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Photo Credit: © Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Hyun Jin Ryu shines and Nate Pearson struggles as the Blue Jays earn a split in their Buffalo homecoming

A near heartbreaker, a near epic comeback, a bunch of home runs, and a bunch of gaffes. Wild times in Buffalo. I’m not even really sure how to wrap my head around what happened over the past couple of days.

Things worth mentioning…

  • Hyun Jin Ryu made the start as the Blue Jays and Marlins played the first big-league game in Buffalo in over a century and his outing went incredibly well. Ryu was an ace on Tuesday, tossing six innings of one-run ball while surrendering just a couple of hits and a couple of walks. His only mistake of the game came when Brian Anderson smashed a 3-2 changeup over the wall. But, otherwise, Ryu was excellent. He mixed his fastball, cutter, sinker, changeup, and curve effectively, picking up seven strikeouts and allowing just two hard-hit balls.
  • Unfortunately, Ryu didn’t end up with the W. This game had all the makings of a classic 2020 Blue Jays heartbreaker. A great start, the offence squeaks out a few runs, and then there’s a late-game meltdown out of nowhere. In the ninth inning, Anthony Bass allowed a two-out, three-run, game-tying homer to Francisco Cervelli, the definition of non-threat as he came into the game with 40 career homers over 14 seasons. Thankfully, A.J. Cole would lock down the top of the 10th before Travis Shaw drove in the winning run with a walk-off single. Crisis averted.

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  • And then there was Wednesday, where all hell broke loose. Nate Pearson took the mound for the third start of his career looking to rebound after a bit of a grind in Atlanta in his last outing. Given who he was facing, it looked like a prime opportunity for Pearson to put together a real gem. That didn’t happen.
  • After getting through the first couple of batters with ease (Pearson casually just tossed a 100 miles-per-hour heater for a strike), the rookie completely lost his command. All told, he went two-and-one-third, allowing seven runs (four earned) on five hits and four walks while picking up just one strikeout. He managed to get ahead 0-1 of just five of sixteen batters he faced and tossed just 33 strikes on 65 pitches.

  • After Pearson’s dominant debut, I think we all just kind of assumed that he was already a Major League ace. But it’s important to remember that he’s still a rookie. Pearson needs to trust that his stuff is as good as it is and challenge hitters in order to get ahead in the count. He doesn’t need to nibble and paint corners in order to deal with every hitter. This is the learning curve from switching from minor-league hitters to Major Leaguers. In the minors, guys didn’t have the same level of discipline, so they would swing through mistakes outside of the zone. That isn’t going to happen as much here, so Pearson has to come out and challenge hitters with his stuff, otherwise, he’s going to be withing from 1-0 and 2-0 holes all the time.
  • Pearson’s rough outing was just one part of Wednesday’s wild game. After he came out of the game in favour of Jacob Waguespack, the Jays put together one of their ugliest sequences of the season. Waguespack got the first batter out on a strikeout and then looked to be out of the inning on a grounder, but a Vlad Jr. error at first kept the inning alive. Next up, a passed ball would score another run, and then another run came in shortly after when Danny Jansen threw a pickoff attempt to second, which allowed the runner from third to trot in. With better fundamental play, the Jays easily could have escaped that inning down only 4-0.
  • Those throwaway insurance runs ended up being really, really important because the Blue Jays’ bats finally woke up shortly after. Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run homer in the third, Rowdy Tellez hit a two-run bomb in the fourth, Travis Shaw hit a solo dinger in the fifth, Danny Jansen hit a two-run homer in the sixth, Vlad Jr. hit a solo shot in the seventh, and, finally, in the eighth, Bo Bichette and Shaw each hit dingers, resulting in a tie game. All told, the Jays smashed seven homers, setting a franchise record with a dinger in six-consecutive innings.

  • But, instead of an epic comeback, this game would end up as yet another heartbreaker. In the 10th inning, Rafael Dolis got tagged for three runs (it all started when the team couldn’t field a bunt despite the fact the Marlins made it incredibly clear that it was coming). The Jays couldn’t manage anything in their half of the 10th and ended up losing 14-11. It was the first time in Major League history that a team lost despite hitting seven homers and picking up 18 hits in a game.
  • It’s difficult not to think of that third inning that got out of hand and what could have happened if Vlad had made that out at first base. The Jays would have escaped Pearson’s jam down only 4-0, which would have instead resulted in their offensive explosion giving them a lead rather than just tying the game. Time and time again with this team do they make life easy on their opponents. You can’t just give away runs like that.

  • Anyways, we’ll finish on a positive note, which is that Bo Bichette has started to heat up. After hitting a three-run homer on Tuesday, Bo followed that up with a five-hit performance on Wednesday. Bo suddenly has a .352 batting average and 1.034 OPS. Let’s hope this is the beginning of a huge streak at the plate. Bo hitting everything is a huge catalyst for the team’s offence.