In the words of the immortal Meatloaf, “Two outta three ain’t bad.”
Given the way their first visit to New York got started, for the Blue Jays to come away from this three-game set with two straight victories is a minor coup. On Tuesday night, Toronto was shut down by Nathan Eovaldi and beaten up the Yankees hitters, dropping the opener 6-0. But after rebounding with an 8-4 victory in Wednesday night’s middle game, the Jays used a solid start from J.A. Happ and timely RBIs from Edwin Encarnacion and the returning Devon Travis to earn a 3-1 victory in Thursday’s afternoon rubber match before returning home to open a three-game set with the first place Boston Red Sox.
After giving up a solo home run to Starlin Castro in the first, Happ allowed just three more hits over the next six innings, walking one and striking out five to out-duel fellow lefty C.C. Sabathia. While his return as a free agent in the offseason was met with mixed reviews, the second-time Blue Jays starter has been as consistent as anyone on the roster this season, earning his sixth win in this one.
Toronto got on the board with two in the top of the third, benefitting from an error by Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius, a two-out single by Jose Bautista and a walk by Josh Donaldson, allowing Encarnacion to step up with the bases loaded and dump a single into left, cashing Travis and Bautista. They would tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth as well, as Justin Smoak and Kevin Pillar collected singles off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, setting the table for Travis to pick up his first RBI of the season with a single to right.
While the Yankees stopper couldn’t keep the Blue Jays off the board, Toronto’s Roberto Osuna worked a perfect ninth to pick up his 10th save of the season.
Much like Wednesday’s victory, yesterday’s win was a representation of what this team is capable of when they’re at full health and firing on all cylinders. They have a quality starting rotation and now that they’ve found a formula that appears to be working at the back end of the bullpen (Joe Biagini and Gavin Floyd setting the table for Osuna), they have the potential to put together wins in bunches climb the divisional ladder.
Toronto will only play the Yankees and Red Sox between now and June 6, which makes this a pivotal 12-game set at this still early stage of the season and they’ve started well by taking two-of-three in the Bronx. If they can do the same at home against Boston this weekend, they’ll be in good shape.
Player of the Game: Devon Travis
Happ pitched exceptionally well and probably could have gotten the nod, but Travis had a better game than the box score suggests and his return could be an X-factor in Toronto’s hopeful resurgence in the American League East. It was his sharply hit grounder in the fourth that Gregorius and he was the first to cross the plate in that inning. In addition to getting an RBI single in the ninth, he’s played well in the field since returning as well, providing the Blue Jays with more options and flexibility with their bench.
Before his season ended last July, Travis was in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race. If he can get back to that level of production, the already dangerous Toronto lineup with add another productive bat to its ranks.
On Deck: A six-game home stand kicks off with three against the Red Sox beginning Friday. Aaron Sanchez (4-1, 3.20) takes the hill for Toronto, while Joe Kelly (2-0, 5.28) gets the call for the visitors.