Blue Jays Bullpen Throws Win Against Orioles
Another brilliant effort by a Blue Jays starter wasn’t enough to off-set another bullpen collapse and more pop-gun offence.
Francisco Liriano made the latest star turn, shutting out the Orioles over 6.1 innings on Wednesday, striking out 10, but Jason Grilli and then Roberto Osuna let him down, both surrendering big home runs as Baltimore pulled out a 3-2 win.
After good work by Brett Cecil, Grilli gave up Mark Trumbo’s Major League-leading 46th home run. Not the end of the world for the home side, but a suddenly struggling Osuna has to be a significant concern, no matter what was being said post-game. After striking out the leadoff man in the ninth, Osuna gave up a hit and then a home run to light-hitting Hyun Soo Kim. The team’s puzzlingly dormant offence had scored a run in each of the first two innings, before going ice cold from there, wasting several chances, including bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth.
Elsewhere, Boston was busy clinching the American League East. At Rogers Centre, Osuna got tonged again, giving up at least two hits for the third straight appearance. That had not happened all season, but once again, the young reliever appears to be running out of gas down the stretch, much like the far older Grilli.
Baltimore doesn’t have that problem. Closer Zach Britton has not blown a save all season and has not allowed an earned run since April 30th. Not surprisingly Britton shut down the Jays in the ninth to send another big crowd home grumbling.
In the aftermath, the group tried to remain positive.
“It’s a time when everybody’s tired we are all on an even playing field that way,” Grilli said.
“You dig deep, go on pure adrenaline, pure guts we are doing that. The effort hasn’t changed.”
The Jays gave credit to the Orioles. “They are a resilient bunch,” said manager John Gibbons. “Two teams with a lot at stake and they came up with the big blow.
“These guys are carrying a big workload (Grilli will) survive. He’ll figure it out. We need him, he’s helped us get this far.”
The Jays lost a 15th consecutive game when failing to hit a home run. As a whole, they’ve basically channelled Rob Deer at this point. Big blast or bust. Some offensive production to pick up the streaking starters would be most welcome.
Liriano, peddled to the Jays by Pittsburgh in a salary dump, continues to turn heads. The Major League leader in walks upon his acquisition allowed only one free pass for the second time over his past four starts. He has walked only six over that span, while striking out 26. Coming off of his best appearance as a Blue Jay and having surrendered only six runs over his previous three turns, Liriano started even better, going three innings before allowing Baltimore’s first hit. After consecutive singles started that frame, the big left-hander bore down, striking out the heart of the strong Orioles lineup consecutively, one, two, three, to power his way out of the jam.
The Orioles threatened again an inning later, but Liriano again struck out the side, most importantly, punching out Chris Davis with the bases loaded.
“It’s not bad for me it’s bad for the team,” Liriano said of seeing his win go out the window. “I feel bad for Osuna also.”
Osuna said he missed on the pitch that decided the game: “My fastball went straight from the middle and he took advantage of it,” Osuna said, before adding about himself and the bullpen: “It’s all good, I’m not worried at all.”
Toronto’s starting rotation has been a strength all season, but the emergence of Liriano has added another quality arm to the equation. Liriano’s effort was the club’s 98th quality start of the season, which leads the American League. The staff also leads in ERA, innings pitched and lowest opponent’s batting average.
In September, the starters have held opponents to three earned runs or less in 21 of the 25 games and this marked 13 straight allowing two earned or fewer, the longest such streak in Blue Jays history.
It was also the seventh straight game where a starter held the opponent to one run or less, the best run for Toronto since 1983.
But the bats have gone to sleep, relying nearly as much on good fortune as solid contact. Ezequiel Carrera flashed his speed again to lead off the bottom of the first, slapping a ball down the first base line and forcing Orioles starer Adam Tillman into a tough throw, which was dropped by Davis. Tillman then threw a pickoff attempt down the first base line, which allowed Carrera to scamper all the way to third. Edwin Encarnacion cashed him in with a long flyout to deep centre.
The Jays doubled the lead in the second when Kevin Pillar scored Troy Tulowitzki with a sacrifice fly.
Liriano exited to a loud ovation with two on and one out in the top of the seventh, but it was all for naught as the Orioles moved within a game of the top wild-card spot ahead of Thursday’s series finale. Detroit also remains too close for comfort.
Toronto’s -28 run differential in the 9th inning is the worst in baseball.