The Toronto Blue Jays were unable to finish off a potential sweep of the Houston Astros on Sunday, and lost by a score of 8-7 in extra innings on a Kyle Tucker home run.
It was a disappointing result and brought an end to Jordan Romano’s team-record 31-game consecutive save streak. It was still a solid week as the Jays took two of three from both Boston and Houston.
There were more positives than negatives, a few players have emerged offensively, and the bullpen has been terrific. These are a few trends that have developed during a hopeful start.
Blue Jays: Players stepping up
Santiago Espinal has the look of a man on a mission and has continued to hit the ball harder than we’ve seen before. He hit his first two homers of the season on Friday and Saturday night respectively and a go-ahead RBI double in Sunday’s back-and-forth defeat.
It seemed like the second base position would be a platoon at the onset of the season. Espinal showed up to camp bulked up, and determined to prove he was an everyday player. He has played in every game, made all the plays defensively, and has come up with several important hits already this season.
Zack Collins showed his power again in the series finale, launching a three-run home run to tie the game in the sixth inning. It was his second game-tying homer of the season already. Collins will continue to be a key member of the team as an occasional catcher, DH, and pinch hitter.
Another new Blue Jays player, Raimel Tapia, has shown signs of improvement lately. In his last five games Tapia is 6-for-23 (.260), with a homer, three runs scored, and a pair of steals.
Finally, Bradley Zimmer got his first hit, a solo home run, on Friday night. He’s in there for his defense, and, sure enough, made a run to catch a deep fly ball the next half-inning.
Those last three players are all left-handed hitters, so continued production from them, plus whatever they can get out of Cavan Biggio and Gosuke Katoh, will go a long way towards improving their offensive diversity.
Blue Jays bullpen blooming
The Jays bullpen, despite Romano’s blown save, has been reliable so far and is deeper than in previous years.
We knew about Romano, and Trevor Richards and Adam Cimber were both great last year, but Yimi Garcia was signed and has been impressive. David Phelps is back, steady as ever. Same for Tim Mayza, but Trent Thornton pitching multiple innings and looking nasty? And Ryan Borucki looking electric in his season debut Saturday night? Now we’re talking!
Thornton seems to be carving out a role in a two-inning relief role behind Ross Stripling, who has made two good four-inning starts. Borucki threw just two pitches on Saturday, but he got the out and his pitches had a lot of late movement.
Getting good innings from these two would add to a steady stable of relief arms.
Obviously, the team needs to get great production from their star players, and consistent starting pitching and defence. The steady play of some of these players will prove to be vital as the season rolls on.