Overreacting to Game 1 of 162
There’s no better way to take the wind out of your sails like a deflating 6-1 loss on Opening Day. A five run loss isn’t quite a complete demolition job by any means. But the fact that the Jays only mustered two hits while the Yankees wracked up 11 hits and 24 total bases makes me feel fortunate that they only lost by five runs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to a Blue Jays Opening Day loss, so this game should just be another drop in the bucket. But after watching how Toronto lost game, this is easily the most worried that I’ve been after game # 1 on the schedule.
Before the game even started the team was hit with probably the least surprising news imaginable with Tulowitzki being placed on the 60-day DL with bone spurs in both feet. One of the biggest sticking points of Toronto’s offseason was their cultivation of middle infield depth. This was especially necessary after somehow being caught off-guard last season when–shock of shocks–Tulo and Travis were injured for most of the season, handcuffing the Jays to -0.9 bWAR across 272 games of the Goins-Barney dream team.
Aldemys Diaz is two years removed from an All Star 2016 campaign, utility man Yangervis Solarte has been known to hit righties well over his four year career and South African Gift Ngoepe can at the very least field a good shortstop. At the end of the day the Jays could actually be better at shortstop with the rapidly aging Tulo hitting the DL, but it is still a gut-punch to see their 20 million dollar man go down so early in the year.
From the get-go yesterday’s game seemed lost. With the very first batter of the season, 37 year-old Curtis Granderson whiffed on a line drive that was pretty much hit directly at his glove. Buck Martinez spun it off as Granderson needing to adjust to the bright Rogers Center lights but you have to think that someone that has played 1722 games (44 of which were at the Rogers Center) would learn how to deal with those pesky lights.
I just read that last sentence back and realize that I come across as a huge tool. I sound almost as whiny and annoying as some sort of failed sports radio host:
I actually do think that Granderson will be a pretty useful piece this year it’s just tough that this was his first (regular season) moment as a Blue Jay.
Probably the biggest worry from yesterday surrounded the health of Josh Donaldson’s shoulder. The Blue Jays MVP could barely throw the ball across the diamond which brought back nightmarish flashbacks to when my old rep baseball coach (a true moron) was convinced that my non-existent arm would be a perfect fit for the hot-corner.
The Jays do have an outside shot at a Wild Card spot, but that hope pretty much goes up in smoke if Donaldson isn’t 100%. The word is that Josh isn’t injured, but rather is dealing with a “dead” shoulder which… is better…I guess? According to Buck Martinez the shoulder shouldn’t affect Donaldson’s swing, but the Jays already have too many DH-types milling around their roster to effectively fit JD, Morales, Pearce and Smoak in the lineup.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to let emotion takeover and already deem this a lost season. Every team is bound to play at least one bad game in a 162 game season and unfortunately for the Blue Jays they played a real stinker in front of a sold-out home crowd on day 1 of this long season. The Yankees looked as good as everyone has been saying they are and Severino is an absolute ace. The Jays may have run head-first into the buzzsaw, but all is not lost.
This Toronto team simply just won’t hit like they did two years ago. But, in spite of a couple of ugly defensive miscues yesterday, they should be a relatively well defended team if their pieces play up to their track record and their pitching could potentially be a huge strength.
Behind Roberto Osuna, the bullpen has some interesting names that could emerge as shutdown options. Oh, Axford, Clippard have all been very effective relievers in the past and join the fold after strong 2017 seasons from Ryan Tepera, Aaron Loup and Danny Barnes. A strong bullpen is often a common ingredient in teams that out-perform expectations and the Jays might have a good one on their hands.
As for the starting pitchers, if the Jays can get a full season from Sanchez, if Stroman and Happ (who was very solid yesterday given the Yankees potent lineup) continue to excel, if Estrada can bounce back to his 2016 form and if a fifth starter can emerge between Jaime Garcia or someone from AAA Buffalo, Toronto’s pitching could keep them in striking distance of a Wild Card spot.
But hey, even if the Blue Jays suck, crappy baseball is better than no baseball at all.