It was a fast start for the pitchers in the dome in Toronto tonight. The Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman and the Orioles’ Andrew Cashner traded scoreless frames to start the game, each retiring the side in order.
Stroman needed only 13 pitches to induce two ground outs and a pop-up. Cashner struck out the leadoff hitter on three pitches and showed good pop on his fastball, needing only 14 pitches in the first. He would work most of the night at 94-95 with his heater.
The Orioles’ first hit came when Joey Rickard slashed a ball past third baseman Brandon Drury and into left field, cruising into second for a double with two out in the second. Up to the plate came Chris Davis. It took four pitches for him to strikeout looking.
Davis would finish the night 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk (intentional, to set up a potential double play in the ninth).
Second baseman Hanser Alberto flashed the leather in the bottom of the second, diving to his left to corral a hot shot and jumping to his feet to throw out Jays catcher Danny Jansen at first. Alberto was in the shift, positioned directly behind the second base bag on the play.
In the top of the third, with Jesus Sucre on first via base hit, Alberto laid a perfect bunt down the left field line. The Jays watched it roll against the inner edge of the white chalk line all the way until it bounced off third base and came to rest in play. Mullins then grounded into a double play and Sucre was stranded at third on a ground out one batter later.
The bottom half of the third was highlighted by a diving play at first by Davis on a hard-hit grounder up the right field line. Cashner flew off the mound, took the underhand toss from Davis and tagged first to complete the play.
The game was scoreless after three innings, with Cashner at 36 pitches and Stroman at 41.
The O’s had some of their thunder stolen in the top of the fourth when Jonathan Villar’s aggressiveness got the better of him. After a leadoff double, the O’s shortstop got picked off second base with no outs and Trey Mancini at the plate. Villar didn’t even slide back into the bag on the play, getting tagged on the leg as he tried to sneak his foot back into the bag.
The first hit off Cashner came in the fourth after a walk, putting runners on the corners with one out. A timely double play would end that threat.
The O’s broke the scoreless tie in the top of sixth, in what would prove to be Stroman’s final inning. Dwight Smith Jr. led off with a single and Villar drove him home with a triple down the right field line. Mancini, the next batter, took the count to 3-2 before delivering a clutch RBI single to left, driving Villar home from third and putting the O’s up 2-0. Stroman left the inning with two outs after issuing a walk to Rickard. His pitch count was 101.
Cashner got into some trouble in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs and his pitch count at 88. But he came away unscathed, getting Rowdy Tellez to fly out to left on the first pitch of his at-bat.
The sixth inning would be the end of the line for Cashner. He left with a 2-0 lead after allowing four hits, three walks and three strikeouts. The rest of the game would need to be handled by the bullpen.
Left-hander Paul Fry pitched two scoreless innings — the seventh and eighth — allowing a hit and a walk while lowering his ERA to 2.70 in the process.
Miguel Castro was inserted into the game in the bottom of the ninth for the save situation. Three different Orioles relievers had earned saves through the first five games of the season. Castro struck out the first batter, Jansen, on three pitches. But the next Blue Jay, Tellez, launched a long home run to center field, making it a one-run game.
A ground out and a fly out later, the save was preserved and the Orioles ensured they would leave Toronto with at least a series win. Like the rest of the team’s saves so far, this one wasn’t easy. The O’s, who are obviously going the committee route in this regard, now have four relievers with a save through five games this year.
Baltimore is now 4-1 on the season. And many, many people are confused. A win tomorrow would cap a series sweep in Toronto. Nate Karns takes the mound for the Birds as the opener for the series finale.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Tuesday, April 2nd?
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Andrew Cashner (winning pitcher, six scoreless innings)
Jonathan Villar (2-for-4, R, RBI)
Hanser Alberto (2-for-4)
Joey Rickard (2-for-3, BB)
Trey Mancini (1-for-4, RBI)