Grand Slam, Grand Slam, Grand Slam, WOOOOOOOOO
Heading into today, I was surprising to see Devon sitting, three games into the season seemed a tad early in my eyes to sit a starter. In his place came Darwin Barney, here on out referred to as Dino. In further shuffling, Steve Pearce shuffled into Left Field, in order to face the lefty Blake Snell. Meanwhile Marcus Stroman was in line for his first start of the year. The Rays always seem to give the Blue Jays fits, last season they comfortably took care of Toronto both home and away, with my only memory of Logan Forsyth (or maybe in his Logan Morrison), being the man racking up hit after hit. Meanwhile, the game was at Tropicana, in my eyes the worst stadium in baseball.
In reference to Tropicana, thankfully, they’re thinking of tearing it down to build a new arena in the Tampa area. I agree with this sentiment to get rid of Tropicana, with a new stadium hopefully build about 3000 miles away up in Montreal. Seriously, the SportsNet feed showed so many empty seats it wasn’t funny. What would be funny though would be if the Rays moved to Montreal. Again, someone remind me why that crappy stadium, with no-one in it and close to another Major League Team with really low attendance, even has a Major League team in the first place. I propose for the sake of the AL East that we either replace Tampa with Montreal, or raze the stadium to the ground, whichever one is more practical.
Enough about my rants that only two people will read, on to the game. The first couple of innings followed the tangent of the first couple of Jays games this season, lockdown pitching. After two, HDMH had somehow struck out 4 batters, Snell meanwhile coasted through his first couple. Thankfully, and for the first time this season, the Jays finally put on runs in bunches.
With the bases loaded courtesy of a couple of walks and a hit, Kendrys Morales hit his first Home Run for the Jays, a grand slam strike into the tarp in the left field seats. In was a blast of pure beauty, and hopefully is the first of many for the big Cuban. What made this more amazing was the fact that up to this point, the Jays only had two hits, by Dino and Morales.
In the bottom of the 4th, a failed safety squeeze by a Rays player (don’t know who, don’t really care) with a man on third and one out screwed over Steven Souza Jr, who got hammered and for his trouble, was also tagged out by Russell Martin at the plate.
Nothing else of consequence came until the top of the 7th, when the Jays again got the bats going. Firstly, Russell Martin walked, after which Smoaky continued his fine form with a single. Martin got to third just beating out a throw by Kiermaier. So with a man on third and first with one out, Dino showed the Rays how to properly sac bunt, comfortably getting Russell Martin home on a bunt to the first baseman Morrison, likewise Dino got instructions on how not to play second base by Brad Mills*, who covered the wrong bag, enabling Dino to reach first on an error.
Stroman came out to pitch the seventh, despite everything I learnt from last year about not pitching Stroman into the seventh. Sure enough, the inning was the first one in which Stroman got tagged, allowing a couple of hits before being pulled. I still remember his game against the Rays last year at Rogers Center, a quality start through six, then a 3-run homer in the seventh that ruined the day and cost the Jays the game. I have nothing against Stroman, I love the guy even through he went to Duke, but I can’t stand him pitching this far into the game. I don’t care if the analytics support me or not, Stroman should pitch six, and unless he is carrying a no-hitter or a perfect game, he should be dragged, with nearly no exceptions. For the game, Stroman conceded one earned run, going 6 and a third, and had a terrific quality start. With a man on first and second, Joe Biagini came in and got an inning-ending double play.
The ninth, despite technically being a save opportunity converted by Turn Up the Grilli, was anti-climactic, even when Joe Smith got hit for a run, I wasn’t worried, I had no reason to be. The easiest of save conversions, and the first win of the season for the Jays. No reason to complain about the performance today, it was the same as the first two, except the RISP situation wasn’t an unmitigated disaster.
To finish up today, I want to talk about the play when Martin went from first to third. Firstly, Martin, with his speed had no right to advance to third, yet he did because of his baseball smarts, he went before Smoak hit the ball, and never stopped, he knew where the ball was, and through his wit alone, made it to third. Yet as impressive as Martin’s hustle and baseball smarts were on the play, they were in my eyes overshadowed by Kevin Kiermaier’s fielding.
Martin reached on the play despite a ludicrous cross-body throw from centre-field by Kevin Kiermaier that was unlucky to not be an outfield assist. Kiermaier threw it not just cross-body, but on the run, one hop to third. It would’ve been out had Martin not deflected the ball, enabling him to reach before being tagged out by Longoria at third. I hate saying this nearly two years on from the 2015 CF gold glove award, but Kiermaier is a better player than Kevin Pillar, better speed, better fielder, more patient hitter. I love Superman, and this comment above doesn’t take anything always from that, but I think that in 10 years time, we will talk about Kevin Kiermaier the same way we talk about Andrew McCutchen. Not Mike Trout, because I’m not a lunatic, but he could be as good as Cutch, just saying.
Looking forward to tomorrow’s game, let’s all see how Francisco Liriano performs, but I say this, he’s a Cy Young smokey in my eyes.
*Look up The Ringer article on the can’t lose Sports Bet related to Brad Miller, it’s too late to cash in but still, worth a read if you’ve got time, which I’m sure you do if you read this Facebook blog posted by an amateur writer in Beijing.