I was plagued by doubts all night, but the Toronto Blue Jays were somehow able to pull off the 8-5 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.
When’s the last time you were able to say something like that? The best part: the Jays now have two opportunities to win the series in Tampa Bay, which has been a virtual graveyard for them over the past few seasons.
Having said this, my doubts were justified. Mark Buehrle didn’t look sharp for most of the night, labouring through the first two innings and leaving the game early after throwing 93 pitches across five innings of work. He was fortunate to escape the game with only two runs scored against him after loading the bases on two separate occasions in addition to surrendering nine hits and one walk on the whole.
However, Buehrle’s been a master of escaping difficult jams this season and that’s probably the best way to describe his performance yesterday. He wasn’t great, but he was good enough to get things done when needed.
Things looked fine after this – the Rays were unable to take advantage of their opportunities while the Jays took full advantage of everything offered their way, scoring five runs off five hits and three walks through four innings of play – until Dustin McGowan entered the game with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. He was unable to get a single batter out, giving up three walks and a three-run blast in futile 23 pitches. After that, it was a whole new ball game at 5-5 a piece.
Here’s the thing about McGowan: his stuff is either electric, flaming down the middle of the plate or it’s missing everything wide. You can tell almost right away and he looked off from the start. Thus, John Gibbons made a poor decision to keep McGowan in the game that long – Gibbons wanted one out from McGowan, but he never got it.
(The home run allowed by McGowan brought to my mind the game-altering home run he allowed in late June to the Chicago White Sox, erasing a solid start from Marcus Stroman. Toronto ultimately lost that game thanks to him.)
Fortunately, after McGowan left the game, Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup and Casey Janssen combined to pitch three scoreless innings of relief. In turn, Toronto once again took full advantage of the opportunities presented to them by the Rays in the top of the ninth inning, putting three runners across the plate on three hits and two walks. Special credit here must be given to Steve Tolleson, who delivered two of the runs off a huge clutch-hit single. (Yes, that Tolleson.)
The two clubs return to action this afternoon, but there might be a few changes to their respective lineups. David Price is expected to miss today’s game – a huge boon to the Jays – due to illness while Munenori Kawasaki and especially Nolan Reimold could miss some time after both players suffered minor leg injuries yesterday.