The Blue Jays came home off a horrible road trip with a vocal portion of their fan base having written them off after a brutal weekend in Texas that dropped them all the way down to the .500 mark, and they got the exact start that they so desperately needed from the same 21 year-old kid whose rough outing in St. Petersburg got the five-game losing streak started.
Drew Hutchison had easily his best outing in the big leagues, setting career highs in innings pitched, strikeouts and pitches thrown while matching a career-low in hits allowed. He blanked the Orioles over seven innings of three-hitter, walking three and striking out nine.
It was a bend-but-don’t break start early on, as all three walks came in the third inning. Hutchison was helped out by Jeff Mathis picking Chris Davis off second on a failed bunt attempt by Robert Andino, and by his own athleticism, leaping high in the air to haul in a Nick Markakis chopper and flipping to first to end the frame, leaving the bases loaded.
Two batters after Hutchison wriggled out of that jam, Edwin Encarnacion hit a rocket that would have probably broken the facing of the 100 level in left-centre had a fan not gotten his glove on it (and then dropped it). The two-run shot made it 4-0 Blue Jays, and was Encarnacion’s 16th home run of the season. Amazingly, at this point last season, Encarnacion was still looking for his first big fly – he would wind up with 17.
Kelly Johnson was the major offensive contributor in this one, despite being a game-time decision because he’s dealing with a sore hamstring. And what happens when your leg hurts? You have to run a lot, of course. Johnson had to leg out a pair of doubles, and looked as though he was in whole lot of pain in the doing. He also had to push it in the very first inning, when he doubled into the gap, then scored from second on Colby Rasmus’ single to right. Johnson was able to go nice and slow, however, when he hit a two-run bomb into the batters’ eye in dead centre in the 4th, his 9th homer of the season.
Hutchison’s outing was exactly what the doctor ordered, with the Blue Jays’ starting pitchers having combined to throw just 9 1/3 innings over the course of dropping three straight in Texas, allowing 20 runs. He did get knocked around by Tampa last time out, but this was the third time in his last four starts that Hutchison has thrown at least six innings and allowed no more than one run.
Every Blue Jay got at least one hit in the game, save for Jose Bautista, who was 0-for-4 but reached on an error. Bautista’s frustrations, that have been on display quite often this season, seemed to boil over after he popped up foul to end the 6th inning. After the ball was caught, Bautista shattered his bat by slamming it into the ground in the dirt cutout around home plate. We have gotten used to seeing the angry Jose many times this season, but this time it struck me as a particularly inappropriate showing, given that his team was leading 6-0 at the time.
Things did get a little tense in the ninth, as Francisco Cordero came on and gave up hits to four of the five batters he faced to turn a 6-0 lead into a save situation for Casey Janssen. Cordero hadn’t given up a run in nine consecutive outings ever since he coughed up that walkoff Grand Slam to Brandon Inge back in Oakland on May 9th, but he had to be bailed out of this one by the Jays’ closer. Janssen came on with a four-run lead, runners at second and third and one out, and needed all of four pitches to close it out. Amazingly, Janssen has yet to give up even a single baserunner when pitching in a save situation since being named closer on May 10th – the opposition is 0-for-11 against him.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The BluejaysTalk, for your listening pleasure – and I promise it’s the right one this time:
The series continues with the Blue Jays having a chance to close to within three games of first place in the A.L. East with ace Ricky Romero on the hill against Orioles’ righty Jake Arrieta. Romero has been struggling mightily with his control, having walked a career-high seven in his last start and having issued an ugly 24 free passes in his last 27 1/3 innings. Though Romero is 5-1 on the season, the Blue Jays have lost three of his last four starts. The Orioles have lost six of their last eight. We’ll be on the air across the Blue Jays Radio Network at 7:00PM Eastern – join us, won’t you?
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