Three wins, seventeen losses.
That’s the record the Blue Jays held playing in New York for the past two seasons.
Of those six series in Yankees Stadium, the Blue Jays had won one of them.
Toronto can now add a 2015 opening series win, thanks to strong starting pitching and some bottom-of-the-order hitters who really know how to do their jobs.
Drew Hutchison picked up where he left off this spring and showed that his 1.50 ERA was no fluke. The youngest pitcher in franchise history to start an opening day got the Blue Jays rolling in the first game, throwing a strong six innings while allowing one earned run on three hits. Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis kickstarted the Blue Jays’ offense, scoring three runs between the two of them, while also grabbing three of the six hits Toronto had on the night. Tanaka looked sharp in the first two innings, striking out three, before the Blue Jays put up a five-spot in the third inning, capped by an Edwin Encarnacion two-run bomb. Travis added some insurance in the seventh, blasting his first major league home run en route to a 6-1 opening day victory.
All was well in Blue Jays land until the eighth inning of game two. After a strong performance from R.A. Dickey, throwing 6.1 innings and allowing one earned run on four hits, the back end of the bullpen crumbled. Castro came in for his second appearance in as many games and continued to display his dominance. While going 1.1 innings of shutout baseball in game one, Miguel did much of the same in the second game of the series going 0.2 innings with a strikeout and no earned runs. Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil came on in relief of Castro, and from there the game imploded. After Loup couldn’t get the job done, Cecil came in and threw a wild pitch to the first batter he saw and then beaned McCann. All of this led to a three-run inning and a 4-3 Blue Jays loss.
NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN: The work of the 7-8-9 hitters. Originally dubbed to be one of the weaker parts of this club, the bottom of the order has been fantastic and has been turning the lineup over almost every chance they get. Pillar, Justin Smoak, and Travis combined for four of the seven hits on the night.
Twenty-year-old Roberto Osuna made his major league debut in a bases loaded situation and got out of it unscathed. Roberto struck out 21-year-veteran Alex Rodriguez on a nasty changeup, then saved the baseball for himself.
The bigger story was that Manager John Gibbons stripped Cecil of his closer job, stating that he “was not sharp,” and handed it to 20-year-old Castro, who has been nothing but. The decision may have come as surprise to some, but Cecil simply did not have his regular stuff. Throwing in the mid-to-high 80’s may be a result of Cecil not getting his reps in Spring Training, but for now, he will be holding down the set-up man role until the All-Star can prove himself worthy of the ninth inning.
The finale of the series saw 21-year-old Daniel Norris take on veteran CC Sabathia in his first major league start. Toronto got to CC early in the second inning, scoring four runs. It all started with Pillar hitting a single to left field, which moved Josh Donaldson to third and scored Encarnacion. From there it was the unselfish play of Steven Tolleson and Travis, who both hit sacrifice ground outs to the right side of the infield before Reyes singled to score the fourth run of the inning.
After a throwing error in the top of the sixth made it 5-1 Blue Jays, Encarnacion delivered a towering shot to left en route to a 6-3 win in the Bronx, clinching the series.
Norris may not have had the best outing in the world, but he did pitch well enough to get the W. Final line: 5.2 IP 6 H 3 ER 2 BB 5 K
The bullpen made things a little bit easier on the club as Osuna, Cecil, and Castro combined for 3.1 innings of shut out baseball in the series finale. Osuna showed why he made the club with his second appearance of the season, allowing 1 hit and striking out 3 in 1.1 innings of work. Cecil put his last outing to bed, owning the 8th inning while striking out 2. Castro was efficient while registering his first big league save in his first opportunity, getting the Yankees out in order on 15 pitches. The question surrounding the bullpen is: who will hold down the closer role? Can Cecil win his job back or will Castro run away with it? We could find out no later than today if the situation calls for it.
OTHER NOTES: Jose Bautista went 0-12 with eight strikeouts in the opening series and hasn’t looked like himself at the plate. Way too early to be a cause for concern but it is something that should be watched in the next couple of weeks.
PREVIEW: The Blue Jays travel to Baltimore for a 3:05 pm matchup against the Orioles today. Mark Buehrle will get the nod in Baltimore’s home opener; it will be Bud Norris for the O’s. Norris had a dreadful Spring going 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA, but is coming off the best season of his career, and has done well against the Jays in the past. The 30-year-old was 15-8 last season and is undefeated in six previous meetings with the Blue Jays. Buehrle was also impressive last year, starting with a 10-1 record before dropping nine of his final 12 decisions. The south paw went 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts versus the O’s in 2014.