What if the Yankees – a team that won 103 games last year without Gerrit Cole – are going to make mistakes so we shouldn’t expect perfect baseball from anyone. Like, for example, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Thursday night, the Blue Jays had the chance to take advantage of the return of the Mets and draw even with the Yankees in the standings. It took them over four hours and there were plenty of frustrating moments along the way, but the Blue Jays ultimately beat the Red Sox 6-2 in 10 innings. At this point in the season, the Blue Jays and Yankees have identical 20-16 records.
Thanks to some solid throws, the Blue Jays stayed in the game long enough to overcome some missed opportunities. First, starter Taijuan Walker made his second effective start since joining the Blue Jays last week. Then, the Blue Jays pen kept things close with good work from Anthony Kay, Thomas Hatch, Ryan Borucki and Rafael Dolis.
Finally, Teoscar Hernandez gave the Blue Jays the offense they expected. With two runs up in the tenth inning, Hernandez had a three-run home run on the opposite court to give the Blue Jays the lead.
“It was huge,” Walker said. “He’s one of the best hitters in baseball right now. He came big for us.
Hernandez now has 13 home runs this season, tied for the MLB lead.
“I feel pretty good right now,” he admitted.
Still, the Blue Jays made their way Thursday. The most obvious mistake came early in the fourth inning with the Blue Jays down 1-0. A Lourdes Gurriel Jr. pop-up fell into shallow right field, allowing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to reach third place with two outs. But instead of holding third, Guerrero Jr. fled home, where second baseman Michael Chavis threw him by a wide margin.
“When you’re sent off from this far, it’s a bad decision,” manager Charlie Montoyo admitted.
It’s the kind of mistake that has become all too common for the Blue Jays, who have made more base strikeouts than any baseball team. Considering that Guerrero Jr. isn’t a burner, it’s best to stay third there, just as it would have been better to stay on the second Tuesday when the Marlins picked him up.
At the same time, these mistakes stand out more than usual at a time when the Blue Jays lead MLB in one-inning games. And as Montoyo says, they don’t come from lack of effort. To some extent, they are the by-product of a team that learns on the fly.
“We are still developing, even though we are in the big leagues,” Montoyo said before the game. “We have a lot of young children. Just because they are part of the big leagues, you have to keep developing and you have to keep teaching.
What if the same error occurs again?
“Just because you said it once, if they make the same mistake, you have to repeat it until it gets better.
At the plateau, the Blue Jays started slowly on Thursday. Red Sox starter Martin Perez held the Blue Jays scoreless until the seventh when Joe Panik batted hard against the southpaw and hit an RBI single in right field.
The next inning, the Blue Jays tied the game 2-2 when Cavan Biggio scored with a backhand and wild pitch from Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier. They had a chance to do some more with Randal Grichuk at third base and no one came out, but Brasier escaped.
Meanwhile, Walker’s Blue Jays second start was almost as effective as the first. He allowed just two earned runs in 5.2 innings of work, and the second of those runs came on a walk from Kay after Walker left the game with bases loaded.
“I hate coming out of the game,” Walker said. “I never like to get out of the game, but Kay did a great job limiting damage and escaping it with just one set. ”
While this is a frustrating way for the outing to end, there’s no denying that Walker did his part to keep the Red Sox off balance most of the night. At this point, he looks like their second-best starter behind only Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Considering that the Blue Jays have drawn even with the Yankees within weeks of the end of the season, the playoffs look less like a beautiful “what if” and more like a realistic result. At some point this month, the Blue Jays would like to give some serious thought to a playoff rotation. At this rate, maybe Ryu and Walker will cope with it.
Either way, there is a lot of talent in this team, both in their throws and in their players. Yet games like this show that there is still some development left. The more the Blue Jays can learn on the fly, the better their chances of showcasing their talent.
“It comes down to the little things,” Walker said. “It comes down to smart baserunning, smart games, a good pitch. It’s really exciting and we can use that to our advantage, but we can’t look too far.