The Blue Jays have finished the month of April with a record of 14-8, and while the results are encouraging, how they got there has me even more excited.
I’ve been talking about this for a few days now here at Jays Journal, but I’m very impressed with the fact that the Blue Jays are finding this kind of success despite a bit of a compromised roster. Teoscar Hernandez, Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Nate Pearson are all on the Injured List, and several of their stars haven’t really found their groove yet, including Bo Bichette (although he did go 2-3 on Saturday, which is a step in the right direction). At a time when there would be some valid excuses for struggles, the Blue Jays are finding a way to win.
They’re not doing it in the way that we expected either, as the offence as a whole has been pretty cold to start the year. Part of that is because of the injuries that I mentioned, but regardless this team isn’t scoring runs at the pace that they’ll eventually find. On Saturday that still resulted in a victory despite a score of 2-1, and earlier this week they beat the Red Sox in a one-run game, with a final score of 1-0 on Thursday.
Not only are the Blue Jays enjoying a much improved bullpen over what they had in place last season, but they’re also learning some valuable lessons early in the season. This relief corps is literally making the difference between a top-tier team and a middle-of-the-pack one, and in the process they’re also learning how to win close games. That’s an important development for a young roster, even if it’s still early in the regular season schedule.
It’s all that much more important when you consider many of these close victories have come against teams that should factor into the playoff race later this year. 16 out of their first 22 games have been decided by three runs or less, including 10 games by just one run. In those one-run games, the Blue Jays are a very impressive 8-2. When you consider that of those eight one-run victories, three each have come against the Red Sox and Astros, it’s all that much more encouraging.
Of course, the bullpen has been the primary reason for this early season success, and they were effective again on Saturday in the 2-1 victory. Jose Berrios pitched well over 5.2, allowing just one earned run on seven hits and two walks, and from there Adam Cimber, Tim Mayza, and Jordan Romano shut the door over the next 3.1 innings, only giving up a hit and a walk that were charged to Mayza over his 1.1 frames.
This kind of performance from the bullpen isn’t going to last forever, at least not to this level, but it’s a good sign that the Blue Jays are picking up some early ground on their division rivals, and the rest of the field in the American League. They’re learning how to win close games against good teams, and also how to win in several different ways. There will come a time when they’ll bash their opponents into submission with their mighty offence, but the lineup hasn’t quite gotten rolling just yet.
The Blue Jays will continue to have a stiff schedule when they open a new month on Sunday, as they’ll finish up with the Astros before hosting the Yankees, and then they’ll begin a road trip in Cleveland before heading back to New York. Regardless of the quality of their competition, the Blue Jays are finding a way to come out on top more often than not, and these early lessons are really going to come in handy later in the year.