The Toronto Blue Jays are in the midst of a pretty important road trip as the club looks to move up the AL East standings and gain some ground in the AL Wild Card as well.
After taking two of three games against the Los Angeles Angels heading into last night’s tilt, the Jays had an opportunity to earn the series win but would have to do so against two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani on the mound. This was an interesting matchup as Ohtani was going to be facing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the first time in his career, and with both players garnering MVP consideration this season, it was going to be interesting to see which player would come out ahead in the one-on-one battle.
Opposite the Angels ace was the Blue Jays newest rotation member in Jose Berrios, who was coming off two strong outings at the Rogers Centre since joining the organization back on July 30th. Prior to last night’s start, the Puerto Rican product had only allowed one earned run since joining the Jays and was looking to carry that momentum on the road.
The Toronto Blue Jays bats were pretty silent last night against Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels, with the club leaving California with a split series.
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Ohtani pitched a pretty good game, going six strong innings while striking out six batters and only allowing two earned runs on three hits all game. While he did issue three free passes, the Blue Jays batting order was only able to capitalize on the one walk in the fourth inning, putting both earned runs against Ohtani on the board. The Blue Jays would also end up losing Corey Dickerson, as the outfielder would leave the game back issues and his current status is unknown.
In regards to Guerrero Jr. vs Ohtani duel, the Jays slugger tagged the right-hander for a single in the first inning before striking out in his next at-bat. He would then earn a walk in the sixth inning, going one for two on the night against his MVP competition. You can technically give Guerrero Jr. the victory considering he got on base twice but I can honestly say I was hoping to see a home run from the righty slugger, a long ball from a potential MVP off a potential MVP.
From the early get-go, Berrios was battling, as the right-hander was really struggling with his command for most of the outing. He would surrender four walks on the night and with some timely hitting by the Angels offence, the opposing club was able to tag Berrios for six runs on the night while striking out only three times.
The bulk of the runs came in the second inning when the Angels walked on base three times and also produced timely hits from Brandon Marsh, Jared Walsh, and Phil Gosselin to put the Angels ahead 4-0 on the scoresheet. While they didn’t necessarily hit the long ball, it was the free passes and the ability to capitalize on those base on balls to put the Angels ahead and eventually win the game.
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The Blue Jays bullpen pitched a strong game however, as Trent Thornton, Kirby Snead, and Connor Overton all pitched clean innings/outings.
While the Blue Jays didn’t lose the series, the importance of winning every game is not lost on the franchise as they try to battle their way into postseason contention. The Angels did play a tough series and the Blue Jays did get two wins out of the four games but the bats fell a little silent compared to how they were playing during the homestead. The batting order also had its moments against the Boston Red Sox on the weekend, where two games saw the club hit well and put runs on the board while the other two limited them to just two runs combined (the doubleheader games).
After the four games against the Angels, the Blue Jays now sit 7.5 games back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and 2.5 games back of a Wild Card spot with the Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees all in front of the Jays.
Division wise, Boston will face the Baltimore Orioles this weekend before playing a series against the Yankees while the Yankees will face the Chicago White Sox and one game against the Angels before facing the Red Sox.
The Athletics will face the Texas Rangers before heading to Chicago to face the White Sox, so the Blue Jays schedule is a bit easier compared to some of the teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. It should not be forgotten that the Mariners are also hunting for a spot in the playoffs and are right on the heels of the Jays, just 2.0 games behind the club in the WC, so this next series could be even more important than the one against the Angels this past week.
The Blue Jays were coming off a stellar homestead that saw the club gain some ground in both the division and the Wild Card, so the reality of being back on the road and not in front of home fans is something the Jays will have to overcome when they face the Seattle Mariners this weekend and Washington Nationals later next week in their respective home barns.
Hopefully, the bats can come off the rack and the Blue Jays can put some runs on the board to help their pitching corps as they face a Mariners team that has a struggling rotation compared to the bullpen.