Jays delight west fans with three homers to beat M's
Ezequiel Carrera is all smiles after hitting one of three Jays homers in last night's 4-2 win over the Mariners in Seattle. (Ted Warren, AP)
SEATTLE - The Mariners were determined to make the Blue Jays pay at every corner in this three-game weekend series that has become an unofficial Western Canadian holiday.
They certainly did it at the ticket windows, where prices in most sections of spectacular Safeco Field were double the normal price for the popular visitors.
And the Mariners players did it on the field in the series opener.
On Saturday, it was time for payback, however, as the Blue Jays fans took over the stadium and their team kept it rocking with three home runs powering the way to a 4-2 victory.
First Kendrys Morales, with a two-run shot, then Ezequiel Carrera with a solo homer set the stage for former Mariner Justin Smoak. And the rejuvenated Jays first baseman didn’t disappoint, blasting his team-leading 18th out of the park to give the Jays a two-run lead in the top of the ninth.
Roberto Osuna came on for a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 15th save while Marcus Stroman got the win to improve his record to 7-2.
The Jays have become super reliant on the home run, but the upside of that is they are a definite crowed pleaser.
“We love home runs,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “I don’t know if you can do that forever, but right now it’s working.
“Like us or not, we’re an entertaining club because we do those kind of things and we’ve got some personalities. It’s tough to sustain that. We’ve got to start scoring runs the other way, too.”
Indeed, of the last 29 runs they Jays have scored, 21 have come via a ball exiting the playoff field. Each of the three on Saturday were impressive in their own way. Morales got it started with a two-run shot in the fourth inning, a mighty wallop that exited Safeco in a hurry.
In the eighth inning it was Carrera’s turn, crucial in its own way coming from one of the non-traditional power bats in the lineup. The fifth of the season for the Jays left fielder broke a 2-2 tie, however and stood up as the game winner.
And then came Smoak, who belted his 18th for a crucial insurance run. It had to be especially gratifying for the big, personable Jays first baseman who hit far fewer than he would have hoped at Safeco in his four seasons as a Mariner.
Gibbons is right: If the Jays are to be serious playoff contenders, they’ll need to score by other means. But the fact that they are dangerous throughout the order is hard to miss for the opposition.
“It’s nice to be on a team like this,” Morales said through Jays translator, Josue Peley. “I think it puts a lot of fear in the other team and it gives your team confidence because you know when you’re not doing so great, some of your teammates can pick you up.”
As has been the case for the past couple of seasons, this Jays in Seattle spectacle has become quite a show and one that clearly gets under the skin of the Mariners.
From Go Jays Go chants than heard at the Rogers Centre to basically a sea of blue in every section, it was quite the sight and sound. Every time Mariners fans or game ops tried to drown out the noise, Jays fans just got louder.
The announced crowd of 45,480 was the biggest of the year at Safeco, a truly remarkable feat by the majority Canadian contingent. In an attempt to either keep the northern neighbours away or to shamelessly empty their wallets, the ticket gouging was off the charts.
It couldn’t keep the Jays fans away from this gem of a city, however. In the morning and afternoon they flooded the streets around the Pike Place Market, eventually making their way to Safeco. Hundreds were in the stands early enough to catch batting practice, a rarity for most home teams.
While the big bats were the highlight reel stars on Saturday, they were complemented by a solid effort from starter Stroman, who has now allowed two or fewer runs in six of his past seven games. The Jays have won each of their past seven games that Stroman has started and nine of the 13 games he has had the ball this season.
With his prominent social media presence, Stroman has a huge fan base and they were certainly in full Stro Show mode at Safeco.
“It’s fun, man,” Stroman said of the atmosphere here this weekend. “It feels similar to playoffs. It feels weird having a road game that’s essentially a home game for us.
“You see all royal blue throughout the crowd. It’s fun. From the second I went out there to the bullpen, everyone was chanting my name. I felt like I was back home at the Rogers Centre.
“Unbelievable fan support we have throughout Canada and it’s awesome to get out to the West Coast and see some of our fans here.”
In Sunday’s series conclusion, former Mariners pitcher J.A. Happ will be on the mound for the Jays and former Jays draft pick James Paxton on the hill for the Mariners.