Kevin Gausman struggled almost immediately after getting the first two Rangers out, but heroically. His splitter was lethal, but his inability to find the strike zone with some dubious plays behind him turned the entire game into a familiar, slow crawl. Nevertheless, if he can hurl five innings and give up three earned runs on a regular basis, that’s free agent money well spent and games consistently won. His stuff is pure, and he’s legitimately feared for his ability to hang in and battle opposing hitters. And he never lost his poise, which will serve him well during those nights of error-prone shenanigans at positions not known as third base or center field.
The Bullpen saved the day once again – that’s 12.2 innings in two games; Richards, Garcia, Mayza and Romano allowed a single base hit through their combined four innings of work and once again proved the theory that, just like the Maple Leafs and their revolving goaltending, the achilles heel of the Blue Jays will always be their relief corps in late game scenarios. Winning a division means locking down leads and keeping games close, and so as that goes, so too does the team. Sad and pathetic isn’t it how after all these years the least amount of payroll spent is usually associated with the thankless job of being a middle-to-late inning reliever in a league where inevitable late game key at-bats are the difference between victory and failure. Hyun-jin Ryu needs to go deep into game numero trois or it will be a long afternoon in Toronto.
While the top third of this juggernaut lineup is beyond reproach, and the bottom third is usually a nice gaggle of utility/part-time players struggling to become regulars, the middle of the Blue Jays lineup is the ultimate wild card. In a perfect world, Hernández-Gurriel-Chapman will further bolster the team’s chances having three regulars who could hit 100+ home runs and 300+ RBI combined, but when the dog days of summer struggles arrive, they will descend mightily in the form of non-existent plate discipline and a tonne of strikeouts. Opposing managers know this might be the only respite they have to avoid big innings against the birds. For the record, I enjoy all three of these players, foibles and all. Matt’s gold glove is irreplaceable, Lourdes is gradually improving his fielding, and Teo is my George Bell incarnate.
Charlie Montoyo decided to shake-up his lineup by making sure that TWO left-handers entered the fray, even if they were both stacked at the bottom of the batting order. As mighty and vaunted as this Blue Jays lineup is in virtually any format, you just know opposition managers are actively trying to figure out how to take advantage of this right-handed monster and expose the chink in the armour. For many fans of this team, it’s becoming obvious that Alejandro Kirk, Santiago Espinal and Raimel Tapia represent tremendously potent lineup redundancy with plenty of intangibles that will be huge throughout the year. All three player can hit and play station-to-station baseball while also pushing presumable starters like Danny Jansen, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. into an optimal scenario where no one is ever inclined to take a day off.
Not a fan (nor ever will be) of the modern day infield shift; on multiple occasions this game, Montoyo chose to employ the fashionable and oft-maligned exaggerated shift where the left-side of the infield is abandoned in favour of an additional defender in the outfield. Although there is a copious amount of documented evidence and highfalutin analytics to prove that “playing the odds” makes sense with a lefty at the plate, I always shudder when the prospect of a cerebral hitter like a Miller, Seager or one of the Calhounses finds a way to thwart the shift and ends up laying down a slap-bunt or some Tony Fernandez-esque variant that outwits the whole paradigm.
The Magnificent Bo Bichette continues to remind us all why this organization was fortunate enough to draft not one, but two generational prospects that have arrived at exactly the same time. Let’s also remember that although Alex Anthopoulos is often given credit for the herculean feat of drafting Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it was Ross Atkins and this current regime which picked up Bo in 2016 (57th overall) AFTER they passed on him initially and had never even seen him play (special thanks: fired scout Matt Bishoff). Yes, that’s right – sometimes baseball fate is fickle and the prospect is a bust. For every Mickey Moniak (drafted first overall), you end up with a Pete Alonso (55th overall and two spots ahead of Bichette that year).
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