Three Key Things from the Blue Jays’ sweep over the Kansas City Royals
Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
By Evan Stack10 days ago
Yeah, it was the Kansas City Royals, but the Toronto Blue Jays did what they needed to do by sweeping the AL Central basement dwellers this weekend. Now that we’re well into September, games become more magnified by the day. Every pitch, run, at-bat, and substitution could very well be a reason that the Blue Jays make or miss the postseason.
Let’s take a look at three points that stood out from this series win.
1) They took care of business
Again, I know that they played the Royals and that this is exactly what Toronto was supposed to do. But I’m sure the Rangers were supposed to sweep Oakland too, right? Nothing is given in the MLB, and while this was an “easier” series on paper, we’d be having a different conversation if the Blue Jays only won two of three, or even lost the series.
This was Toronto’s eighth series sweep of the season, and only their third against teams with a record below .500. Taking care of business included taking advantage of other team’s failure to do so. The Rangers took only two of three from Oakland, and the Mariners were swept by Tampa Bay, allowing Toronto to gain more ground and take control of the second Wild Card spot.
2) The bats were clutch when they needed to be
More often than not, the Blue Jays have left fans wanting more from their offence, especially when it comes to hitting with two outs, hitting with RISP, or needing a clutch hit late in games. That was a 140-game-old story for this team, but they delivered this weekend when it mattered most.
The Blue Jays trailed the Royals 2-1 in the 7th inning on Friday night, but Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. delivered back-to-back run-scoring hits with two outs to give Toronto the lead for good. Bichette and Guerrero have been Toronto’s best hitters in clutch situations this year; Bichette is hitting .341 with a 1.029 OPS with two outs and RISP, with Guerrero hitting .364 with a .999 OPS in those same situations.
On Sunday, Kevin Kiermaier provided a timely moment of his own, hitting a go-ahead solo home run with two outs in the 7th inning. Kiermaier, still elated from his clutch hit, grabbed the mic during his postgame interview to fire the crowd up and essentially promise postseason play. It’s very clear that this man loves the city of Toronto and being a Blue Jay.
One thing that may fly under the radar is Santiago Espinal’s execution of an RBI bunt single on Sunday. With runners on the corners and one out, Espinal laid down a perfect bunt single that not only allowed a run to score but was also good enough for him to reach first. We’ve all – including myself – been critical of the Blue Jays’ inability to execute those “little things” this year, especially when John Schneider gave the publicized speech this spring about utilizing those very plays correctly. If we bash them for not doing them well then, it’s only fair to credit them when they’re successful now.
3) The starting pitching was excellent
Save for Alek Manoah, it’d be hard to ask any more of the starting pitching than what they’ve given you to this point in the season. As a team, Toronto ranks 1st in the MLB in ERA, second in strikeouts, and sixth in quality starts. The Blue Jays also have three starters that rank in the top 10 of the American League in innings pitched, speaking to the durability that this staff has been able to provide.
This weekend was no exception to the above; Yusei Kikuchi, Kevin Gausman, and Jose Berrios combined to allow only four earned runs over 20 innings pitched, as well as record 25 strikeouts. Gausman and Berrios both posted impressive streaks of 11 and 13 consecutive batters retired, respectively, with Gausman only allowing four baserunners all day. You could’ve made an argument to leave Kikuchi in the game on Friday night as he had only pitched five innings on 88 pitches, but even with that, keeping the bullpen to only seven innings of work should be another win in Toronto’s book.
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