Brilliant pitching efforts set the tone
Carlos Villanueva has been a welcome addition to stabilize the starting rotation. While a couple of his outings have not been quality starts, he has given his team the opportunity to win. Some of his stuff is electric. Certainly, he has been performing as a number 3 starter this year. He wants to start next year, and I think that as long as his arm can remain healthy through the year, he should be given the chance. As a starter now, over 11 starts, he is pitching to an ERA of 3.03 and a WHIP of 1.08. Over 65 1/3 innings, he has struck out 65, for a rate of 8.95K / 9 and 2.3 BB/9. Certainly, this is starter stuff.
The Jays are capping him at about 100 pitches, which for Carlos, works out to about 6 innings. His outing against the White Sox where he threw 85 pitches over 7 was his most recent best outing. He's pretty good.
Tonight was no exception. Tampa pitching since the all-star break has been phenomenal with an ERA of 2.91 for starters and a ridiculous 1.21 ERA for relievers. And August has been tighter with a pitching ERA of 2.82 for starters and 0.93 for relievers. So, for the Jays to win, pitching would have to be very tight. And it was.
The sum of Toronto's offense was a Kelly Johnson double in the bottom of the 1st with the bases loaded and two out as Moore was a little bit wild. After that point, the Jays threatened a couple of times with two outs but wasn't able to put any insurance on the board. The Jays did not have any real baserunning errors or offensive gaffes. Colby, Edwin, Mathis, and Hechavarria were kept off the hit list. Escobar reached base three times out of four with two singles and a walk. Kelly Johnson also went two for four.
Carlos Villanueva only really got into trouble in the 2nd with two singles to open the frame. A sac bunt put Tampa's two runners in scoring position with one out. Then, a short pop out and a strike out ended the inning. Carlos then proceeded to strike out 5 more in a row, tying the franchise record for consecutive strikeouts at 6 (JA Happ also struck out 6 in a row a couple of weeks ago) before Matt Joyce ruined the party with a pop out to left.
Darren Oliver, Brad Lincoln, and Casey Janssen were perfect in their final three innings of relief, striking out 4, walking none.
So, a great opener to the series. For tomorrow's tilt, it's a battle between Brandon Morrow, on his 2nd start after being injured, and Jeremy Hellickson.
I really feel that the Jays are starting to turn a corner now, having won 3 of the last 4. Let's hope they can wrap August on a positive note. The Jays pitching staff seems somewhat rejuvenated with Morrow back in the clubhouse. Romero pitched great on Tuesday night. JA Happ pitched well enough. Carlos pitched great. And the bullpen is also pitching well again.
Even with Bautista out, there is enough offense there to be potent. Only Hechavarria and Moises are the rookies remaining in the line up. Escobar has woken up finally. Lind is not looking foolish at the plate.