Strategy benefits Pannone in Toronto shutout

Font sets up win as opener; Giles returns to mound to get save

August 14th, 2019

TORONTO -- One night after the Blue Jays put on a 19-run rock concert at Rogers Centre, they leaned on opening act and starter early before locked down a tight shutout win on Tuesday.

Toronto still managed to flash plenty of power in the 3-0 victory over the Rangers when and went back to back in the sixth inning -- the 11th time the Blue Jays have done that in 2019, tying a franchise record -- but they needed their pitching to keep them above water long enough to find it.

Font loaded the bases in the first before narrowly escaping, but the right-hander threw a clean second inning and topped out at 96.6 mph, lowering his ERA with the Blue Jays to 2.20. He’s also struck out 21 batters with just three walks over his 16 1/3 innings with Toronto, which has made him a fine opener in front of young arms like Pannone.

“The whole idea is that [Pannone] is not going to face guys three times, and that’s what he did today,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Font faced the whole lineup, then Pannone faced them twice. That’s why it worked out really good. That’s the whole idea behind the opener.”

The left-hander entered in the third and gave the Blue Jays four strong innings of his own, allowing just two hits. After warming up in the bullpen while Font pitched, Pannone walked through the clubhouse to the Blue Jays’ dugout and came out as if the third inning was the first inning in a normal home start, and that new approach seemed to work. In one of his better outings of the season, Pannone mixed his pitches well and knew when to take advantage of the aggressive Rangers hitters.

At times, Pannone got by with a little help from his friends. Bo Bichette made an outstanding snag on a one-hopper in the fifth inning that left ’s bat at 107.1 mph, according to Statcast. Later in that same inning, with a Rangers runner standing on second base and the lead at 1, Hernandez made a running catch at full speed in the left-center-field gap to end the inning.

“Just a sick play,” Pannone said of Bichette. “I got jacked up. I might not have shown it emotionally but, inside, I was pretty fired up. [Bichette is] playing great shortstop and he’s obviously hitting, but he’s made some really nice plays over there and helped me out, for sure, tonight.”

Other times, Pannone handled business himself. With a runner on second again in the sixth, Pannone worked a 1-1 count to . He then got Odor to swing through a fastball before slowing things down with a curveball, which Odor fouled off. Pannone then went back to the fastball, and Odor swung through it again for the strikeout.

Giles’ return to the mound for the first time since Aug. 7 was also big news for the Blue Jays. The closer has missed time with elbow inflammation this season and has been day to day lately depending on how he’s felt in pregame warmups. Giles allowed a walk and struck out one batter in the ninth, but his fastball topping out at 97.9 mph was enough to overshadow any rust.

“I expected that, more or less,” Montoyo said. “As you guys know, he hasn’t been out there for a while now, but he was throwing hard and he felt really good. That’s a good sign.”

Before the back-to-back shots from Hernandez and McKinney, got things started for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the second with a solo shot of his own, his 22nd of the season.