Thank you Marco Estrada! The quiet, humble, understated, under the radar Marco Estrada came out big on this frosty Sunday afternoon final game of the 2016 home opener series against the Boston Red Sox. After losing the first 2 games of the series pretty BADLY (I mean, any loss would have been bad), most of us felt we needed to win. John Gibbons said after the game that there really isn’t such a thing as a MUST WIN so early in the season, but as a bandwagon fan, it certainly felt that way didn’t it? We needed some confirmation that we weren’t out of minds. That the team wasn’t just great on paper. That all the hype wasn’t just hype and that we were in fact headed for a disappointing season. Afraid that despite being good, the rivals were better.
The Jays hadn’t been swept since May 2015 in Houston. The Jays hadn’t lost 3 straight at home since August 2014. Thanks to Marco Estrada, they still haven’t.
Estrada had 8 strikeouts in 91 pitches over 7 innings pitched. To put it in Gibby’s words, he was ‘vintage Estrada’. Smooth. On target. Quietly understated finesse. Estrada in his subtle fashion shut Boston down and the Jays took home the win 3-0.
Thankfully the defense found their groove, like they had to give Estrada everything he needed to quiet the naysayers. Dustin Pedroia almost got home but the defense came alive with power throws by Bautista and Goins and a perfect tag by Russell Martin.
Oh, and Donaldson got his 4th homer of the season. At first I thought I was watching a replay, that perfect Josh Donaldson homerun swing.
And don’t you just love watching Osuna run out to the mound to save the game? Strikeout. Strikeout. Strikeout.
Jose Bautista, who walked twice, has reached base in 20 consecutive games (including post-season), dating to Oct.3, 2015.
The Rogers Centre has had 15 straight sellouts going back to last season. And I think that’s going to continue for a while. I mean, everyone including me, is just hanging off every detail about this team. The expectations are extraordinary. Who knows what’s going to happen but it sure is going to be a fun ride.
The Jays lost the 4th game of their opening series 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays and ended up with a 2-2 series tie. It would have been nice to start the season with a winning series especially since the Jays have traditionally faired poorly at Tropicana Field.
Past 5 years 17-30
And an even worse Series record…
Past 5 years 2-11-2
The Jays however are getting good at stirring up news and dissent. Never mind the turmoil that Jays’ manager John Gibbons stirred up with his ‘dresses’ joke. But there were a lot of questions around his decision to replace Gavin Floyd, the experienced long reliever, with Arnold Leon in the high leverage 8th inning when the Jays were hanging onto a 3-2 lead with the Rays having a runner on 1st and 3rd. This was Leon’s first major league appearance. I think that if you’re going to pull the pitcher here, you replace him with a shutdown reliever right? Was Gibby thinking that they might get a repeat of 20-year-old Roberto Osuno when his first pitch in the Major Leagues was vs. Alex Rodrigueswith 2 runners on base in 2015 when he struck him out? Check this out. Cool as a cucumber.
Poor Leon is the next player in line to go down to AAA when Estrada joins the lineup. And was that situation the right time for Leon to get some work? I guess however, that 2 runners on base wasn’t quite the situation when Leon started warming up but wouldn’t it have been safer to leave Floyd in? He might have had a better chance of avoiding the 3-run homerun that ensued, but who knows?
I don’t really understand why Osuna or Storen couldn’t come in. Storen played or warmed up the last 3 days, but was he tired? It was only the 4th day of the season! And Osuna I guess is the 9th inning pitcher, but if you don’t get there, then there is no bottom of the 9th!
I think when the Jays make logical decisions, there’s a sense of comfort in their ability, but when they start making strange management decisions, it starts to get very confusing. There are more high tech ways to figure out if a pitcher needs rest than just looking at how many days in a row they threw a ball. The Blue Jays for sure must have access to that.
Other things I didn’t love about Wednesday’s game was the home plate umpire Laz Diaz’ strike zone. It was all over the place! Does umping get better later in the season as well?
And the rationale to take out Saunders and replace him with Carrera? Saunders had been hitting the Rays well, so were they worried he was tired too?
And of course, we all held our collective breath when 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson limped off the field with a strained calf. He tweaked it after his 3-run homer in the 3rd inning.
I expect it will take much more than a strain to keep Donaldson away from the home opener. I hope so since I’ll be there at Rogers Centre and he’ll be sorely missed if he doesn’t play!
Rogers Centre is going to be a packed house. Does anyone else find it strange that Tropicana Field’s seats are so empty during their season and home opener? Is it because they finished 4th in the AL East in 2015 and 17th overall? Or is it because all the snow birds from Toronto have made their way north? There are 42 active players born in Florida so you’d think that Floridians must love baseball. Or was it just because they played during the weekdays. Well, Rogers Centre will absolutely be thumping on Friday. It’s going to be awesome!