All hands on deck as Toronto Blue Jays skipper John Schneider prepares for potential use of Chris Bassitt, Yusei Kikuchi in Game 2 against Minnesota Twins
Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
By Zach Laing2 months ago
Tuesday afternoon went about as bad as it could’ve for the Toronto Blue Jays as they opened up the 2023 American League Wild Card Series against the Minnesota Twins.
Kevin Gausman allowed two home runs to Twins slugger Royce Lewis, which were enough to propel Minnesota to their first playoff win since Oct. 5, 2004, when your newspaperman was all of…. *checks notes* …nine years old. Gausman’s struggles against the Twins were well-known entering game one of this series.
Across 56.2 innings of regular season ball against Minnesota in his career, Gausman’s spotted a 6.35 ERA and 1.500 WHIP — numbers that are the second-worst, and third-worst split against any team in the big leagues. So realistically, it shouldn’t have been all that big of a surprise that the Twins did what they did in sitting on his splitters and cashing in on his frustrated fastballs. Yanked after a fourth inning in which he struck out the side, Gausman exited the game in favour of Erik Swanson, and multiple other relievers.
Gausman himself expressed frustration over his performance — one in which he allowed three hits, three earned and issued three walks while fanning five — but the truth of the matter is his performance isn’t what lost the Jays the game. It was their own inability to drive in runs in key situations stranding four runners in scoring position.
After the loss, skipper John Schneider was already turning his eye toward game two, set for the same time Wednesday afternoon. When asked how he would utilize his pitching staff for the do-or-die game, Schneider said everyone but Gausman would be available.
Jose Berrios was named as the game-two starter, but if there’s one thing clear, it’s that the Jays can’t tread lightly again. The good news? Berrios has shown well against his former club.
In five starts against them over the last three years, he’s thrown 29 innings posting a 3-1 record and a 4.03 ERA while allowing just 1.172 walks or hits per inning pitched. On top of that, Berrios’ 10.9 strikeouts per nine — a sizeable increase from the 8.6 he’s averaged with the Blue Jays in his career.
This will undoubtedly play to the Jays’ benefit. Berrios uses more pitches than Gausman which will help make him less predictable against a Twins team whose 26.6 K% was the worst in all of baseball by half a percent.
And beyond Berrios, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi should both be in great positions to provide assistance, should the need for significant issues arise. Bassitt’s struggled historically against the Twins with a 5.26 ERA across 25.2 innings pitched, the third-worst ERA split against any team. The left-handed Kikuchi hasn’t had such issues with a 3.38 ERA across 26.2 innings pitched — the sixth-best split against any team.
The Jays will have the luxury of being able to utilize either of these pitchers as a reliever tomorrow, or as a potential starter in game three, should the need for it arise.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at email@example.com.
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