The Astros are following up one AL East opponent with another this week, squaring off against the Blue Jays after taking a series against the formidable Rays in their last set. The Jays sent former Astros farmhand Trent Thornton to the hill opposite Wade Miley, and for much of the early going, it was advantage Toronto.
Miley’s location was off in the early going, as he issued five free passes in the first two frames. A pickoff of Cavan Biggio at first base in the bottom of the first helped him avoid damage, but the second was another story. Miley walked the first two Jays of the inning before striking out Brandon Drury, but issued another full count walk to Derek FIsher to load the bases. Miley didn’t actually allow a hit in the inning, but a catcher’s interference call against Robinson Chirinos with Reese McGuire at the dish allowed a run to score.
Early on, Thornton cruised through the order, facing little resistance until the fifth inning, when things came unglued. Vlad Guerrero Jr. was charged with a fielding error on a ball hit by Yuli Gurriel to put the leadoff man on before Thornton bounced back with a strikeout, but from there he allowed a double to Chirinos and an RBI single by Josh Reddick to even the score at one apiece. With runners on the corners, Thornton would then face George Springer, who blew the game open with a deep 3-run bomb:
One minute you're in the restaurant at @RogersCentre having a nice dinner of Poutine (the national dish of @Canada. It's basically chilli-cheese fries).— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) August 31, 2019
The next minute, George Springer is hittin' dingers off the window next to your fancy table!
Thornton was able to recover and get out of the inning from there, but the Astros had the lead for good already at this point. Joe Biagini, facing off against his former club, handled the fifth and sixth for the Astros, delivering a 1-2-3 fifth and eliminating a leadoff single in the sixth with a double play ball, after a sac fly by Aledmys Diaz and RBI single from player of the game George Springer had extended Houston’s lead to 6-1 in the top of the frame.
In the remainder of the contest, A.J. Hinch gave his key stoppers a rest and used a combination of Hector Rondon, Chris Devenski and Will Harris to close the game out. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for any of the trio. Rondon’s first pitch of the game left the yard off the bat of Reese McGuire, and a full count walk to Cavan Biggio with one out gave Vlad Guerrero Jr. a chance to do some damage. In a 1-1 count, Rondon threw a slider that may have just caught the outside corner which went for a called strike, much to Guerrero’s chagrin. Rondon came back with another slider which Guerrero swung over, before quickly turning to the umpire to point and jaw at him, resulting in a quick ejection:
In the 8th, Alex Bregman brought George Springer home from first after his leadoff walk, an Altuve single and a ground ball off the bat of Michael Brantley which allowed Springer to advance to third. This briefly extended the Astros’ lead back out to five runs, but Devenski allowed a homer to former Astro Derek Fisher with two outs in the bottom of the inning, moving the score to 7-3.
The Astros’ 9th ended quickly as a Robinson Chirinos GIDP erased an Aledmys Diaz base knock, and Will Harris came out to protect a four run lead. It was an inauspicious start, as he threw a middle-middle cutter to Cavan Biggio who sent it over the center field fence to bring the Jays within three with no out. However, Harris recovered quickly, ending the inning in nine pitches from there on out on a groundout, flyout and strikeout of Teoscar Hernandez.
The win in the series opener puts the Astros 40 games over .500 with 26 games left to play, dead even with the Yankees atop the American League and nine games ahead of Oakland for the AL West lead. The team will send Framber Valdez to the hill opposite journeyman Clay Buchholz in today’s day game, the last before rosters expand on the first of September. Should the Astros have any designs on using a player who is not yet on the 40-man in the postseason, such as Cristian Javier or Brandon Bielak, they’d have to be added today to be eligible.