The Blue Jays were looking to sweep the Milwaukee Brewers in the second game of a mini 2-game set during a matinee contest at Miller park today.
Veteran righty Matt Garza took the mound for Milwaukee versus Marcus Stroman. The Jays lengthy disabled list coupled with the lack of a DH in National league ball, necessitated the Jays steadfast and clever skipper, John Gibbons, to work up an imaginative lineup card.
Jose Bautista played third base the night before, looking great by the way, but today Russell Martin was slotted at third, marking his 13th start in his major league career at the hot corner, with Bautista back patrolling right field. With Martin vacating his usual position behind the plate, Luke Maile got the call to catch Stroman.
Gibbons pencilled in Justin Smoak at first base and batting clean-up, as he sat last night to get Kendrys Morales into the lineup Tuesday, and Devon Travis was moved up to the 2-hole, rewarded for his hot bat as he is leading the majors in extra-base hits for the month of May.
Both starters looked good early, Garza opening the contest with a 3 up, 3 down 1st. Stroman wasn’t having any issues either. He gave up a walk in the 2nd inning but induced a groundball on the next batter, inducing a swift 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
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Jays fans were likely eager to see how Stroman would fair at the plate given his success so far. He entered the game with 2 extra-base hits to his name, a homerun and a double, but Garza won their first battle, striking out Stroman in his first at-bat of the game in the 3rd frame.
The Brewers were the first to strike. Their 8th batter in the lineup, Keon Broxton took a Stroman heater into the bleachers in left in the bottom of the 3rd. Stroman got an out on the next batter, Garza, but that turned the Brewers line-up over. Their lead-off man Jonathan Villar shot a ball through the left side and shortly thereafter Stroman balked, moving Villar to second base. Stroman then handled Eric Thames carefully, eventually allowing a free pass to the slugger, as first base was left vacant after the balk. Stroman got out of the jam though while notching 2 K’s in the frame.
Kevin Pillar tied the game with a dead-pull homerun to left to open the 4th and 2 batters later Jose Bautista crushed a ball high and deep to straight away center to give the Jays a 2-1 lead.
Chris Coghlan, who got the start in left, leading off the 5th with a single and the Jays’ next batter, shortstop Ryan Goins, ripped a double down the first base line, putting runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Maile then hit a deep fly ball to pick up an RBI after Coghlan tagged up on the fly out to make it a 3-1 game.
It comes as no surprise that in the bottom half of the 5th Stroman, after allowing a free pass to Eric Sogard, induced another groundball for his second double play of the game: after all, he did lead all pitchers in groundball percentage last season.
The Jays tallied their 3rd homerun of the game to start off the 6th as Devon Travis, our scorching-hot 2nd baseman, hit a no-doubter over the fence in left-center.
The insurance run put the Jays up 4-1. The Travis homerun was followed up by a pair of singles at the hands of Bautista and Smoak, putting Garza in a jam with no outs and 2 runners on. Garza, unravelling before our eyes fell behind to Martin 3-0, before Martin lined a ball that looked like a sure hit until Villar slid under it to corral the first out of the frame. That marked the end of Garza’s day, allowing 6 earned runs on 7 hits (2 of those runs attributed to Garza after they were cashed in later as inherited runners for the Brewers pen.
As alluded to, the Brewers bullpen didn’t help matters as Oliver Drake took the ball and promptly walked Coghlan, the first batter he faced, to load the bases for Goins with 1 out. Goins did not disappoint – clobbering a fastball for the Jays 4th homerun on the day. Goins grand slam turned the game into a blow-out, putting the Jays up 8-1.
Although Stroman managed to strike out Thames in the bottom half of the 6th, he allowed a walk and a double to put runners in scoring position with 1 out.
Gibbons elected to keep Stroman in the game though due to their large lead. Stroman rose to the occasion by striking out Travis Shaw with an elevated fastball. Unfortunately the next batter, Domingo Santana got enough of a Stroman offering to put it over the wall in left and make it an 8-4 ballgame.
Stroman promptly got the hook after that, giving way to Dominic Leone. Stroman’s line for the day was 4 earned runs on 4 hits, while walking 4 and striking out 5, over 5 and 2/3rds innings. Leon limited the damage by striking out Jeff Bandy to end the inning. Leone stayed in the game to pitch the 7th, cruising through a 3 up, 3 down inning.
With a 4 run lead, southpaw Aaron Loup was handed the ball for the 8th, resulting in another 3 up, 3 down inning for our pitching staff, while Loup struck out 2, and got the 3rd out on a fly ball that landed in Bautista’s glove after he hustled to snag it.
The top of the 9th was a historic one for young Dwight Smith Jr. who got his first major league hit, a hard hit liner to left-center which allowed the speedy Smith to round first and kick it into high gear to reach second safely for a double.
With the 4 run lead still intact, Jason Grilli was tasked with shutting the door on the Brew crew. The dangerous Travis Shaw lead off with a double but Grilli induced weak contact on the next 3 batters in succession to secure the victory.
The Blue Jays get a day off tomorrow before returning home to host the Texas Rangers this weekend. Friday night will feature Marco Estrada versus A.J. Griffin, first pitch slated for 7:07 eastern standard time.