Three Key Things: Top of the order discourse continues in Toronto’s series loss to Kansas City

Photo credit:© Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Stack
2 months ago
For the first time since April 7th, the Blue Jays found themselves on the losing end of a series. It came at the hands of the up-and-coming Royals, with all three losses in the series being by a one-run differential. A rain-shortened game, a blunder at first base, and a prospect call-up were all a part of this week – here are my Three Key Things from this series.

The top of the order needs to be better — Plain and simple

I’ll give these guys their flowers; Bo Bichette’s three-run triple was a critical component to Monday night’s win, and George Springer’s double and home run on Wednesday were hard-hit balls in play that we haven’t seen in a while. But outside of that, the Blue Jays witnessed several disheartening at-bats from Springer, Bichette, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Springer has drawn more and more conversation, albeit mainly from fans, about moving out of the leadoff spot. His aforementioned double and home run on Wednesday were his first extra-base hits since April 6th, and they both clocked in at 108 mph off the bat. He didn’t post a horrible stat line this week, going 5-for-17 with a pair of runs, and his slash line saw a slight boost as it now stands at .224/.315/.347. With that being said, those numbers are still not where Springer needs to be as Toronto’s leadoff hitter, and there can’t be almost three weeks in between extra-base hits.
Bichette posted a measly 2-for-15 with eight ground ball outs, dropping his slash line to .223/.282/.330. The .612 slugging percentage is unchartered territory for Bichette, and it may just be us waiting for him to get on one of his patented hot stretches at the plate.
That leaves us with Guerrero, who may have been the victim of the most scrutiny at the end of this series. He was 2-for-14 in this series with a pair of singles and a pair of walks. Guerrero continued to pound the ball into the ground, hitting into five ground ball outs and one double play. He also struck out five times, including a couple of whiffs down and away on changeups.
Guerrero also made headlines on Tuesday night when he flat-out whiffed on a ball thrown to him from Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the fifth inning. Had he caught the ball cleanly, it would’ve been the last out of the inning, and the Blue Jays (and Kevin Gausman) would’ve been in line for a win. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it was the only reason Toronto lost the game – a 2-for-10 mark with RISP won’t help any cause – but Vladdy’s play certainly made a big impact.
What makes this worse for the Blue Jays is that these three guys aren’t slumping at different times, they’re slumping all at once. Much like the rest of this season, this series lacked a lot of energy on offence from the Jays, much like the attendance average of 10,345 this week. A potent lineup that used to boast swagger and dominance is moving further and further away from that, and given their three losses in this series came by one run, it’s costing them wins. These guys are capable, but the consistent production has yet to be found.

Addison Barger is here

Few things will inject some life into a baseball team like a top prospect being called up. 3B/OF Addison Barger got the call-up late Tuesday/early Wednesday in response to Kevin Kiermaier’s hip injury, and Toronto’s 6th-ranked prospect made his highly anticipated debut just a matter of hours later.
Barger was entrusted with left field duties, a position he had never played prior to Wednesday. Being the cruel game baseball is, the ball found him immediately. Barger misplayed his first fly ball opportunity in the second inning on a slicing double from Kyle Isbel. Isbel would end up at third on the play and would ultimately come into score one batter later.
Barger made quite the quick adjustment, as he made a tremendous catch in left just one inning later. Playing a new position in your major league debut surely cannot be preferable, but Barger is spoiled in that he can head to the dugout and learn from guys like Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho.
Barger wasn’t able to collect his first major league hit, but he did possess the second-longest distance travelled on the night with a 397-foot fly out to center in his first at-bat. Barger put together some nice at-bats and will have several more opportunities to work his way into Toronto’s lineup, and any production he can provide may also add some juice to the possibility of Orelvis Martinez making his debut at some point soon.

The bullpen pitched a really good series

Save for a solo home run on Monday night allowed by Jordan Romano, the Blue Jays bullpen did not allow a single run throughout this series. They were aided by Thursday’s shortened game as well, but the Blue Jays had multiple relievers who have gotten off to tough starts to the season and have nice outings this week.
Lefty Tim Mayza pitched his second straight clean inning on Tuesday night, and Genesis Cabrera worked out of a jam on Wednesday in which he inherited runners on first and second with no one out and did not allow either of them to score. Mayza and Cabrera’s ERAs dropped to 7.27 and 8.00, respectively, but getting those two back to what they were last season can take this bullpen from good to great. Erik Swanson pitched his first scoreless inning of the season on Monday, striking out a batter and allowing one hit.
Circling back to Romano – the Canadian righty earned his 100th career save on Monday night. This is Romano’s sixth MLB season, and he has accumulated a career 19-15 record, 2.70 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and an 11.3 K/9 throughout it.

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