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Offense Suffocated As Toronto Gets No-Hit In Houston

After splitting their first series of the season 2-2 against Tampa Bay, The Toronto Blue Jays looked towards the next opponent on the calendar, the Houston Astros. Houston has remained without a win this season after losing every game of their opening series against the Yankees, and thus have been winless outside of spring training since October of last year. The highlight going into this game for Toronto was this would be the first major league start for pitcher Bowden Francis, who earned the spot in the rotation to start the year after a phenomenal spring training campaign this year. I previously wrote about the Jay’s spring training and the keys for their success, and Francis was a major part of their winning ways this spring and impressed enough to earn the starting rotation spot to start the season and start in the opening game against Houston. The game took place at Minute Maid Park in Houston, and the Blue Jays hoped to continue their road trip with another win and hand Bowden Francis his first major league win.

Blue Jays Lineup:

RF: George Springer

1B: Vladimir Guererro Jr.

DH: Justin Turner

LF: Daulton Varsho

C: Alejandro Kirk

SS: Ernie Clement

CF: Kevin Kiermaier

3B: Isiah Kiner-Falefa

P: Bowden Francis

The most notable thing about the lineup for the Jays in this game, is Ernie Clement taking the short stop postion while Bo Bichette gets the day off. The rest of the lineup stays the usual way with Springer batting leadoff, with Guerrero behind him and Turner taking over the DH position.

Houston Astros Lineup:

2B: Jose Altuve

DH: Yordan Alvarez

RF: Kyle Tucker

3B: Alex Bregman

C: Yanier Diaz

1B: Jose Abreu

LF: Chas McCormick

SS: Jeremy Pena

CF: Jake Meyers

P: Ronel Blanco

Blanco gets the start in the game due to a large majority of Houston’s main starting pitchers like Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. being out with injuries. The Astros have an always potent offence with the likes of Yordan ALvarez and Kyle Tucker who can be a big problem for even the best pitchers in the league, and will be a formidable task for Francis to go up against.

The game started with the Jays batting first, and Springer came out of the gates drawing a leadoff walk to put a runner on first with no outs. However, Blanco recovered cleanly and retired the next three batters surrendering no damage done to end the top of the first inning. While the first inning was painless for Blanco and the Astros, the same could not be said for Bowden Francis and the Blue Jays. In the Bottom half of the first, Francis  was able to get one out before giving up a two run homer to Kyle Tucker putting Houston up early 2-0. Then two batters later, Yanier Diaz would also go deep extending the Astros’ first inning lead to three and punishing every single one of Francis’ mistakes. Blanco would get right back to work in the second inning, going 1,2,3 retiring all three Blue Jays in order, and the bats would stay hot for Houston as Jeremy Pena Would send a solo shot over the wall and put the Astros out in front 4-0. The third inning was quiet for both teams but Houston picked it back up with more offence in the fourth as Chas McCormick doubled down the left field line and Jake Meyers singled to drive in the run. Toronto’s offence was lost as the innings kept going by and the Jays were still without a hit going into the sixth. By this point, Francis had been taken out of the game after allowing 7 runs through only 5 1/3 innings pitched and striking out 7 hitters, meanwhile Ronel Blanco was still going strong just mowing through every single batter he faced. The eighth inning rolled around with Houston now up 10-0, and the focus was somehow less on the actual score and more on the inability for Toronto to get a hit with Blanco showing no signs of letting up. Murmurs began that a no-hitter may be taking place, and fans began to rise out of their seats with each out that passed. Finally we were at the climax of the game, the top of the ninth inning with Toronto still without a hit and Ronel Blanco looking to complete the first no-hitter of the season in just his eighth career major league start. The first two Blue Jays to step up were set right down, with both grounding out in the infield leaving the last out of the game to George Springer. With the final chance to break up the no-no, Springer stepped into the box and worked the count full 3-2 and was able to successfully draw a walk extending the game but leaving the no-hitter in tact. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be next and Blanco would get the slugging first baseman to ground out to second base completing the historic game for the young Pitcher as the fans erupted in excitement.

Win: Houston Astros (1-4)

Lose: Toronto Blue Jays (2-3)

Toronto Notable Players:

Springer: 2BB

Houston Notable Players:

Ronel Blanco: 9IP, 0H, 7K

Kyle Tucker: 2-3, 2HR, 4RBI

Yanier Diaz: 2-4, 2HR, 2RBI

Winning Pitcher: Ronel Blanco (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bowden Francis (0-1)

Francis Back To The Drawing Board

This definitely was not the first start that Bowden Francis had in mind, and looked very shaky out of the gates. I think what this outing boils down to is that Bowden just couldn’t locate his pitches enough, and was getting subsequently punished by the Astros. Looking at the first Kyle Tucker homerun for example, Francis intended the fastball most likely to be more middle in on the plate but missed the location and ended up on the outside portion which allowed Tucker to fully extend his swing and launch the opposite field homer. Overall this game was far from great for Francis, but he did strikeout seven hitters which is a good thing to build from and there is no doubt he is going to study what he did wrong and bounce back into form for his next start.

Blanco Is The Real Deal

As previously mentioned, Ronel Blanco came into this game solely because of the extent of injuries to the Astro’s starters, leading him to be one of the only options for Houston to go with. However, after this performance there is definitely the argument that Blanco could work his way into a full time starting spot after showing complete dominance. His biggest weapon to his success for this game was certainly the changeup, which he rarely threw last season but utilized heavily as his put away pitch. Blanco threw the changeup over 30% of the time in his outing which was good enough to fool many of the hitters he faced en route to racking up seven strikeouts while throwing over 105 pitches.

The Tale Of Two Offenses

Tonight was a game of one team coming off a poor showing of offence and finally finding their footing, and the other putting up a lot of runs one game and going ice cold the next. For Houston, they were coming from their series against the Yankees in which they only scored 11 runs total between the four games they played. This was unusual for the club since they have more than enough fire power to outscore their opponents on any given night. For Toronto, it was quite the opposite as although their offence was very streaky last season and were coming off a cold stretch they were able to put up 11 runs in their first game. Tonight the roles seemed to flip as Houston was firing on all cylinders and truly looked like the powerhouse team they are, and Toronto seemed to forget the offence back at the hotel room.

This loss most definitely took a tole on Toronto’s confidence, but they must not dwell on their performance tonight and look ahead to the rest of their series against Houston, as they hope to bounce back and retaliate in game two as Jose Berrios will take the mound for the Jays and the offence will take on Astro’s ace Framber Valdez.


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