TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS 6, LONDON MAJORS 5
By Jonah Birenbaum
Marek Deska threw six-plus solid innings, while Branfy Arias led the way offensively, as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the London Majors 6–5 at Dominico Field on Sunday.
Deska, the 27-year-old pitcher, allowed just three runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five to pick up his third win of the year, and help the Maple Leafs collect their second win in as many days.
“I call him Roy Halladay,” Toronto centre fielder Glenn Jackson said of Deska. “He’s the Halladay of our staff. Any time you got Deska on the mound, you got a shot.”
Flattering comparison notwithstanding, things got off to an inauspicious start for Deska when London tallied a pair of runs—neither of them earned—to open the scoring in the top of the second.
London first baseman Cleveland Brownlee, who singled to lead off the frame, scored the game’s first run on an RBI groundout from Derrick Strazalkswiski after a fielding error by Arias, Toronto’s shortstop, put him on third base with one out. The Majors would tack on another run in the inning on second baseman Chris Stewart’s RBI single.
But Toronto responded quickly, posting a pair of their own in the home half of the third to tie the game at 2–2. After London starter Jordi Amargos plunked Jackson to lead off the inning, Arias promptly redeemed himself for that defensive miscue the inning prior with a two-run homerun that sailed well over the fence in left field.
An inning later, Toronto exploded for another four runs to create a deficit that proved insurmountable for the Majors. After consecutive walks to Dan Marra and Justin Gianfrancesco, Rob Gillis singled to load the bases for Jackson. The Toronto native would work the count full before blooping a single into shallow right, plating Marra. Arias, the next batter, then punched a single into centre field to score Gianfrancesco.
“Today was a good day for me,” said Arias. “I feel good swinging, and [it was] good we won, too. We needed that game.”
Toronto would tag on another run on an RBI groundout from third baseman Jordan Castaldo before a wild pitch from Amargos allowed Jackson to scamper home, extending the lead to 6–2.
Amargos, saddled with his first loss of the season on Sunday, would last just one more inning before giving way to Mike Henry. London’s starter allowed six runs on six hits and five walks over five innings of work.
Meanwhile, Deska managed to settle down nicely after that shaky second, holding the Majors scoreless for four consecutive innings before an RBI triple from Brownlee chased him from the game in the seventh.
“He pitches in the small park but still gets it done,” Jackson said of his team’s ace.
Brett Lawson would come in to relieve Deska, making just his second appearance of the season out of the bullpen. Despite making it interesting in the ninth after surrendering a two-run homerun to Brownlee—who finished the day 4-for-5 with three RBI and fell just a double short of the cycle—Lawson was able to get pinch-hitter Jason Schneider to ground out to end the game with the tying run on second, consequently picking up his first save of the year.
For Toronto, the win represents the team’s first winning streak of the season, an accomplishment Jackson attributes in part to a better outlook.
“We are trusting ourselves and the guys we have out there,” he said. “We’re playing as one, we’re playing positively.”