Three Key Things: Shohei Ohtani and the Dodgers prove superior to the Blue Jays with a weekend series win

Photo credit:© Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Stack
1 month ago
Make that two straight series losses for the Blue Jays, and although they were able to salvage the final game of the series on Sunday against the Dodgers, Toronto heads into the next series under .500 at 14-15. If nothing else, the Jays got a reality check on who and what they need to be if they want to compete with the league’s best. Here are my Three Key Things from Toronto’s first home series against the Dodgers since 2016.

LA’s stars set the tone, Toronto’s did not

Monday’s game left zero doubt who the better team was on the field. Tuesday’s game was a lot closer on paper, but there was still a noticeable gap between both teams. It’s becoming a commonality amongst these articles to highlight Toronto’s top of the order, and here we go again.
George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette combined to go 5-for-30 with two doubles, one RBI, a walk, and one double play. Against a team of the Dodgers’ calibre, that’s simply not going to get the job done. There’s no doubt they’d be the first people to admit that, but if Toronto’s offence has any chance of finding a consistent rhythm, it’s going to start with these guys if they are going to stay at the top of the order.
In the other dugout, Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, and Freddie Freeman combined to go 11-for-34 with two doubles, a triple, seven RBIs, and five walks. Those three tied Toronto’s run total as a team for the series. Ohtani only contributed to two of those hits, but one was a 360-foot home run in his first at-bat of the series and the other was a 119.2 mph RBI single on Saturday. Of course, both of those hits came after being greeted with boos throughout the weekend, as many Blue Jays fans still haven’t gotten over his offseason free agency decision.
For team totals, the Dodgers outscored Toronto 17-7, outhit them in the extra-base hit department 13-6, and possessed a 10-for-35 mark with RISP versus Toronto’s 2-for-16. On a positive note, Alejandro Kirk hit his first home run of the season on Sunday, and Davis Schneider had a 2-for-6 weekend with a pair of doubles, an RBI, and two walks.

Slowly but surely, here comes Kevin Gausman

After a couple of concerning starts to kick off the season, Kevin Gausman has pieced together three consecutive productive outings that include two quality starts and his first win of the season. Last week, against Kansas City, Gausman took the loss despite throwing 6.2 innings and not allowing an earned run. He surrendered eight baserunners throughout his outing, but it was Guerrero Jr.’s fielding error at first base that ultimately led to Kansas City’s only runs.
Sunday afternoon, a solo home run from Freeman was the only blemish on Gausman’s stat line as he tossed 7 innings with five hits, the aforementioned run, no walks, and five strikeouts. He was almost destined to have a solid outing after he retired Betts, Ohtani, and Freeman in order to start the game, and from there, he had only one inning in which he faced more than four batters.
Gausman’s performance helped the Blue Jays snap a five-game losing streak and keep them from being swept for the first time since September of last year. His next start will come against the Washington Nationals this upcoming weekend. He faced the Nationals late last year and allowed three runs over five innings.
It’s safe to say that Gausman hasn’t reached the levels of his 2023 Cy Young campaign yet; he generated only four whiffs and two strikeouts last week against Kansas City, and he generated eight whiffs and four strikeouts on Sunday against the Dodgers. Both of those figures are lengths behind the 10.6 and 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings that he has posted in his first two years of being a Blue Jay, but if he’s getting outs and getting Toronto in the win column without his best stuff, the team really can’t complain.

Let Yimi Garcia finish what he started

Flame-throwing reliever Yimi Garcia has been nothing short of dominant (pick your word, honestly) to start this season. After Sunday, Garcia owns a 0.68 ERA, 0.53 WHIP, and a 10.8 K/9, as well as his velocities sitting at the best averages of his career.
On Sunday afternoon, Garcia was sent out to pitch the 8th inning with Austin Barnes, Betts and Ohtani due up. He committed a classic baseball wrongdoing, if you will, by walking Barnes (the No. 9 hitter) to start the inning, and would allow a double from Betts directly afterwards. Despite having runners on second and third with no one out, Garcia needed only two pitches to retire Ohtani on an infield pop-out. After the Blue Jays opted to intentionally walk Freeman, Garcia struck out Teoscar Hernandez on three pitches with the bases loaded.
John Schneider elected to play the matchup game, and sub-Tim Mayza in for Garcia, which makes sense considering Max Muncy was the next batter, and he has not hit lefties well this season, although Muncy’s career numbers aren’t very distinguishable between facing either hand. An eight-pitch battle ultimately resulted in a 370-foot flyout, but it took a very close play between Daulton Varsho and George Springer to secure the ball.
Playing the left-on-left game is OK with me, but Garcia has been an absolute stud this season, and he’s earned the right to pitch out of that situation. He had a very similar situation against the Astros on April 2nd, albeit the jam on the bases was pinned on Jose Berrios, so Garcia has handled the high-leverage deals before. Muncy’s at-bat wound up resulting in an out, so a lot of this discourse is pointless, but from my point of view, there wasn’t a need to get too cute with the situation. I’ll see your lefty-versus-lefty argument and raise you a “confidence is sky high after retiring Ohtani and striking out Hernandez” argument. Oh yeah, I’ll also repeat his season stats. That was Garcia’s inning to finish.

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