Stroman works deep and Bautista goes deep, but Jays bats go cold in Pittsburgh series opener.
While the Blue Jays often go as Jose Bautista goes, in the end there was no celebration on a night when the slugger reached a significant milestone at the plate.
Bautista hit the 20-homer mark for the eighth consecutive season in the opener of a three-game series — a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Rogers Centre — with a third-inning solo shot to centre field.
Only three active players have longer streaks, and just one Blue Jay has ever racked up more 20-plus seasons in a row: Carlos Delgado from 1996 to 2004.
“It’s great,” Bautista said of the statistical milestone. “It’s cool. It’s something that obviously you’re proud of as a player, but those individual things, you try to think about them and enjoy them a little more in the off-season.
“Just wish we would be playing a little bit better right now. Working hard every day to make that change in the right direction.”
The long ball, Bautista’s third in as many games, came after a breakdown by the Blue Jays in the top of the third, allowing four unearned Pittsburgh runs. The Pirates capitalized on a pair of errors by second baseman Rob Refsnyder — who also struck out four times — and just enough hits off Marcus Stroman, who gave the bullpen some relief by going eight innings before handing off to Danny Barnes.
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The Jays suffered a potentially greater loss when catcher Russell Martin strained his left oblique during his first at-bat. The 34-year-old ex-Pirate grimaced as he hit a ground ball and trotted slowly towards first. He hobbled back to the dugout and came out to warm up for the second inning before signaling that he couldn’t continue, with backup Raffy Lopez taking over behind the plate. Martin will have an MRI on Saturday.
Manager John Gibbons praised Lopez’s performance in his third appearance, but said Martin can’t be replaced.
“That would be a huge loss, there’s no doubt about it,” he said of Martin. “He’s our anchor back there.”
On a night when runs proved hard to come by, the Jays did open the scoring in the second — a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Kevin Pillar cashing in Justin Smoak. The slumping Pillar has RBIs in back-to-back games for the first time since May.
Stroman had thrown a pair of clean innings before things got messy in the third.
With one out, Stroman hit batter John Jaso in the foot — a call upheld by video review — giving Pittsburgh its first baserunner of the night. Jaso advanced to third on Refsnyder’s first error of the game, on a grounder by Francisco Cervelli. Jaso would score after Refsnyder’s second miscue, on a play that began with third baseman Josh Donaldson making a diving stop of an Adam Frazier liner.