Three Key Things: Blue Jays rollercoaster ride continues in series loss to the Yankees
Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
By Evan Stack1 month ago
The Blue Jays are in a position where they can control their own destiny by taking care of their own business and winning. They had a chance to do so against the underwhelming New York Yankees this week, but the Blue Jays could only win one of the three games even with Aaron Judge sitting out the opener.
The series ended on some extremely positive vibes, though, so let’s take a look at the three keys (good and bad) to how this set unfolded.
1) Gerrit Cole and Michael King — no thanks
Toronto has faced the Yankees twice within the last week, and that means they’ve gotten two doses each of Gerrit Cole and Michael King. After silencing Toronto last week, the duo of Cole and King replicated those efforts this week, combining to pitch fifteen shutout innings allowing only three hits and striking out ten. Cole, specifically, pitched a complete-game shutout on Wednesday, his second this season and the fifth of his career.
Cole’s performances against Toronto over the past week have unofficially solidified his first ever Cy Young award after finishing in the top 5 of Cy Young voting twice throughout his 11-year career. He leads the American League in ERA (2.63), innings pitched (209), ERA+ (166), and WHIP (0.981), but it’s crazy to know that none of those statistics are career-bests.
As for King, the Yankees may have found a piece of their future rotation. King is scheduled to start the final regular season game on Sunday, but unless he has a complete meltdown, he is also bound to finish his 2023 campaign on a high note. In 2022, King was an ascending reliever for New York, but his season was cut short in July due to a fractured elbow. Fortunately, he was able to dodge Tommy John surgery, a procedure that likely would’ve kept him out this season. Through 48 games and eight starts, King has a 2.50 ERA with an 11.3 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9.
Thankfully, Toronto won’t be seeing either of these two guys in the postseason, but they’ll need to figure out adjusting mid-game to elite pitching. Especially in a potential Wild Card round, the Blue Jays will be facing somebody’s first and second-best starters.
2) Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt are playoff ready
A pair of Blue Jays pitchers had scoreless starts of their own: Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt. Now that we’re in late September, these starts could serve as auditions, if you will, for the postseason. Gausman may have already established his spot as a definite Wild Card round starter, but Bassitt is probably in a battle with Jose Berrios for whoever is next in line. Nonetheless, Gausman and Bassitt combined to pitch 14.2 scoreless innings this week, including Bassitt setting some career-highs.
Let’s start with Gausman. The 32-year-old righty has made four starts against the Yankees this season, going seven innings in three of them. In those four games, Gausman has been a pain in New York’s side, allowing only two earned runs through 27 innings (0.67 ERA!), as well as striking out 36 hitters. Hopefully the Blue Jays will clinch a playoff spot before the final day of the season so that they won’t need to use Gausman then, and can have him focus on starting Game 1 of a Wild Card series.
Now for Bassitt, who pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball last night. The innings he tossed in last night’s outing brought him to an even 200 innings on the season, a career-high for Bassitt and the first time he has ever hit that number. He recorded his career-best 16th win of the season in his career-best 32nd start, and he also moved into the top 10 of the American League in strikeouts.
Last night, Bassitt executed a couple of excellent at-bats against Aaron Judge, who sat out Tuesday’s game but smashed a pair of home runs on Wednesday night. Bassitt stayed close to Judge on the inside portion of the plate, striking him out on an up-and-in cutter in the first inning, and getting him to ground out on an inside sinker in the sixth inning. Judge was Bassitt’s final at-bat in the game, and after getting ahead 0-2 and staying inside for most of the game, he pulled the string on a low and away sweeper to strike Judge out swinging to end his night.
It was a classy move by John Schneider, who allowed Bassitt to record two outs in the seventh inning so that he could reach the 200-inning mark. Once he did so, Schneider was able to make a pitching change mid-inning, permitting Bassitt to leave to an almost Marco Estrada Game 5-like standing ovation.
3) Brandon Belt wanted noise, so he provided some
Belt stirred some things up this week when telling reporters that he wanted the fans in the Rogers Centre to be loud during these important games down the stretch. While that may not sound like anything too controversial, it was Toronto’s performance at the plate that was truly not giving fans much to cheer about. Through the first two games of this series, the Blue Jays did not score a single run while only mustering five total hits.
To Belt’s credit, he was the only thing standing in between Gerrit Cole and a perfect game on Wednesday night, owning the only two base hits for the Blue Jays that night. Furthermore, Belt was activated off of the IL prior to Tuesday’s game, so he was facing superior pitching right off the bat.
On Thursday night, Belt brought the noise with a three-run home run in the 6th inning that broke the game wide open. It was Belt’s 17th home run on the season, and it brought his OPS up to .932 when batting in the second spot in the batting order.
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