Blue Jays blanked in Game 2 by Twins, swept in the Wild Card series for the third time in four years
Photo credit:© Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
If I had to describe not only Wednesday’s game with one word but the entirety of the 2023 Blue Jays season, it would be sucks.
The team itself did not suck. Sure, they had their flaws, such as decisions on the base paths and clutch hitting, but this was one of the best pitching staffs in the league, and the defence was great too.
Still, after losing 2-0 to the Minnesota Twins, the disappointing season ended prematurely for Toronto.
In reality, there was no Blue Jays Nation’s Player of the Game. A few players had solid games, as George Springer, Bo Bichette, and Alejandro Kirk going 2-4. Santiago Espinal came in as a pinch hitter for Kevin Kiermaier and hit two singles, including one that loaded the bases in the sixth.
The Jays had nine hits but went 1-5 with runners in scoring position. But there were some… not so great things that happened in this game. Let’s take a look at them.
The decision to yank José Berríos:
If you want a more in-depth article about this, you can read Evan Stacks’s article here. This will be my take on this decision.
A starter getting pulled is common practice, it’s not the 1960s anymore. However, a starting pitcher (a good one at that) getting pulled after 47 pitches in the bottom of the fourth after striking out five is not common practice. In fact, it is one of the biggest management blunders in recent times.
This isn’t a shot at Yusei Kikuchi, who was rather unlucky as the four batted balls in the fourth were all ground balls. However, making match-up decisions this early in the game with your starting pitching cruising is not a decision that should be made with the season on the line.
The base running blunders:
It’s common practice to look back at spring training and see how Don Mattingly’s hiring was framed. Moreso the “he’s gonna fix the Jays and make them a more serious team.”
While the 2022 Jays were awful on the base paths in terms of stealing, the 2023 Blue Jays made significantly more unforced errors on the bases.
The most depressing example that describes the 2023 season is when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was picked off second base with runners on second and third and Bo Bichette in a full count.
Something has got to change.
The lack of clutch hitting:
Toronto out-hit Minnesota in the series, but they only managed to score one run in 18 innings, including only hitting one extra-base hit.
On top of Guerrero Jr. being picked off with two runners in scoring position, the Blue Jays had an opportunity in the next inning. After Santiago Espinal hit an infield single (there only hit with runners in scoring position on Wednesday), Matt Chapman grounded into a double play to end the inning, and essentially the Jays’ season.
What made this even more painful is that on the pitch before, Chapman’s hard-hit ball landed a foot foul, which would have likely cleared the bases giving the Jays the lead.
So what’s next?:
All this begs the question… what happens in 2024?
In all honesty, I don’t know, but I have some ideas. The bullpen, which was great in 2023, is locked down for the 2024 season, say for Jordan Hicks. It’s a similar situation for the rotation. Kevin Gausman, José Berríos, Yusei Kikuchi, and Chris Bassitt all had a sub-four ERA, and all are under contract for next season.
They may look to fill the backend of the rotation, but there’s an equal chance that they hope and pray that Alek Manoah can find his 2021-22 form.
That leaves the bats, which is the biggest area of concern by far. Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, Kevin Kiermaier, and Whit Merrifield are all expiring free agents. That’s a lot of holes to be filled, and while some may be filled internally (Spencer Horwitz for Belt, Davis Schneider for Whit Merrifield), the vacancies at third base and centre field aren’t so clear.
Well, it’s evident that Daulton Varsho will likely replace Kiermaier in centre field, but that leaves a hole in left field, and that may be the position the Jays go after in free agency. Cody Bellinger anyone?
As for Chapman, does he accept a qualifying offer? Perhaps. If he doesn’t, the Blue Jays will get a fourth-rounder and could replace the departing former Platinum Glove Winner with either Orelvis Martinez or Addison Barger. There aren’t a lot of options in free agency, and none are as good as Chapman.
As for the non-player roles… well, I don’t think anyone is safe at this point.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads @Brennan_L_D.
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