innings.
With the win, the Blue Jays improved to 3-3 on the road trip and brought their record to 20-26. If the Blue Jays win tomorrow, they can have a winning road trip and return home 21-26. Barring anything unforeseen, we will see the return of Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki this weekend in Toronto. Marcus Stroman takes the ball for the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon against the veteran Matt Garza at 1:10 PM.