Fortune finally favours Blue Jays in bounce-back win

Nick Ashbourne
The Toronto Blue Jays weren’t undeserving of a win on Wednesday – but they certainly got quite the dash of luck. (Fred Thornhill/CP)

Outside of a lottery win, there is almost no outcome for which luck doesn’t feel like a lazy and incomplete explanation.

Part of human nature is to seek meaning – or at the very least patterns – in the events we observe. Attributing results to mere randomness tends to leave us deeply unsatisfied, because it feels like there’s an explanation out there we missed.

Even though it may not satisfy like a meaty narrative about perseverance, or a bold proclamation about righting the ship – the reality is the Toronto Blue Jays got lucky on Wednesday night.

That is not to say the Blue Jays didn’t deserve their 3-0 win against the Boston Red Sox. That’s far from the case. Francisco Liriano was outstanding, Darwin Barney delivered the kind of clutch hit that has been conspicuously absent for this club, and the defensive play was sturdy. All of that being said, the Blue Jays would not have secured the victory without an assist from Lady Luck.

Toronto’s good fortune came in the form of some defensive generosity on the part of the Red Sox in the second. Troy Tulowitzki led off the frame with an innocuous grounder to Pablo Sandoval and found himself at first when the man formerly known as Kung Fu Panda launched his throw well clear of the target. Russell Martin followed with another seemingly-harmless grounder that inexplicably made its way through Mitch Moreland.

“It’s nice to see something like that,” Barney said after the game. “You start to feel like things are going to go your way and I think we fed of it a bit.”

Justin Smoak was supposed to be looking at a two-out, none-on situation. Instead, he had a pair in scoring position with no outs. The big first baseman struck out, opening the window for the Blue Jays to blow the rare chance, but Barney slammed it shut. The utility infielder banged a fastball down the middle back through the box to score the only two runs the Blue Jays would need.

Ezequiel Carrera tacked on another by bringing Barney home with two outs to give the team a little insurance. All three runs were unearned. The inning should have ended with a Smoak swinging through a high 95 mph fastball from Rick Porcello – instead the Blue Jays left it with an early stranglehold on the game.

Thanks largely to Liriano’s work on the mound, it was one they didn’t relinquish. Although the big left-hander didn’t give his club a lengthy outing, the 5.1 innings he did pitch were dynamic. Liriano had Red Sox futilely waving at his slider all night and struck out six against a single walk and didn’t allow an extra-base hit.

“I didn’t try too much,” he said through translator Josue Peley. “I just tried to throw strikes. The defence played really well behind me and like usual I just trusted Russell [Martin].”

Following his career-worst start to open 2017, Liriano has been superb in his two follow-up efforts. Over those two starts, the southpaw has allowed just two runs over 12 innings with a nifty 16/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“He was dynamite,” manager John Gibbons said. “He had that blip that opening start, but you look at the last couple starts he’s been really, really good. But that’s what he can do.”

After Liriano’s exit, Gibbons turned the ball over to Joe Biagini, followed by his seldom-used duo of Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna. It was the first time this season the two closed down a win together – something the Blue Jays surely imagined would have happened by now. The trio held the Red Sox to 0 runs on two hits in 3.2 frames.

There’s no such thing as a bad win in the major leagues. That applies doubly for a team entering action with a 2-11 record. Conversely, it’s hard to champion Wednesday’s win as a big turning point for the Blue Jays. The biggest issue with the team so far has been the offence and they came up with three unearned runs on six hits – all singles.

Over the course of a 162-game season every team is gifted the odd golden opportunity. On Tuesday the Blue Jays blew one when they couldn’t capitalize on a comically lopsided pitching matchup. The next day another came along and they made it count thanks to great pitching and a timely hit.

Coming into Wednesday’s game the Blue Jays were due for both a little luck and an offensive explosion. They only got one, but one was enough.