Fans of the Toronto Blue have been asked to do an extraordinary amount of waiting in 2021. Saturday’s game against the Angels was no different
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The off-season signing of George Springer and Marcus Semien took longer to complete than the 60-game 2020 season. By the time Mark Shapiro confirmed the obvious in late February, announcing that the team would begin the regular season, Blue Jays fans already knew they would need to wait an undetermined amount of time before they could fill the Rogers Centre again. But after listening to manager Charlie Montoyo promise before and after the first eight games of the season that Toronto’s much ballyhooed lineup would soon breakout, fans only needed to wait out a two hour and thirty eight minute rain delay (and stay up way past their bedtimes) to enjoy a wet and weird 15-1 breakout win over the Los Angeles Angels at TD Ballpark.
The Blue Jays were so efficient at the plate, they were able to score more runs (15) than hits (14). The new-look lineup went 9-15 (.600!) with runners in scoring position, including 6 doubles but no homeruns. They were also aided in their onslaught by 9 walks issued by Angels pitchers and 3 errors by shortstop Jose Iglesias. But it was the quality of at bats that truly jump out of the box score. with Jays hitters being more selective and patient than they have demonstrated in any game this season. Recently recalled Josh Palacios went 4-4 and scored 4 runs. Bo Bichette drove in 5 out of the 2 hole, while Randal Grichuk (3 doubles) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. collected 3 runs batted in apiece.
When your team scores 15 runs in a game, it is easy to overlook pitching performances. But Steven Matz (2-0) was masterful over his 6 innings, scattering 5 hits and keeping the Angels hitters off balance by mixing his fastball and changeup. As important and pleasing to watch were the 3 innings of scoreless 1-hit relief turned in by Tommy Milone. Milone struck out six and remained in control as he earned his first save of the season.
At the beginning, fans would have given the pitching edge to Angels lefty Jose Quintana. Quintana had posted his lowest career ERA (1.88) against Toronto and was facing a lineup with injury replacements Jonathan Davis, Santiago Espinal and Josh Palacios filling out the bottom. But Quintana never seemed to be in command of his fastball and fell apart during one of the strangest half innings in recent memory.
Espinal led off the bottom of the 2nd inning with a single, followed by a walk issued to Davis. Danny Jansen was not asked to bunt, instead bouncing into what appeared to be a certain double play. Albert Pujols fielded the grounder cleanly, but shortstop Iglesias threw the return wildly after a hard slide by Davis. Espinal scored and Jansen was safe on the throwing error. But both Charlie Montoyo and Angels’ skipper Joe Maddon asked crew chief Jerry Lane for a video review. Montoyo was insistent that Iglesias lost contact with the bag before catching the Pujols toss while Maddon insisted Davis had slid out of the base path to disrupt what he felt should be rules a double play.
A lengthy review with the MLB offices initially ruled Davis out and awarded Jansen a fielder’s choice. But Harry Wendelstadt conferenced with Lane and a second review call was made to New York. The second call confirmed Iglesias left the bag before starting his throw, Davis was safe and Jays enjoyed an early 1-0 lead. Palacios got his first big league hit on a beautiful bunt in front of Anthony Rendon to load the bases. After Marcus Semien struck out, Bichette ripped a bases clearing double into the left field corner making it 4-0. Guerrero worked a base on balls to force in the fifth run and Grichuk followed with another bases clearing double. After a Tellez strikeout, Espinal used his second at bat of the inning to lace an opposite field single to right, scoring Grichuk and staking Matz to a 7-0 lead.
Things got worse for Angels in the third. Jansen infield single was upheld by yet another video review, prompting Angels manager Maddon to scream “It only took you guys 5 seconds on that (wrong) call” and was promptly ejected by home plate umpire Lane. Jaime Barria, who had replaced Quintana to finish the 2nd inning, walked Palacios and Semien. Bichette lasered another bases emptying double and Guerrero, showing terrific plate discipline, worked another favorable count before poking a single through the infield scoring Bichette, 10-0 Blue Jays.
The bottom of the fourth saw Espinal stroke the first pith he saw for a double in the gap. Davis drew another walk and after a Jansen ground out, Palacios added to his perfect night by slashing am RBI single to right. Semien walked before Bichette doubled into the right field corner, scoring Palacios and Semien. Guerrero picked up an RBI with a hard smash off the glove of David Fletcher plating Bichette and the rout continued 14-0.
Three productive and opportunistic innings snapped a worrisome 4-game losing streak for Toronto, who hope to earn a split of the 4 game series with LA on Sunday afternoon. At press time Montoyo had still not named a starter for the series finale, and a threatening weather forecast might force the Jays to utilize either another “opener” or piggyback several of their rested bullpen arms. Here’s hoping their is no rest for the Blue Jays bats after late night explosiveness on Saturday night/Sunday morning.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT….Angels manager Joe Maddon spent the majority of the rain delay examining the field conditions after the extensive heavy rains that delayed the start of the game. Maddon was particularly concerned about the wet conditions in the outfield and expressed his concerns with umpires during pre-game discussions. But the new irrigation and drainage systems installed during the extensive renovations to TD Ballpark worked beyond expectations. Field conditions did not seem to play a factor at any point of the game.
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