Dunedin Blue Jays lead slips away in Game 1

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 10: Blue Jays fans cheer as a home run by Kendrys Morales
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 10: Blue Jays fans cheer as a home run by Kendrys Morales /

Jays Journal takes a look at the Florida State League Playoffs. The Dunedin Blue Jays take on the Tampa Yankees in the North Division Series.

The Dunedin Blue Jays started off the series at home, taking on the first, and second half Champion Tampa Yankees. The Yankee team had the best record in the Florida State League with a 85-50 season. The D-Jays had a rough start but got plenty of reinforcements from the Lansing Lugnuts. The new talent arriving included Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Edward Olivares. These dynamic players transformed the offense by adding a some thump to the top of the order. This offensive help led the D-Jays to a 38-31 record for the second half which clinched a playoff birth.

On to game one where the D-Jays took on Brian Keller. Keller entered the game with a 2.90 ERA over 62 innings with the Yankees. He would face Josh DeGraaf of the D-Jays who had struggled early in the season with the Double A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. DeGraaf rediscovered his form and threw 89.1 innings, posting a 3.32 ERA.

Josh DeGraaf threw a quick 1-2-3 inning for the D-Jays. He struck out the first batter he faced with a swing an a miss. Edward Olivares then made a magnificent diving play to save a hit. The back handed catch allowed DeGraaf to pitch a clean inning. He would retire the following batter on a ground out to finish the inning.

The offense was ready to pounce on the pitching of the Yankees. Bo Bichette took a lead off walk to start the home half of the first inning. Bichette would advance all the way to third on a wild throw on a pick off at first. With Bichette just 90 feet away from scoring, Micheal De La Cruz singled to drive in the first run of the game. De La Cruz singled after seeing nine pitches from Keller, and Vlad Guerrero followed with a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd. With the table set, Connor Pannas crushed a 1-0 pitch over the right field wall. The 3-run homer put the D-Jays up 4-0 with nobody out. The D-Jays would tag on one more run before the inning was over on a Jake Thomas double. He drove in Cavan Biggio who had walked with one out in the inning. Jays would close out the first inning up 5-0 and had already knocked out Keller from the game.

Josh DeGraaf was on point and looked great during his six innings of work. He made just two mistakes in the outing. One of them was to Yankee 3rd baseman Gosuke Katoh. This mistake sailed over the right field wall to begin a comeback attempt for the Yankees. The other was a wild pitch that allowed Estevan Florial to score. DeGraaf would finish his outing with two earned runs on five hits. He issued just one free pass and struck out seven.

Al Gonzalez allowed the Yankees to make a charge in the 7th inning. He would record just one out and surrendered a pair of solo home runs. Homers by Dalton Blaser and Hoyjun Park put the Yankees within striking distance as they closed the lead to just 5-4. Kirby Snead would come on and finish off the inning. Snead would pitch the 8th inning and did not allow a base runner while recording five outs. He also struck out a batter while he stopped the Yankee rally in its tracks.

The D-Jays offense had been held silent since the first inning. They had four hits in the first and had managed just four more hits through the entirety of the game as the Yankees bullpen batten down the hatches, and held the powerful D-Jays to zero runs through seven innings. Jackson McClelland was tasked to hold the lead. McClelland allowed a single to Donny Sands to open the inning, and was moved up to second on a sac bunt by Blaser. After recording the second out of the inning, Park took a walk and the McClelland tossed a wild pitch. This put the tying run within 90 feet of knotting the game up. Kyle Holder singled by a diving Cavan Biggio to score the tying run. McClelland got the final out to the inning as the D-Jays would look to find their offense in the bottom of the 9th.

Andres Sotillo got things moving in the right direction for the D-Jays with a lead off walk in the bottom of the 9th. D.J. Davis pinched ran for Sotillo, but Bo Bichette grounded out to third to erase Davis from the base path. Matt Frawley of the Yankees bullpen would escape the early threat and force extra innings.

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McClelland would get a chance to start the 10th for the D-Jays and would face 4-5-6 batters. After recording the first out, McClelland’s tough luck continued as he allowed a home run to Tim Lynch after walking Florial. The two run homer put the Yankees up 7-5. The Yanks would tag on another run on a Park single after Philip Walby came on to save McClelland. Cavan Biggio and Ryan Hissey saved a run at the plate as they linked up to get Blaser out at the plate. Walby and the D-Jays would escape the inning down 8-5.

The D-Jays had allowed eight unanswered runs to lose the lead heading into the home half of the 10th. The D-Jays did not want to go down without a fight and Juan Kelly got things going with one out. Kelly singled and then stole second. Edward Olivares was then hit by a pitch to put on a pair. Kelly scored on a single by Jake Thomas, but then Ryan Hissey grounded out to end the game.

The D-Jays had 11 hits but were unable to capitalize after a huge first inning. They will look to improve their luck in game two of the series in Tampa. The three home runs would sink the Blue Jays hopes if winning in front of the home crowd. Connor Panas and Jake Thomas supplied the majority of the offense with two hits each. Panas had the big three run homer and Thomas drove in a pair. The double header will kick off at 4 PM EST as Jordan Romano will take the mound. The D-Jays will look to follow their ace and get a bitter taste of loss out of their mouths from game one. Game three will pick up in the evening if it is necessary.

Most Valuable D-Jay – Connor Panas 2-5 with a 3 run homer, and Kirby Snead 1.2 IP without allowing a base runner and striking out a batter

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