The Toronto Blue Jays are fresh off a series victory over the lowly Oakland Athletics. The result must be a relief after they dropped the opening game on Friday night, 5-4, thanks to a go-ahead home run by A’s catcher Shea Langeliers.
Despite that setback, there were a pair of encouraging developments from Friday game.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., after going homerless in his first 32 games played at Rogers Centre this season, finally went deep, launching a ball into the “Flight Deck” in left centerfield to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Chris Bassitt wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him in previous outings, and the buzz afterward was that could be the last time the veteran is permitted to call his pitches. Now, with the focus squarely on executing the pitches called, he could see an uptick in efficiency and effectiveness.
While it’s easy to dismiss taking two of three games from Oakland, given their moribund record, the fashion in which the Jays were successful is the most encouraging sign.
Guerrero homered for the second straight game to provide insurance for an eventual 7-3 win. Danny Jansen also “touched ‘em all” to support another steady start by the resurgent José Berríos.
Jansen has now hit ten homers in just 155 at-bats, a 6.0%, almost twice the MLB average of 3.2%. Over the last three seasons, the 28-year-old has hit 36 big flies in 554 at-bats, an entire season’s work for some. He’s one of the most prolific home-run hitters among catchers in the sport, and now he may finally start getting recognized for it.
Berríos is now 6-2 with a 2.66 ERA over his last ten starts. His solid performance against the A’s helped him put a shaky, four-inning stinker versus the Marlins last Monday behind him. Overall, the Puerto Rico native is 8-5 with a 3.60 ERA and, along with Bassitt and Kevin Gausman, is among the top 10 in the American League in innings pitched.
Jays’ fans hadn’t seen an offensive explosion like Sunday in weeks. As great as the team looked in crossing plate twelve times, the start Yusei Kikuchi delivered may have been more encouraging.
The lefty threw a season-high seven innings and surrendered two hits and one earned run. It was the second straight outstanding outing for the 32-year-old and part of a better-than-expected first half (7-2, 3.75 ERA) with a couple of starts remaining.
Cavan Biggio’s three-run home run capped off the 12-1 rout and continued a power surge the utility player has experienced over the last month. In 21 games since May 24th, Biggio has hit .273 (15-55) with five homers, two doubles, and a .937 OPS.
Santiago Espinal also drove in a pair of runs and has been a similarly solid contributor. Since returning from an IL stint on June 6th, Espinal has hit .265 (9-34), with eight runs scored, four doubles, and four RBI. Part-time players like Biggio and Espinal chipping in is a welcome sign for manager John Schneider.
As many positive trends emerge from the weekend, it’s only three games and three games against the worst team in baseball. This is what the Blue Jays have done all season, feast on bad teams. They’re 19-6 playing teams with records below .500 and 24-30 against teams with winning records.
So they’ll need to keep up the strong play in order to beat teams more talented than the Athletics.