Three Key Things: Blue Jays show their blueprint for October during series win at Yankee Stadium
Photo credit:© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
By Evan Stack2 months ago
I hope this article is a good read for you all — I got 14 hours of sleep last night thanks to the advice from my main man Yusei Kikuchi.
1) Toronto was no match for New York’s top arms
Michael King and Gerrit Cole were spectacular this week for New York. Between the two, they combined for 15 innings pitched and only two earned runs allowed. On the surface, that’s a good enough recipe for success, but any chance that the Yankees had of winning this series was diminished by their bullpen, especially on Wednesday night.
During this series, New York’s bullpen tallied seven innings of work allowing 12 hits, 8 runs, and 8 (!) walks. The Blue Jays were bound to win Tuesday night’s game given that they got to Clarke Schmidt early and often, but after King’s masterpiece of a start on Wednesday, the Yankees really blew a chance to win this series.
Wednesday’s game was a large chunk of those above numbers as things really fell apart after King’s aforementioned performance. Tommy Kahnle and Ian Hamilton combined to walk five batters to drive in the go-ahead runs for the Blue Jays in the 8th inning. Although Hamilton was able to keep the ball in the strike zone in the 9th inning, Toronto’s bats didn’t whiff on their swings, as Bo Bichette and Spencer Horwitz drove in three more runs to provide some insurance.
Even Clay Holmes gave the Jays some hope on Thursday night. Cole left the game with a 5-1 lead, but Holmes allowed two runs in the 9th inning to make things interesting. There are still definite concerns about Toronto’s lineup against elite pitching, but that’s why they play all nine innings. Credit the Blue Jays for getting the job done.
2) Speaking of bullpens, let’s talk about Jordan Hicks
Toronto’s prized midseason acquisition has been amongst the league’s best of late, and he hurled two more scoreless innings this week. That makes eleven consecutive outings without an earned run for Hicks, which includes all of his September appearances, four holds, and a save.
Since joining Toronto, Hicks has posted a 2.25 ERA with a 0.90 WHIP, both extremely noticeable improvements from his numbers with the Cardinals this season (3.67 ERA & 1.51 WHIP, respectively). Interestingly enough, Hicks’ K/9 is also down significantly (12.7 to 7.7) since joining the Blue Jays, but at the same time, so is his BB/9 (5.2 to 2.3).
Of course, I’m not involved in pitcher’s meetings or scouting reports, but with as electric as Hicks’ stuff is, his walks have always been an overlying issue. The numbers suggest that the Blue Jays might be telling him to lock in more on pitch location and less on trying to strike out hitters. Get ahead in the count, and then show batters what that high-velocity sinker and slider look like.
Again, I have no idea what goes on behind closed doors and it could just be a coincidence, but Hicks has been more than reliable for Toronto when they’ve needed it, and the numbers are backing that up. Furthermore, given that he is a free agent after this season, he is making himself a heck of a case for the Blue Jays to try and re-sign him.
3) Toronto’s AL East record is getting… better
Toronto looked extremely inferior to the rest of the AL East earlier in the year. At the All-Star break, the Blue Jays were 7-20 against AL East foes, and with how strong the division was showing to be, the Blue Jays were almost forced to play flawlessly against all other opponents in order to avoid potential tie-breaker scenarios that they would surely lose.
Since the All-Star break, however, Toronto has gone 10-6 against their divisional opponents. Granted, eight of those wins have come against the Red Sox and Yankees, and five of those losses are to the Orioles. The Blue Jays can surely rewrite their 2023 AL East narrative with a strong showing against the Rays to end the season, and that could be a sneak preview of a potential Wild Card round matchup.
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