Blue Jays: Takeaways from the opening series

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 31: Kevin Pillar
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 31: Kevin Pillar /

The Blue Jays tied the four game opening series against the Yankees this Sunday afternoon. Here are the main takeaways from a series that started with two very disappointing losses but ended with two very encouraging wins.

The pitching looks solid

The pitching has been decent by the starting rotation.  Although they haven’t been as stellar as the Yankees’ starters, they’ve given the team a chance to win the games by keeping the Bronx Bombers within reach. None of the starters has given up more than four runs in their starts. Marcus Stroman showed no lingering signs of the right should issue that set him back in spring training, which is an encouraging sign, while Aaron Sanchez made his first start since July 2017.

On the other hand, the bullpen has looked terrific so far. It has only given up three earned runs in 13.2 innings, with 14 punch outs. Ryan Tepera, along with offseason additions, Seung-hawn Oh and Tyler Clippard, have looked particularly fine so far in the Jays bullpen.

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Offseason additions showing their value

The offseason acquisitions have shown what they bring to the ballclub. Randal Grichuk hit a homer on Friday’s loss and has looked very comfortable in right field. Yangervis Solarte gave the Jays the lead on Saturday afternoon with a solo monster home run to center field and drove in a run on Friday. He has also taken charge of third base while Josh Donaldson recovers from his shoulder issue, something that shows how important it was to acquire a versatile player like Solarte, who also contributes with the bat. Aledmys Diaz got a big hit in the 8th inning of the final game of the series that ultimately finished with Justin Smoaks heroic grand slam. He’s also looked very solid at short.

Way too many strikeouts

The Blue Jays struck out 45 times in the four game series. You read that right, yes, 45 times. Apart from being frustrating for the players and fans, they are completely unproductive for a lineup who struggled to hit with runners in scoring position last year. Yankees starter, Sonny Gray, gave up seven hits and walked three in his first four innings of work on Sunday’s finale, however, he only gave up one run, in those innings. That’s probably because three quarters of the outs he got, were strikeouts. There’s no doubt the Jays have to cut down on the strikeouts to have better offensive results. They lead the league in whiffs too so far.

New season, same Smoak

TORONTO, ON – APRIL 1: Justin Smoak
TORONTO, ON – APRIL 1: Justin Smoak /

Justin Smoak wants to prove his 2017 All-star campaign wasn’t a fluke and he’s doing just that so far. He’s hitting .467 (7/15AB) with two homers, both in Sunday’s game, and eight runs driven in. He’s been great on the field too, snagging line drives, specifically two from Brett Gardner, and some fine scoops at first base. The Blue Jays need another big year by their first baseman.

Depending on the long ball

Last season the Jays had many difficulties hitting with runners in scoring positions and most of their runs, which weren’t many, came via the home run. In this opening series they’ve left 51 on base, 39 in the last two games that they won, and in which they got their share of hits, but left too many on base. Five runs of the 15 runs scored by the Blue Jays have come in rallies. Nine have via home runs, and one with three steals by Kevin Pillar. The Jays need more rallies and perhaps to get more creative with bunts, or sacrifice flies to move runners along the bases, because hitting the long ball isn’t always possible and it’s not good to depend on it.

Next: Strikeouts are an early problem, again.