Jo-Jo Reyes will not go down in history as the starting pitcher with the longest winless streak. As it stands, his 28 starts in between victories is tied for the longest stretch in MLB History. After last tasting victory on June 13, 2008, Reyes was a winner last night.
In addition to getting his first win since 2008, Reyes tossed a complete game for the first time in his big league career. The lefty scattered eight hits over nine innings against the Cleveland Indians, allowing a run on a solo-blast by Shelley Duncan. He struck out four batters while walking an equal amount, but induced 13 groundballs – including three double-play balls. While Reyes earned the victory against the Indians, it was not his best game of the season.
Although he entered the game 0-4 with six no-decisions in 10 starts, Reyes has had a few close calls this season. In his second start of the season against the Los Angeles Angels, he went seven innings allowing just one earned run (three overall) while striking out six and walking one. Reyes was solid; meanwhile, his offense scored just one run off Angels’ ace Jered Weaver. In that game, Weaver went 7.2 innings and struck out 15 of the 30 batters he faced.
Earlier this month, Reyes faced the Tampa Bay Rays and left the game in line for a victory. In six innings of work, he surrendered one run on four hits and a walk while striking out four batters. John Farrell lifted Reyes after 92 pitches and turned the game over to his bullpen. Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Camp tossed scoreless innings in relief; however, Jon Rauch could not do the same. Looking for the save, Rauch allowed a leadoff single to Ben Zobrist before serving up a walk-off home run to B.J. Upton – dashing the hopes of a win for Reyes.
Two starts ago, Reyes pitched what might have been the best game of his career. Facing a weak Houston Astros lineup, the 26-year-old threw seven-shutout innings giving up five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. Once again, Reyes left the game holding a 2-0 lead. And once again, Jon Rauch blew the lead he had built. Rauch allowed Hunter Pence to tie the game with a two-out, two-run double in the eighth. In the ninth, Frank Francisco allowed a go-ahead two-run homer to Chris Johnson.
Despite not being his best effort, Reyes – as well as the Jays’ offense – made sure there would be no letdown on Monday. While Reyes needed no help from the bullpen, he received 11 runs of offensive support. Holding a 2-1 lead, and a 68.4% chance of winning, Toronto scored seven times in the bottom of the fourth inning against Fausto Carmona. At the end of the inning, Reyes and the Jays held a 98.7% chance of victory.
Reyes pitched better against the Angels, Rays, and Astros; however, I’m sure this game felt better than any of those other performances. As much as we ignore wins and losses as measure of individual pitcher’s talent level, there is still a human element in play. While Reyes may have known he had pitched better than his record or winless streak showed, he is likely feeling a huge sigh of relief knowing he is once again a winner in the major leagues.