Charlie Montoyo was beaming as members of the media trooped into his office several hours before his Toronto Blue Jays were to square off against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on Thursday night.
Given the way the early part of the season has played out for his team, the manager could be forgiven for displaying a frown.
Winning just 23 of your first 61 games can have that effect on you.
But on this day, the Blue Jays were going for an unexpected three-game sweep of the front-running Yankees. And for that, Montoyo was thankful.
And, for the first time this season, the retractable roof of the domed stadium was peeled back for the game as warm sunshine finally embraced the Toronto area for the first time in what seemed like ages.
And for that, Montoyo was excited.
“Seventy degrees, my God,” Montoyo blurted out to no one in particular, still working in Fahrenheit despite now earning his living in proudly Celsius Canada. “I took my shirt off when I was going outside.
“So, they going to keep it open for the game?”
Yes, they kept it open – which was about the lone highlight of the evening for the roughly 25,000 fans who turned out to see the Blue Jays (23-39) revert to their slovenly ways as they were dumped 6-2 by the Yankees (39-22).
Toronto is now 12-19 at home this season but, hey, just 0-1 when the dome is open.
J.A. Happ had his way against his former team, handcuffing the Blue Jays on just four hits over seven innings and allowing just one run, a solo home run by Eric Sogard in the sixth.
The left-hander improved to 6-3.
The Blue Jays, who finished with eight hits, the same as the Yankees, welcome the Arizona Diamondbacks to Toronto for a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night.
After staggering home from a 0-6 trip, things were looking pretty bleak for the Blue Jays, winners of just two of their previous 13 with the red-hot Yankees, perched on top of the American League East, providing the next challenge.
Then, lo and behold, the Blue Jays won back-to-back games to ensure a series win, ending their stretch of 10 consecutive lost sets.
It was as good a time as any for a report to surface that the Blue Jays had extended the contract of general manager Ross Atkins beyond 2019 for at least one year.
Now it was time for the Blue Jays to go for the sweep, something they had not accomplished since wiping out the Oakland A’s from April 26 to 28.
The Blue Jays started journeyman Edwin Jackson, who was obtained in early May in the hopes that his veteran presence might help a starting staff ravaged by injury. Jackson’s soaring 13.22 earned-run average over his three previous starts with the Blue Jays would suggest the move has not worked out well.
Still, Montoyo said before the game he had confidence that Jackson could turn things around. “He’s still got the stuff to get people out,” the manager said. “He’s throwing 95 [miles per hour], 96.”
But 95-96 down the centre of the plate usually doesn’t cut it – as the Yankees demonstrated in the four-run second inning, in which they shot in front 4-0.
To be fair, Jackson should have got out of the inning unscathed, except rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made a throwing error from third base.
New York’s Thairo Estrada took the errant throw off the batting helmet running to first after stroking a grounder toward Guerrero at third.
Estrada should have been the third out but remained alive – and thankfully well – at first base.
Estrada wound up at third on a Cameron Maybin single and then scored the game’s first run when DJ LeMahieu throttled a Jackson pitch off the centre-field wall for a double.
Aaron Hicks then hit the first offering from Jackson and deposited the ball over the wall in right, a three-run home run that put the Yankees in front 4-0.
All the runs were unearned because of Guerrero’s miscue.
More trouble lurked for Jackson in the Yankee fourth, which began with a solo home run by Gio Urshela, who led off the inning.
LeMahieu then singled home his second run of the game to bring the score to 6-0. That spelled the end of the night for Jackson, whose ERA actually dropped to 11.90.
Afterward, the Toronto manager would not say if Jackson would warrant another start or not given his continuing issues. He said it was something he would have to discuss with Atkins and pitching coach Pete Walker.
“Of course after the error, he couldn’t minimize damage, it would have been a better game,” Montoyo said. “But he pitched up in the zone and the bad thing about that is doubles and home runs.”
After Yankee reliever Chad Green loaded the bases with none out in the Toronto ninth, New York called upon closer Aroldis Chapman to shut things down.
Chapman induced a double play off Teoscar Hernandez that brought in the second Toronto run before Freddy Galvis lined out to end the affair.