The Toronto Blue Jays returned home to face the San Francisco Giants following a successful seven-game road trip. Waiting for them back at Rogers Centre was old friend Kevin Pillar, appearing for the first time as a visitor against the team he played the first 695 games of his career for.
Blame it on jet lag or emotional overload (or Vladdy rumour exhaustion) if you want to, but the Blue Jays dropped both games of the two-game set. Despite the lack of wins it was a very eventful pair of games, with peaks and valleys and emotional ovations.
Here are three positives and three negatives from the Blue Jays vs. Giants series.
Sogard so good - Nobody would blame you for not having “Eric Sogard is the lead off hitter” come up in your pre-season crystal ball predictions, but he has fit the bill nicely in his first stint with the Blue Jays.
He made a great first impression with nine hits over the previous week’s road trip, and kept things going with a pair of hits against the Giants including a home run in the 6th inning on Tuesday.
Sogard will probably never be anyone’s dream leadoff hitter or an everyday middle infielder, but his contact-first approach stands out and is a welcome change on a team with swing-happy hitters whose aggressiveness can be both their greatest strength and biggest weakness.
The second base rotation is about to become a bigger day-to-day question once Vladimir Guerrero Jr. eventually starts slotting in at 3rd, and Sogard’s steady presence makes his argument that he deserves to be in the conversation as a contributor.
Rowdy - After a partially up-and-down opening month of the season, one thing has become pretty clear for Rowdy Tellez in 2019: He is absolutely smashing the ball with runners on base.
According to Inside Edge scouting, Tellez is slugging .750 over his 20 at-bats with runners on base, which places him in the top-20 of all hitters in baseball in that situation.
Case in point: his bases loaded bomb in the 8th inning on Tuesday.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 24, 2019
Tons to love here, besides it being a huge spot and a huge home run. Namely, that it was the first home run of his big league career off a left-handed pitcher. He’s a great story and an easy pick as a fan favourite on name value alone, and it is a fun addition to the season’s stories for his development into a well rounded offensive player.
He’s made a great case to be an every-game lineup consideration, and is quickly becoming the top choice for who you’d want taking the biggest at bats of the game.
Welcome back, Kevin - The headline story of the two-game set (once the Vladdy rumours subsided) was Kevin Pillar’s return to Rogers Centre.
The former Blue Jays centre fielder held court with the media ahead of Tuesday’s game for a solid 20-plus minutes, sorting through his mixed emotions about returning to the stadium he called home for the fist 695 games of his major league career.
The team did their part to make him feel welcome, playing a tribute video the first time he took to the field in a Giants uniform.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 23, 2019
Once the tears dried up and the game actually started, Pillar was geared up and ready to go. He singled in his first at-bat, then came all the way around to score from 1st on a ball in the corner, and added another hit and a walk on Wednesday.
It’s good fortune that Pillar returned with the Giants so quickly — he had only played 18 games and it’s rare that they visit Toronto at all — and in the bigger picture it is good for both Pillar and the fans to get a chance to get closure, and say goodbye to that era of the team.
On to the future, for all involved.
Tough times for Trent Thornton - After jumping out of the gate with a record-setting debut, Trent Thornton has run into some difficult times as major league hitters continue to get a longer look at him.
He got hit hard to Tuesday, a trend that has started popping up over his last few appearances. He’s throwing the fastball less and less and throwing it for a lower velocity as the season goes on, and it appears hitters are making their adjustments.
His breaking stuff is still high quality and he can still really spin it, but part of the effect wears off when his fastball isn’t keeping anyone honest. Major league hitters will adjust to pretty much everything, and even the most advanced curveballs will get hit hard and hit often if that’s what top-level hitters are looking for.
With Matt Shoemaker out for the year, Aaron Sanchez’s long-term status unknown, and a lack of intriguing depth options to fill in, Thornton is going to have a spot for the foreseeable future. He will have to figure out a way to adjust and make sure his spot in the rotation is one Charlie Montoyo can rely on.
Hit hard - Thornton wasn’t the only one to get hit hard by the Giants.
Thomas Pannone gave up two home runs in relief of Thornton, and Daniel Hudson followed with another inning of work and a solo shot allowed on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz also took some damage from Pablo Sandoval on Wednesday, as the Giants hit five home runs in the two-game set.
They have some names you might recognize, but San Francisco is far from a power-hitting lineup of superstars. The long ball was what sunk the series for Toronto, and getting outslugged by this current Giants lineup is decidedly not what you want.
Galvis’ streak comes to an end - It almost happened a couple of times already this season, but Freddy Galvis officially had his iron man streak come to an end on Wednesday.
He tweaked his knee with a small injury in the final innings of the previous series against the Oakland Athletics, and it kept him out of the starting lineup in both games of the Giants series. He made a pinch hit appearance on Tuesday, but woke up feeling worse Wednesday morning and officially ended his streak at 349 games.
The last time he missed a game was October 1, 2016, a throw back stat that has become increasingly rare in the new age of platoons and player management.
Richard Ureña filled in admirably on short notice with some good at bats and stellar defensive play, especially after starting out of the season so hot at the plate. It would’ve been understandable if he’d fallen off a little after being a victim of roster size limits and being sent down to Triple-A Buffalo.
Galvis has been a steadying presence on both sides of the ball and is an invaluable resource for a team of young infielders still finding their way in the league. It’s best for both the lineup and clubhouse if his absence is a short one.
Up next, the Blue Jays take Thursday off before hosting the Oakland Athletics for three games starting Friday night. It will be without a doubt the most talked about game of the early season, as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make his official MLB debut for the Jays.
That’s the Extremely Good Stuff.
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