Three Key Things: The offense showed some sparks, but still left a lot of questions in series loss to the Yankees

Photo credit:© Wendell Cruz - USA Today
Evan Stack
2 months ago
After being no-hit and one-hit in a matter of three days last week, the Blue Jays hoped to find a little more success in the Bronx over the weekend. A tie-breaking and ultimately game-winning home run from Ernie Clement led them to a victory on Friday, but the final two games of the series were filled with “There it goes! See ya!” from Michael Kay and the P.C. Richards & Son’s whistle melody after Toronto strikeouts. Here are my Three Key Things after Toronto’s series loss to the Yankees.

Toronto and New York had the same scenario to decide Sunday’s game – and New York capitalized

Believe it or not, there’s a world in which Toronto swept this series, but taking advantage of scoring chances wasn’t in the cards this weekend for the Blue Jays. Arguably the biggest separator of the weekend, and Sunday’s contest in particular, was an inning in which both teams had the bases loaded.
Yankees starter Luis Gil turned out to be his own worst enemy on Sunday, as his sporadic command and inability to find rhythm in his sequencing led to four walks in his 4.1 innings pitched. Gil allowed a two-out single to George Springer in the top of the third inning and followed that by hitting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a changeup and walking Bo Bichette to load the bases. Alejandro Kirk walked in a run to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead, but that was all that Toronto could muster out of that situation, as Cavan Biggio struck out looking to end the threat.
Two singles and a walk allowed by Bowden Francis had New York in business with the bases loaded, and he too would allow a bases-loaded walk, this time to Anthony Rizzo. Francis needed just one more out to escape the inning, but he hung a fastball to Giancarlo Stanton who hit his 11th career grand slam and blew the game open.
One or two plays don’t decide the outcome of a baseball game, but they can carry a lot of weight to them. It’s an easy way to gauge how close (or far) two teams are to each other when given the same situation in the same inning. New York made it count. Toronto didn’t.

We saw some fight in the face of adversity, but there were still several missed opportunities

Through the first two series’ of the season in Tampa Bay and Houston, the Blue Jays had posted some uncompetitive scores in their losses. Final tallies of 10-0, 8-0, 5-1, and 8-2 culminated in a -28 run differential in losses for the Blue Jays in those series’, and while all losses count as one, Toronto was following a trend of staying down if they ever got down.
Games two and three in the Bronx this weekend were a sight for sore eyes, however, as the Blue Jays faced steep deficits early in those games, but managed to battle back and make things interesting. Saturday night’s affair featured Yankee leads of 6-0 and 9-2, but the Blue Jays scored six unanswered runs in the final three innings, eventually losing 9-8. Eight different players registered an RBI a piece in that game, including a solo home run from Guerrero Jr., the first Blue Jays RBI for Daniel Vogelbach, and a clutch pinch-hit, two-out RBI knock from Biggio in the 9th inning.
More than anything else, the Blue Jays had a 6-for-16 night with four walks from the top four of Toronto’s order. If the Jays had any chance of winning this game, they needed their best bats to be present.
It’s encouraging to see the comebacks, but they were losses at the end of the day, and this team needs to be held to a higher standard. Vogelbach ran into an out on the base paths in the 7th inning of Saturday’s game, a strikeout was taken away from Kevin Gausman due to a questionable catcher’s interference call on Brian Serven, and a run scored on a wild pitch from Trevor Richards with two outs on Sunday’s game killed momentum for the Jays, who were attempting to mount another comeback.
Finally, nothing yells “opportunities” like having runners on base, and the Yankees were far better than Toronto in the latter two games of the series with runners on. Between those two games, Toronto was 5-for-24 with RISP, leaving a total of 22 men on base, while the Yankees were 6-for-16 with RISP, and left 14 men on base.

Yusei Kikuchi bounced back, Kevin Gausman had an odd outing

Although it was the home opener for the New York Yankees and the Yankee Stadium debut for Juan Soto, Yusei Kikuchi had little to no problem quieting the home crowd on Friday afternoon. In his first start of the season, Kikuchi allowed six hits, three runs, and three walks  against the Rays. In his second start this past weekend, he allowed only four hits, two walks, and no runs while striking out seven across 5.1 innings pitched, which lowered his season ERA to 2.79. Per Sportsnet Stats on X, Kikuchi’s 1.67 ERA is the 10th-lowest ERA among visiting pitchers within their first seven starts at Yankee Stadium.
Dan Shulman mentioned during Sunday’s broadcast that Kikuchi struggled with his slider grip prior to the start due to the cold weather, so he diverted to the curveball as his top secondary pitch, throwing it nearly twice as much as his slider.
Conversely, Gausman pitched his shortest outing as a Blue Jay on Saturday night, lasting only an inning and a third and allowing four hits, five earned runs, two walks, and no strikeouts. Those numbers were concerning, but what was more concerning to Blue Jays fans was the velocity of Gausman’s pitches. His fastball normally sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, but it averaged 91.4 miles an hour on Saturday. Along the same lines, his splitter (82.3 mph avg.) and his slider (78.3 mph avg.) were also down notably.
It didn’t seem as if this performance was injury-related, as Gausman said after the game that he couldn’t establish a rhythm in the cold. If the pitching rotation stays where it’s at, Gausman is in line to get some revenge on April 17th when the Blue Jays host the Yankees at the Rogers Centre.


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