Lawrie's four RBIs lead Blue Jays in opener
Thames homers to help Toronto soar past visiting Pittsburgh
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Eric Thames homered and Brett Lawrie added a pair of two-run doubles as the Blue Jays defeated the Pirates, 7-1, in the first game of the Grapefruit League season for both teams on Saturday afternoon at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
Right-hander James McDonald got the start for Pittsburgh, and after a three-up, three-down first inning, he pitched his way into trouble during the second. The 27-year-old walked Adam Lind to lead off the frame and then surrendered a single to left field by Edwin Encarnacion to put runners on first and second with nobody out.
Two batters later, Lawrie connected on a two-run double to the gap in left-center field. McDonald, who threw 19 of his 33 pitches for strikes, was charged with two runs on two hits and one strikeout in his two innings.
The Blue Jays extended the lead in the fifth inning as Thames connected on his first home run of the spring. The solo homer was an opposite-field shot off right-hander Chris Leroux to put Toronto up, 3-1. Lawrie added two more in the sixth with a sinking shot to center field that was just missed by a diving Starling Marte.
Left-hander Brett Cecil got the call for the Blue Jays and needed just 12 pitches in his one inning on the mound. He struck out shortstop Clint Barmes and induced three ground balls en route to a scoreless frame. The only blemish came on a ground ball to third base that was booted by Lawrie and represented the only baserunner against Cecil.
"It felt good to get out against a different team other than our own and facing different hitters, and getting a little excited," said Cecil, who added he threw one changeup, one slider and the rest fastballs. "I didn't get out of my delivery, but a few of the balls were up. I don't mind mistakes, as long as they're good mistakes.
"If they're going to be up in the zone, I want them to be up-up in the zone, not where it was last year most of the time. So as far as today went, you couldn't really tell much from one inning, but it was good. It felt great."
Pittsburgh did manage to get on the board in the fifth inning against right-hander Danny Farquhar. Left fielder Gorkys Hernandez reached on a single to right field, and after a stolen base, he came around to score on a single by Michael McKenry, which represented the second hit of the day by the Pirates.
"Overall a very good day," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "For the most part, everybody that came to the mound threw the ball over the plate, and even though Kyle [Drabek] had the one base on balls, I thought he kept his inning together.
"... Offensively, I thought we had a lot of good at-bats. Certainly Thames, wind or not, that ball was well struck the other way. First day out, it was good to see a different color uniform, and I thought guys swung the bat very well."
Up next for Blue Jays: Left-hander Aaron Laffey will get the start in Sunday's rematch against the Pirates. The outing originally belonged to Henderson Alvarez, but the second-year hurler was pushed back until Monday to provide him with more appropriate rest following a week of bullpens. Most of Toronto's regular lineup will be given the day off, though J.P. Arencibia, Lawrie and Travis Snider are among those who will make the drive to Bradenton, Fla.
Up next for the Pirates: It's Bucs' opener at McKechnie Field, of course. Erik Bedard makes his first start. Pittsburgh's other key offseason pitching pickup A.J. Burnett was also supposed to make an appearance, but he's now out for eight to 12 weeks after fracturing an orbital bone on a bunt. One other thing worth mentioning is the other half of the first-base competition -- Garrett Jones -- would've started against Alvarez, but with the switch to Laffey, Casey McGehee likely stays in the starting lineup.