Perhaps you, like me, expected the Blue Jays to help the Red Sox’ pitching staff find their way during the recently finished mini-series at Fenway. I would have put good money on Toronto’s anemic offense falling prey to a recently revitalized Chris Sale, or being easily sat down by a more 2018-esque Nathan Eovaldi. Even if Boston’s pitching had not fully recovered from its early season malaise, surely these limp Toronto bats would do them plenty of favours.
Then you remember that baseball is not a game of certainties.
The Blue Jays beat up on Chris Sale on Tuesday, peppering singles, sacrifice hits, and a straight steal of home all over his pitching line. The indomitable Sale has not yet exorcised his early-season demons, and luckily, the Jays got to see him before he inevitably regains his form. On the other side of the ball, Matt Shoemaker’s ERA finally bore a blemish by way of some early Boston runs, but he still pitched very well into the sixth inning, and the Toronto bullpen just kept the Boston wolves from the door. It was an exciting game, and a much needed win for a Blue Jays team that has looked absolutely lost through these first two weeks.
Nathan Eovalid didn’t fare much better against these seemingly reinvigorated Blue Jays bats. Three homeruns, including a mammoth, and possibly, though still unconfirmed, historically long homer from mighty Rowdy Tellez, netted Toronto six runs. Unfortunately, Aaron Sanchez et al could not keep the still mightier Red Sox bats from breaking through and making this a close 6-5 contest going into the ninth inning. When the Jays failed to capitalize on a one-out, bases-loaded situation, it set the stage for what felt like an inevitable comeback and walk-off victory for the Bostons. No matter. Scoring runs and holding a lead for a time felt like the victory in this one.
Of course, this game was prefaced by that nightmarish trip through Cleveland. In four games, Toronto’s offense grew more pathetic by the day. Trevor Bauer, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and a host of Cleveland relievers combined to strike the Jays out fifty-seven times, and allow only six runs. Six runs are often not enough to win a single game, let alone four. I know at various points over the last twenty or so years the Jays have gone through some significant offensive slumps, but the poor quality of the at-bats, and the constant, demoralizing strikeouts makes me think that this series may have been one of the worst offensive efforts I’ve ever seen from this team.
The continued excellence of Toronto’s pitching staff is the only thing maintaining the façade of a competent big league ball club. During the bloodletting that was the Cleveland series, Aaron Sanchez, Trent Thornton, Thomas Pannone, Marcus Stroman, and a group of solid bullpen arms tallied thirty-nine strikeouts. In Boston, Shoemaker and Sanchez again, though less dominant, held their own and gave the Jays a good shot at a series sweep. A split at Fenway, during the Sox’ home opening series no less, is respectable enough for me.
New additions Socrates Brito and Alen Hanson haven’t shown much in the way of promise yet. Brito hasn’t recorded a hit in fifteen plate appearances with one walk, while Hansen has only managed two singles in thirteen plate appearances. These are small sample sizes, of course, but based on their respective careers to this point, I don’t think the Jays can expect a whole lot more out of either of them. Brito and Hansen are likely just placeholders until some of the burgeoning talent in Buffalo arrives, but in the interim, it would be nice to see them put up a fight for those roster spots.
With a home series against the blistering Tampa Bay Rays up next, I’m not hopeful of a reversal of the Blue Jays’ fortunes…at least until the following series in Minnesota. Four games at Target Field has historically been a shot in the arm for Blue Jays offenses of yesteryear, and this year’s edition of the Twins isn’t particularly compelling. This week, watch for the Jays to build on the small uptick in their offensive fortunes following the series in Boston. With relatively smaller strikeout numbers in the previous two games (nine and ten strikeouts respectively), the team seems to at least be making more contact, which I’m led to believe is a key element of getting base hits. Couple that with continued good results on the mound, and hopefully the Blue Jays will start to look a little more competitive.
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