Well, it is most certainly fair to agree that veteran southpaw Francisco Liriano was nothing short of absolutely solid in his first appearance since having been activated off the disabled list on Friday night at Rogers Centre as the Toronto Blue Jays welcomed the New York Yankees to town for the second of a four-game weekend series.
Prior to the game, the team officially announced that right-handed reliever Leonel Campos had been optioned to the Bisons at Triple-A Buffalo after a brief stint with the team which he filled for the sole purpose of securing an empty spot on the club’s active roster.
Anyways, sending the focus back to the beginning of game time started with first pitch at 7:07 p.m. ET. After having pitched a quick top of the first inning, it was almost immediate that the home bats came to life as Josh Donaldson got the party started with a solo home run to left field off opposing pitcher Michael Pineda to give the Blue Jays an early 1-0 advantage, This would not be all as Justin Smoak stepped up just moments following a walk of veteran Kendrys Morales and gave the 1-0 offering to right field, driving in two more for Toronto, putting a three up on the board before Troy Tuolowitzki grounded out to close out the first.
Moving ahead to the bottom of the third, Justin Smoak came up to the plate again looking to provide even further damage and did just that as he drove in Jose Bautista from third base on a sacrifice fly. This gave Toronto a 4-0 lead.
Fast forward now to the bottom of the fourth inning with runners on the corners, Morales was back for his second opportunity of the night and amidst a wild pitch that blew by backstop Gary Sanchez, catcher Luke Maile came into score for the fifth Toronto run, meanwhile, advancing Bautista to second base on the wild pitch.
Moving along to the top of the sixth inning with Liriano smooth sailing while riding the scoreless waves, that stood no longer when Aaron Judge stepped up to the dish as the 25-year-old sensation took the left-hander’s offering to right-centre field for his league leading 18th home run of the season, a two-run shot that would drive in Sanchez who singled beforehand, forcing John Gibbons to make his first relief call of the night to one of his right-handers in Danny Barnes.
Speaking of which, Barnes was able to walk his first batter of the night, that being the only positive of his outing as he then allowed a two-run shot to centre field off the bat of Yankees shortstop Starlin Castro. This would be Castro’s eighth of the season which drove in veteran outfielder, Matt Holliday.
Now to the bottom half with hot bats alive on both ends of the diamond, Pillar put the first out of the inning on the board before slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson stepped up again hoping to help his team even further. As far as his result went, he smacked yet another home run on a curveball to left field, his fifth of the season to give Toronto a 6-3 lead which would be all the action the club got going heading into the later portion of the game. As noted by Blue Jays PR, tonight became the 11th multi home-run game in Donaldson’s career.
Looking forwards to the top half of the seventh, Matt Holliday stepped up looking for more action with Aaron Judge on first as he belted a double to Kevin Pillar in centre field, cutting the Blue Jays lead to 6-5.
With Justin Smoak on third and Troy Tulowitzki on second following his eighth double of the regular season, second baseman Devon Travis leaned in for a hit which would result in a sacrifice fly, driving Smoak home to give Toronto extra insurance with the 7-5 lead and that would be all as far as scoring goes for the night.
In Liriano’s return from the 10-day disabled list, he threw 5.0 innings of four-hit ball, giving up two runs, both of which were earned while he also walked two and struck out five, closing out his efforts with an ERA of 5.94.
Closer Roberto Osuna finished things off for Canada’s team after he got the nod for the ninth, making things easy with a quick 1-2-3 inning which finished with a swinging strikeout of Aaron Judge, locking down his 18th save of the regular season before the horn sounded in front of 44,261.
As noted by Mike Wilner of Sportsnet.ca and Sportsnet 590 The Fan, tonight’s victory brings the Blue Jays back within 1 game of .500 while Scott Mitchell of TSN.ca notes that the team record improves to 27-28.
After the game, manager John Gibbons met with the media to discuss the ups and downs of what many would consider a much needed victory. As part of his media availability, Gibbons offered his opinion on tonight’s performance saying, “That’s a hard earned win for our guys. They kept coming at us.”
The two sides meet again at 1:07pm ET on Saturday afternoon as right-hander Joe Biagini takes to the hill for the second time against left-hander Jordan Montgomery and the New York Yankees under an opened roof at the Rogers Centre as it is expected to be a scorching hot, yet beautiful afternoon for baseball north of the border.