Blue Jays win second straight vs. M's in front of “home” crowd at Safeco: Griffin
SEATTLE-There were likely people around America willing to bet the mortgage on Tuesday's game that matched the uber-struggling Josh Johnson for the Blue Jays against King Felix Hernandez and the Mariners. Felix had won six in a row, last losing on May 25, while Johnson had lost six straight starts with his last victory, in fact his only win of the year, on June 23.
Result: Jays win, Jays win.
Entering the series, manager John Gibbons had indicated that in his opinion, facing Hernandez on Tuesday and Hisashi Iwamura on Monday that if his Jays could split those two games he would be happy with that result. Following Johnson's surprising 7-2 win, supported by four shutout inings from the bullpen, the Jays have taken the first two games and can secure a winning road trip with a victory from J.A. Happ on Wednesday. The Jays have now won three in a row for the first time since winning 11 straight.
What was the difference between this Johnson and the one that in his previous seven starts had allowed multiple runs to an opponent within the first four innings in every outing? Three times in the last seven starts he had allowed four first-inning runs. Twice he had allowed four in the second. One difference was that Josh Thole was allowed to catch him for the first time this season. Johnson went five shutout innings, allowing two walks and striking out five.
“Awesome, what me and Pete have been working on is definitely working," Johnson said. "We'll stick with it and keep her going. Just a small adjustment that I made and that made the world of difference. Just getting on top of the baseball for my slider, my curveball, fastball, used a lot of sinkers. Thole was great back there."
The offence against Felix began on the first pitch of the game as Jose Reyes rocketed his eighth home run into the right centre field stands. Hernandez has allowed a leadoff homer in a game twice in his career. The other was to Ian Kinsler of the Rangers.
“Against Felix you've got to take it," Reyes said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game. I had thought before the game I would kind of be looking for the fastball and try and go after the first pitch."
After playing shoddy defence for the first six games of the road trip, the Jays have rallied to be solid with the gloves while their opponents have fallen apart. Tuesday was no exception as the M's committed four errors in the contest, three by the left side of their infield.
“That was great, we played very good defence behind him today," Reyes said. "He was good today and that's good to see. Hopefully the next time he'll go a little bit further and pitch good for us because we're going to need it.
The Jays added three runs in the fourth. Emilio Bonifacio doubled home two runs on a grounder that eluded the second baseman into centre field that the speedy outfielder turned into two. He sthen scored on a single by Reyes to give Johnson a four-run cushion.
They added a pair in the fifth on RBI singles by Rasmus and Brett Lawrie, as once again the crowd at Safeco Field had a distinctly Canadian flavour. When Rasmus leaped high at the wall to steal a home run away from Kenrys Morales in the sixth, the crowd erupted with chants of “Col-by, Col-by, Col-by”. This was partial revenge for the three-game sweep the M's inflicted on the crowd last July.
The M's committed their fourth error in the seventh inning allowing Bautista to score all the way from first base on a double by Encarnacion. Raul Ibanez cut the ball off before it could reach the corner, but in throwing back to the infield, the ball slipped out of his hand and he hooked it into the grass close to his feet headed towards no-man's land.
Johnson had been lifted by Gibbons after five shutout innings, with two lefthanded batters and a switch-hitter coming to the plate. Lefty Juan Pena worked the next two frames and in the seventh, after two were on with two out, shortstop Brad Miller triple over Rasmus head, who had been playing shallow, the ball ticking off the end of his glove as he fell spread-eagled to the ground.
Brett Cecil recorded two outs in the eighth, with Sergio Santos coming in to finish the game. The crowd of 28,198 was largely made up of Jays supporters from British Columbia once again, as the Canadian club moved its road record to 25-32 and to 5-4 on the current trip.