The Toronto Blue Jays found their bats as they chased All-Star pitcher Lance McCullers early and beat the Houston Astros 7-4.
Coming off a panic-halting series win over the slumping Yankees, the boys in blue aimed higher in the standings as they welcome the Houston Astros into the Rogers Centre. With the re-charged Lance McCullers staring them down, it would be up to the maligned Francisco Liriano to prove he was more than just easily floated trade fodder. What kind of tone would be set in this series?
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) July 6, 2017
— Houston Astros (@astros) July 6, 2017
Starting Pitcher Matchup
Houston Astros – 4 R 11 H 2 E
Toronto Blue Jays – 7 R 13 H 0 E
Francisco Liriano was dealing early. The three-pitch punchout of George Springer was clinical pitching and one of the best hitters in baseball looked foolish against the left-hander, striking out twice. However, the fifth inning once again proved to be trouble for a Blue Jays starter. Three hits finished off by a Jose Altuve single, gave the Astros 2-1 a lead.
Overall, Liriano looked like he had more control than previous outings where walks were his downfall. The veteran picked up his first win at home in over a month, and it looked like he might be part of the solution instead of the wild problem child he had been. He was able to pound the strike zone more effectively, able to stick low and keep the damage to a minimum against one of the most potent offenses in baseball. His final line (6+ IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) is good enough to continue his trend of alternating quality starts with not-so-quality starts. It’ll be interesting to see what he does in his first start after the break.
Russell Martin took advantage of some indecision on the part of Jose Altuve to nail the all-star as he attempted to steal second in the third inning. After throwing wild on an Alex Bregman attempt in the second, it was nice to see Martin bounce right back to erase the Astros’ star second baseman. He also had a great night at the plate (3/5, 2R, solo HR hit halfway to Halifax). This is exactly what the Blue Jays needed to see, signs of recovery in some of these bats that were so cold in April and June. Martin looks to be providing them, with six hits and two dingers in his last three games.
— Canuckian (@Canuckmaiden) July 7, 2017
It was nice to see the Blue Jays capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes and use some small ball to generate a run. Bregman couldn’t handle a Kendrys Morales grounder in the fourth, putting the big man on board. McCullers’ next pitch plunked off the plate and went right through Brian McCann‘s wickets. (Sidenote: Morales had such a head of steam running on the wild pitch he ended up halfway to third. He can move if necessary.) He advanced to third on a ground ball and finally, FINALLY, Steve Pearce proved that the Blue Jays can get hits with RISP, cashing Kendrys with a solid single.
HITS WITH RISP!!! #BlueJays
— Jenn Smith (@Baseball_Jenn) July 7, 2017
More importantly for the Blue Jays, the Bringer of Rain finally brought a little precipitation to the Atacama Desert. Donaldson broke a 2-for-27 slump with a HUGE two-run single in the bottom of the fifth. They were his first RBIs in nine games. Morales followed with a nice double into the gap to cash Donaldson, and a Troy Tulowitzki RBI single knocked the Astros all-star out of the game early. Michael Feliz didn’t stop the bleeding, as Ryan Goins laced an RBI double over Jake Marisnick‘s head that would have been worth two runs if Kevin Pillar didn’t nearly run over Pearce on the base path and force him to go for home. The Blue Jays ended up sending 10 batters to the dish in the 5th, scoring five runs on six hits and an error.
This may be the biggest highlight for the Blue Jays as Lance McCullers (4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) had his good pitches fended off, and the bad pitches knocked into the outfield. This offense has been unable to do very little when the ball doesn’t leave the park or the infield, so to see repeated shots into the outfield gap against a stud pitcher like McCullers, it fills fans with…determination. Granted, the Blue Jays had a lot of help from Houston’s sheer lack of communication in the game. So many miscues…
In the end, every Blue Jays starter got a hit, including Donaldson and Pillar joining Martin in the multi-hit club. This is generally a good thing when teams do this.
It's raining hits at the Dome! ☔☔#BlueJays
— Julianatista ⚾ (@julijays) July 7, 2017
The Blue Jays couldn’t buy a hit when they needed it early. The newly-preached patience at the plate loaded the bases with one out in the first, but back-to-back strikeouts by Morales and Troy Tulowitzki meant no runs scored.
They paid for it immediately as Gonzalez smashed a ball to the Saitama Prefecture to give the Astros an early 1-0 lead on Gonzalez’s 16th home run of the season. Thankfully, the Blue Jays found their swings later in the game.
Bullpen was all right enough, I guess. Ryan Tepera couldn’t prevent Alex Bregman from scoring and tacking a third run on Liriano’s tally, but was solid after that, handing Springer his third K of the day. Carlos Beltran launched a solo shot to South Sudbury in the next inning and plunking McCann was it for Texas Tep, who might be showing early signs of burnout. He’s already blown past his previous MLB high in innings, so despite the new level of trust, it might be worth monitoring the work load on the 29-year-old.
Dominic Leone came in, got an out and walked a guy. Unlikely lefty specialist Jeff Beliveau coaxed a fly ball out of pinch hitter Josh Reddick to end the subtle threat in the eighth. Roberto Osuna does not belong in the lowlights, and we will forget the writer had to mention him here.
A lowlight for the Astros, as Gonzalez was tossed in the sixth for arguing balls and strikes. Funny thing though, he was arguing from the dugout while Brian McCann was at bat. Home plate umpire John Libka wasn’t having it and sent him packing.
maybe marwin gonzalez wouldn't be so rotten if his name was actually darwin and his last name was barney and everyone loved him
— emma (@blownsaves) July 7, 2017
- The Blue Jays officially confirmed the signing of Brazilian right-hander Eric Pardinho, as per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. The 16-year-old native of Sao Paulo caught the eyes of scouts in the WBC qualifiers last year with a 95 mph fastball and was ranked #5 on the list of international prospects. He will report to the Blue Jays training academy in the Dominican Republic.
- J.P. Howell began rehab with promising results. The veteran lefty pitched one inning for AAA Buffalo, tossed 15 pitches (10 for strikes), allowed one hit and got one strikeout.
- Also of note in Buffalo’s 4-3 extra inning loss to Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, Cesar Valdez threw seven innings without an earned run allowed. The length is back with the veteran minor leaguer who remains on the 40-man roster and could be back up if another starter is needed.
- Word came through the grapevine during the game that both Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. will not be returning to Lansing after their all-star appearances. The two prospects will join Dunedin for the second half of the Jays season. Buck Martinez, however, thought it was Dante Bichette (Bo’s father) who was heading to Dunedin. While this writer loved Dante when he was with the Rockies, they see little need for a 53-year-old DH on the high A team.
- Tomorrow sees two pitchers come off the DL to start as the Blue Jays welcome back Aaron Sanchez (0-1, 3.33 ERA) to face the Astros’ Charlie Morton (5-3, 4.06 ERA). Check back on Jays From the Couch for another glorious recap!
Player of the Game
— Ryan Andrews 📎 (@NeoAC18) July 7, 2017
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Andrews has been immersed in sports from a young age, since they could read Jr. Jays comics that filtered into the backwoods of Northern Nova Scotia. The Canadian has been blogging about sports since high school, writing on FOX Sports.com’s blogs as well on the Tailpipe Sports blog. The 20-something has been with Jays From the Couch since its humble beginnings, and continues to contribute while forging a career in the sports journalism industry. Andrews brings a discerning eye, a smoking keyboard, and a brain that made Jeopardy! briefly rethink letting Canadians onto their program.