Three Key Things: Blue Jays take two of three from Seattle behind strong starting pitching

Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Stack
16 days ago
In front of the once again newly-renovated Rogers Centre for the first time this season, the Blue Jays won their first series of the 2024 season during a three-game tilt against the Seattle Mariners. On paper, the matchup wasn’t extremely favourable towards the Jays, given their sluggish offensive start coupled with the calibre of starting pitchers that they were set to face. However, in front of a couple of good crowds (including a “Work from Dome” day), Toronto won a home series against the Mariners for the third straight season. Here are the Three Key Things that I took from it.

They weren’t Seattle’s “get right” series

Surely, this happens to every team at some point. Whether it’s a slumping hitter, a struggling pitcher, or an underwhelming team as a whole, you never want to be someone’s “get right” game and/or series. Losing the final game wasn’t fun, but a five-run 10th inning on Wednesday didn’t dictate how Seattle played for the majority of the series. The Mariners were about on par with how they’d been playing through their first 10 games of the season entering this week.
The Blue Jays limited Seattle to a .190 batting average throughout the three-game series. While they did flex their muscles with five home runs, seven of their eleven runs for the series came by way of the home run, so they definitely continued to struggle to make runs. Again, five of their eleven runs for the entire series came in one inning—Toronto was the superior team for the good majority of this series.
In fact, the “get right” series was more for Toronto, honestly. Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. launched a pair of impactful homers, Cavan Biggio went 4-for-9 to lift his OBP to .400, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa posted a 5-for-8 series, improving his batting average to .313. Furthermore, the Justin Turner signing is paying massive dividends for the Jays thus far. He went 5-for-10 with two walks in this series, bringing his slash line up to .342/.447/.579.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Blue Jays were the better team this week. Plain and simple. With that being said, however, they should’ve swept this series.

The starting pitching was elite

After watching Bowden Francis and Kevin Gausman post rough pitching lines in the Bronx last weekend, it was extremely encouraging to watch the clinic that Toronto’s starting pitchers put on this week. Between Jose Berrios, Chris Bassitt, and Yusei Kikuchi, they pitched 19.1 innings allowing 12 hits, 2 earned runs, and 23 strikeouts.
Berrios has already built quite the resume in only three starts this season, holding a 1.45 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP through 18.2 innings pitched. Berrios was effective and efficient on Monday night; all four hits that he allowed were singles, he pitched three 1-2-3 innings, and had two innings in which he only faced four batters. We’re now starting to see Berrios rewrite the narrative of his contract extension, as the positives outweigh so many of the negatives.
Bassitt had the best start of his young season, pitching 6.2 innings and allowing five hits, one run, four walks, and eight strikeouts. In his previous two starts, Bassitt hadn’t pitched past the fifth inning and had given up eight earned runs total. John Schneider gave Bassitt a relatively longer leash as he threw 115 pitches on Tuesday night, but generating 13 total whiffs across five different pitches will earn you that right.
Speaking of whiffs, did you know Kikuchi had not had a whiff on his slider until Wednesday’s game? Well, he got six yesterday, part of his six-inning, one-run, nine-strikeout performance. Kikuchi hadn’t allowed nine strikeouts since April 15th, 2023 during a home start against the Rays. Against the Mariners, his fastball and slider reached max velocities of 97 and 92 mph, respectively, and his only mistake was walking the No. 8 batter, Dylan Moore and allowing the top of Seattle’s order to drive him in. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays have not scored a run this season while Kikuchi has been on the mound so that certainly didn’t help his cause either.

Chad Green – the closer

He gave up a home run in the first game of this series, but the Blue Jays relied on Chad Green to finish both of the two victories this week. Green has fallen under the radar quite a bit since being a Blue Jay, mainly because he missed the majority of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but his value is coming into play now more than last season. With Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano out (and on the mend!), Green has pitched three high-leverage outings and has allowed only one single through six at-bats, and he’s posted a 3.18 ERA in five total appearances.
Green and Yimi Garcia (1.59 ERA, 0.529 WHIP, 12.7 K/9) have filled in nicely as the primary high-leverage arms, and it’ll spoil Blue Jays fans to know that these guys will still be there when Swanson and Romano return.


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