The home opener of the year is terrific, when every play gets their introduction, and I get to irrationally cheer every name, especially the pro chef (whose name I’ve already forgotten). It truly is a spectacle, but I’m not too fussed about that. I wasn’t surprised about the lack of a cheer for Justin Smoak, who seems truly hated by Bluebird Nation, like WTF, he’s one of ours, embrace him.
I got really concerned when I realised that when reading the names of the bench for today’s game, I noticed Josh Donaldson AND Darwin Barney, at that point I wondered who was playing third. It couldn’t be Steve Pearce, so it had to be… Oh Fuck. Has he even ever played third base, why is he playing when a capable, fit Third Baseman in Darwin is fit coming off a rest day.
Sure enough, it was, Ryan Goins, somehow still on the roster is in the position of now playing third base, simply because Gibby doesn’t want him to get rusty. So it was pretty much coming Milwaukee an out in my mind, but as I’ve said several times, Gibby knows more than me, so I’m not going to question his better judgement (I will).
So the honour of pitching the first inning of the season at home went to J.A Happ. That went about as well as the last two ALCS. Some bloke I’d never heard of hit a solo shot to left, making it 1-0, before another random bloke brought home Travis Shaw (who hit a triple) with an infield single, with Devon Travis unable to make the miracle play.
The bottom of the first enabled the Jays to claw back half the deficit, a Tulo double bringing home Joey Bats and leaving men on second and third with one out. Following the trend of this early part of the season however, both Russell Martin and Smoaky struck out to end the inning, stranding two in scoring position.
The second was an exercise in luck, with Pena (whoever he is) somehow not scoring a home run. A hard-hit fly ball not going yard, instead hitting the very top of the wall. The arm of Bautista kept Pena to a single. J.A pitched out of a jam in that inning, but he was more lucky than good, well-hit balls somehow staying in the field of play, not a recipe for sustainable success.
Each team added on a run in the third, Keon Bruxton (the Brewers guy who scored the first inning homer) leading off with a single, then stealing second, and eventually came home on a FC to 2nd. For the Jays, Tulo again got the RBI, with a sac fly scoring Devon Travis comfortably.
Nothing of note happened until the top of the 5th, which proved to be the end of J.A Happ’s night. A conceded yet another solo shot, this game to the Brewers right fielder, and after a double from unknown Brewers guy, left the game. He pitched 4 and two-thirds, conceding four earned runs somehow emerging with 9 K’s, J.A also had responsibility for one left on second. In came Dominic Leone who got the out to get out of the dig.
Yet again, it was Morales and Tulo who replied in the bottom of the 5th. Morales hit a two-out single, then Tulo smashed a double off the left field wall, Morales, hustling like a fat guy chasing a Mars bar, got home from first, a sight I didn’t think I’d see through his entire 3-year contract, let alone his first home game. That inning end with Russell Martin’s third strikeout of the game, leaving the score 4-3 after 5.
Joe Smith was lightning through the 6th, the side-armer bewitching the Brewers, and his beautiful movement on the baseball leading to a 1-2-3 inning.
The Brewers starting pitcher Willy Peralta didn’t return for the start of the 7th, ending his day with 6 innings pitched, with 3 earned runs and 7 K’s. He pitched terrible in my eyes, but he got the job done
The game became a bullpen battle really, with shutdown innings from the bullpens of each side. There were good signs from the Jays, namely the return of Roberto Osuna, however the Brewers effectively shut down the Jays, holding on to an admittedly deserved 4-3 win.
To conclude, I’d like to talk about the two closers today, namely the return of Roberto Osuna to the Jays pen, but also the return to the closing role for Neftali Feliz. Firstly, it was great to see Osuna pitch at his normal velocity, a sure-fire sign that his health is strong. I’m personally ok with any Jay playing in the WBC, my view being that Spring Training is a bit of a bore and is basically meaningless baseball. So a scoreless inning today by Roberto was a good sign that his stuff is all there, and he should see a return to last year’s bullpen structure.
As for Neftali Feliz, it seems like forever that he was Rookie of the Year for the Rangers, that was the point I started watching baseball even casually. So to see him at the Brewers now shows how injuries has limited him and makes a case point for why Major League relievers should stay in the pen, no matter how large the clamour is for them to transition to a starting role. Because for every Chris Sale, there is a Neftali Feliz, and about 30 other relievers destroyed. I’m happy for Feliz that he’s pitching well, he still has a crazy slider and curveball, and his fastball today touched 101mph. Obviously I hope the Jays touch him up, but other than that, I wish him all the best and hope he can stay healthy enough to return to the form that made him an All-Star as a rookie.
Tomorrow is some Brewers pitcher vs Marcus Stroman, go Jays