Two weeks ago it felt like the season was all but over (a bit of an overreaction) after dropping six of seven from divisional rivals, however, the Blue Jays bounced back taking four of six this weekend, including winning two games over a three game set in Cleveland. Here is a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from that series.
The starting pitching has taken a giant step forward over the last week, especially with the recent success of Ross Stripling. It took him 13 appearances, but Stripling finally collected his first win in a Blue Jays uniform on Sunday. The veteran right-hander tossed five innings allowing just three base runners and one run. He needed just 67 pitches to get through five innings, but the decision was made by Charlie Montoyo to take him out, which worked out for that game as the bullpen locked down the win. Stripling who looked all but destined to be DFA’d three appearances ago has turned things around. In his last two games he has tossed 12 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks, while striking out 10. What has been very impressive is he has averaged less than 12 pitches per inning during that time.
Joe Panik went into the series hitting just .211 on the season as he was 12 for 57, but then he decided to unleash that bat and collected six hits in seven trips to the plate, including his first home run of the season on Friday. Like Stripling, I thought Panik’s time as a Blue Jay was coming to an end once Cavan Biggio returned from the Injured List, but Panik has put himself back in a good position. It is amazing what a weekend series can do for you and your career sometimes.
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There are two players that I keep waiting to pull back with their hitting success, but they keep going. Randal Grichuk collected five hits, four of which were doubles in 10 at bats this weekend while driving in two. Grichuk who had a great 2020 season, has already surpassed his extra base hit total from last year in less games and is almost halfway to his career best in doubles. The second player is Teoscar Hernandez who won the Silver Slugger Award last season and looks like he has gotten even better this year. During the series Hernandez went 4 for 11, which included a three run double in the finale on Sunday. Hernandez currently has a slash line of .317/.366/.521, which if he had a few more plate appearances he would be top five in the American League with Vladimir Guerrero Jr in batting average.
There was not much to say bad in the weekend at all, except for the obvious which was another poor performance by Tyler Chatwood. It is not an exaggeration to say that Chatwood was one of the top relievers in all of baseball up until about a week ago. Prior to this season he was known as a pitcher with poor plate command and even led the major leagues in walks in 2018; and over his career he has averaged nearly five base on balls per nine innings. However, to start this season Chatwood walked just five batters over 17 innings and posted a 0.53 ERA, but has struggled of late. Sunday was a disaster for him, he came into the game during the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead with two inherited runners and both runners came into score, but he got out of the inning with a 4-3 lead. Even though he faced four batters in the sixth, Montoyo went with him in the seventh. Chatwood would go on to walk four consecutive batters and give up the lead before turning it over to Anthony Castro who gave up a sacrifice fly to lose the game.
As I said at the beginning, Chatwood was lights out to start the season, however he is going through a tough stretch and had walked four batters in the previous two appearances, he should have had a shorter leash, but we’ll save that for the Ugly.
While I am not a fan of Montoyo’s managing, I actually enjoyed some of his decisions this series. He used Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire to sacrifice runners along. And, even though I wanted to see Stripling return for the sixth inning in the first game of the double header on Sunday, I understood the decision to take him out. The bullpen had not been used and by removing him you accomplish two things; one, you let a struggling pitcher leave one a high note to continue to build confidence, and two you give your bullpen some work. However, the ugly comes in the decision to not only leave Chatwood in for that many walks, but he should have probably not returned at all in the seventh inning as you still had other options who had pitched better of late than Chatwood.
The one thing I do agree with Montoyo, was after the game he mentioned they had a good road trip and need to focus on that, which I will, but these are games that will determine the outcome of a season down the road.
The Blue Jays now have Monday off, before hosting the Miami Marlins for their first games of the season at Sahlen Field in Buffalo.