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Given Toronto’s middling history at Tropicana Field and perennial struggles with the Rays, coming away from the first series of the season with a split feels like a reasonable result, but if you watch these games, nothing about the final two games feels good.
After yesterday’s loss thanks to the Chase Utley Rule, the series finale is one of those ugly early season games where you have to do everything in your power not to overreact to all the scary elements that came from the 5-3 loss to the Rays. But that’s a difficult thing to do because the Blue Jays are the defending American League East champs and they had every opportunity to emerge from this series with three, maybe even four wins.
Scary Element No. 1: Josh Donaldson not even bothering to run out a chopper over the mount in the seventh due to tightness in his calf.
Scary Element No. 2: Toronto giving up an eighth-inning bomb that cost them the game for the second consecutive day, this time with newcomer Arnold Leon serving one up to Steven Souza.
Toronto took a 3-0 lead in the third when Donaldson launched a Matt Moore pitch into the seats for his second dinger of the year, but that was all the offense the Jays could muster.
As they have all series, the got at the dish struggled to make contact, adding 10 more strikeouts this game to their yearly total, which is up to 46. The Jays have faced some good pitching in this series, but whiffing that many times and failing to push across insurance runs is worrisome, no matter who you’re facing.
More than Leon giving up a big fly to Souza to shift a 3-2 lead to a 5-3 deficit, the troubling element is why it was Leon in the game in the first place? Drew Storen was brought in to be relied on in the late innings and help the Jays get to closer Roberto Osuna. Leon was acquired from Oakland in a nothing deal and has all of 20 appearances to his name.
The East is always competitive and this feels like one the Jays shouldn’t have given away. There’s no telling how things play out if Storen gets the ball instead of Leon, but heading home with a 3-1 series win and not a 2-2 series split would have been a nice way to open up the year at the Rogers Centre.
Hopefully neither of Wednesday’s scary elements become lingering concerns or else Toronto could be under a lot of scrutiny early in the season.
Player of the Game: J.A. Happ
Lost in the shuffle of the bullpen blowing a late lead for the second straight game is a very good start from the returning lefty Happ, who scattered seven hits, one walk and two runs over six innings while collecting four strikeouts.
A lot of people groaned when Toronto handed Happ a three-year, $36M deal early into free agency, but his first appearance of the year was pretty good. Not Aaron Sanchez good, but if the Jays can get six solid innings from the veteran every fifth day, no one will complain.
On Deck: Toronto is off today and headed home for the opener on Friday as Boston comes to town. Rick Porcello will take the hill for the Red Sox, while Marcus Stroman gets the ball for the Blue Jays.