Starting in Toronto ostensibly to give John Danks a break from an unfavorable matchup, Miguel Gonzalez had a real opportunity to impress and force his way into a more permanent role. Instead, something more predictable happened against the high-powered Jays lineup.
Less predictable was the dormant Sox offense whirring the life and launching a five-run comeback in the seventh inning to steal their fourth-straight victory. It was the type of win that builds narratives.
1. After laboring through a tough first inning, Marcus Stroman was on cruise control, to such a degree that the total loss of his control snuck up on everyone. Even after singles by Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia, the warning siren didn’t sound until Stroman issued a four-pitch walk to Austin Jackson to load the bases with two outs.
Two outs, at which point the Jays still held a 5-1 lead. Lefty reliever Brett Cecil came on to retire Adam Eaton, but the leadoff man was able to poke a single up the middle on a 1-2 count to plate two, and somewhat maligned No. 2 hitter Jimmy Rollins top-handed a high fastball on a 1-2 count to left to bring the Sox within one. After looking foolish on a couple of wipeout breaking balls in the dirt to start, Jose Abreu stabilized and laid off a few more to work a full count walk, setting the stage for the climax.
Resigned to relief work these days, old friend Gavin Floyd came on to face Todd Frazier with the bases jammed, and gave him a fastball up that the New Jersey native drilled to the wall to score the go-ahead runs.
To follow up, Frazier drove in Rollins for a ninth-inning insurance run with a sacrifice fly.
2. The unsung heroes of the night were in the Sox bullpen, who delivered three and two-thirds innings of scoreless ball against a potent Jays attack.
Zach Putnam and Dan Jennings were dusted off for five outs of work after a busy week for the bullpen’s elite. Matt Albers flashed some more fielding athleticism to extend his scoreless appearance streak to 30, and David Robertson gutted out a save through the Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion-Troy Tulowitzki teeth of the Jays attack on his third-straight day of work.
Tulowitzki wound up helping a bit. The game ended when he let a chopper off the bat of Saunders hit him on the basepaths.
3. There were certainly some elements of what made Gonzalez an effective starter on display, even as he saddled the Sox with an early deficit. He wrapped an 92 mph fastball back around the outside corner of zone to strike out Tulowitzki in the first inning, he twice struck out reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson with some nice changeups that tumbled down and in on him. But there was nothing in his complement overwhelming enough to carry him through the type of mistakes he made elevated in the zone. 92 mph on the corner is a gem, 92 mph center cut on a full count to Edwin Encarnacion and it’s amazing the ball stayed in the yard.
Encarnacion’s two-run double in the first inning wiped out the Sox early lead, and was the second blast of the inning that barely stayed in the yard. A hanging curve to Jose Bautista in the bottom of the third that turned into a double off the left-center wall elicited the same reaction, and after he came around on an Encarnacion single, Michael Saunders finally broke through and crushed a two-run bomb to center that seemingly put things out of reach early for the Sox struggling offense.
4. Gonzalez stabilized a bit to get through five and a third innings, struck out six, and played a surprisingly large role in keeping the game within reach for the Sox improbable comeback. He has some interesting stuff, and might do better with a team less equipped to drill his mistakes to the heavens, but then again did well to duck a few more home runs as is. Another shot at a starting seems very likely, immediately unseating Danks from the rotation seems much less so.
5. Kevan Smith‘s major league debut was done in by back spasms suffered while he was doing his pre-game stretches.
Back spasms during pre-game stretches IN HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT. Fate is a brutal sadist.
Lead Image Credit: Nick Turchlaro // USA Today Sports Images
Team Record: 14-6
Next game is Tuesday at 6:07 p.m. CT at Toronto on WPWR