When it rains, it pours. A day to forget. The Blue Jays lose 7-1 to the Angels on a day when when everything seemed to go wrong.
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It started before game time. Teoscar Hernandez was put on the Covid-IL due to exposure to a person with a positive Covid-19 test. Then Ryan Borucki had a negative reaction to his Covid vaccine. Then Tyler Chatwood – one of the few bullpen arms not used yesterday – went on the IL with triceps inflammation. And as if this were not enough, the Jays had to replace Lourdes Gurriel in the third inning when he too started showing reactions to his Covid-19 inoculation. So a less than auspicious beginning.
David Phelps opened the game with a clean first inning, giving T.J. Zeuch (a bottom-of-the-zone pitcher) the luxury of not facing Mike Trout (perhaps the best bottom-of-zone hitter in baseball) in his first inning. But one of the Jays must have stepped on a mirror while carrying a black cat under a ladder on Friday the 13th. The first Angel batter in the second, Jared Walsh, swung hard – and hit an 84 mph squibbler that did not even make it out of the infield, only travelling 73 feet. But by the time the Jays got to the ball, it was an infield single. Unfortunate, but at least these kinds of flukes are very rare (right?)
Zeuch then got Justin Upton on a strikeout and José Iglesias on a flyout to centre. But Max Stassi, swinging on a 2-2 pitch well outside, decided to one-up Walsh. His dribbler left with a glacial 55 mph exit velocity and only travelled 36 feet. But again, by the time the Jays fielded the swinging bunt Stassi was on first base. Zeuch, clearly rattled, walked Dexter Fowler (the #9 hitter) on 5 pitches, loading the bases. David Fletcher then hit what should have been an inning-ending grounder to Bo Bichette at short. But Bo bobbled the ball, and then threw to second (unsuccessfully) instead of taking the easy out at first. Angels 1-0. Shohei Ohtani then doubled off the right field wall. Angels 4-0. Home runs by Ohtani and Walsh later in the game accounted for the other three Angel runs.
Bo did not have a great night in the field. In addition to his error in the second, he got a late jump on a Trout grounder in the 7th. It would have been a difficult play, but it could well have been playable. Later that inning, Bo passed up an easy opportunity to catch Trout (the lead runner) at third base, instead taking a harder out at first. Bo almost had a second error with a wayward throw to first, but Vladdy came off the bag to make an excellent save. Bo’s three strikeouts (though he did get one hit) probably did not enhance his evening either.
But then, most of the Jays hitters struggled. Eleven (whimper!) strikeouts to add to the fourteen yesterday, twelve runners left on base, and the bottom five hitters combined for zero hits. And Josh Palacios, playing his his first major league game, went 0-3 with two strikeouts.
Bright spots? Vladdy is looking better every day at first base. David Phelps looked good as an opener, getting strikeouts of Ohtani and Rendon in a first inning marred only by a walk to Mike Trout (if walking Trout can be considered a “mistake”). Could there be more opener games in his future? And Ty Tice, the 5’9″ reliever playing in his first major league game, pitched a strong eighth and ninth inning with a fastball touching 96 mph, including retiring Ohtani and Trout in the ninth. Tice pitched to a 2.34 ERA with 10+ strikeouts per nine innings in 2019 between New Hampshire and Buffalo, so he could well turn out to be more than an emergency fill-in.
There is an old saying that it is best to get all of your bad luck out of the way at once, so you can start fresh. Let’s hope that is the case with the Jays tomorrow!
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.