There was a collapse of Ross Stripling in the first inning in an uncompetitive loss a week ago to the Red Sox, followed by a collapse of Rafael Dolis in the ninth inning the next day, evaporating a late lead as Boston took it. two out of three.
There was one more loss to the Tampa Bay Rays 24 hours later as the Blue Jays had the opportunity to win the game with just a run to the 10th and 11th while wasting a brave effort in the process. Then another failed lead, and another strong wasted throwing performance (Robbie Ray’s seven innings of the ball to one run) in a narrow loss the next day.
On Sunday, the bullpen groped over the one-yard line, as Tyler Chatwood sat fuming in the dugout watching Travis Bergen walk through three of his baserunners with two in the ninth. Then on Monday, after an inspired attack overcame early and late deficits of five and two points, after Stripling returned to throw seven shutout frames his team desperately needed, that exhausted enclosure coughed and stammered and allowed a touchdown converted to the 11th.
Make it a four-game sweep, a sixth straight loss and what was to be a terribly calm flight to New York for this week’s series with the Yankees. All in all, this was a club overdue for a trick or two of luck. And some of that baseball luck finally arrived in the Bronx on Tuesday, as the Blue Jays won for the first time in a week, 6-2 over the Yankees.
“I wasn’t panicking because we were playing good baseball. When you’re not playing baseball well, you say, “Oh, what can we do to improve? But we played good baseball all the time, ”said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “And today, everything turned out in our direction. And, of course, it starts on the mound.
That’s the case, with Toronto starter Steven Matz, who was playing on easy mode, executing 16 puffs while striking out 10 and keeping the Yankees one run on six hits in 6.2 innings. With his paddock in the battered state it is, Montoyo rolled Matz as far as he could, pushing the southpaw to 112 shots – the most he’s thrown in an outing since June 2019, and the fourth in all outings in his seven-season career.
“He was sure. He was throwing all his pitches for strikes. He was strong. So it was easy for me to send him back with 90 something throws, ”Montoyo said. “He was facing a good formation. So when we scored five it was a lot easier to get him to 112. He was really good. “
Matz has long had strong tricks, carrying two above-average MLB shots in his sharp lead and shifting gear. But on Tuesday he had more. He was throwing his lead half a mile an hour harder than he usually does, sitting at 95.3 mph while executing seven swinging strikes with his pitch of adjustment. And while his change was there as usual – albeit a bit high at times – it was a tight 90 mph slider that Matz most often went out of his fastball, leading him through the hands. many New York right-handed hitters. Matz threw it so hard it often looked more like a cutter.
“In the pen of the readings before the game, it was actually a bit big. It was a bit too big. And it was something that me and [Blue Jays pitching coach] Pete [Walker] were talking about, ”Matz said of his slider. “I was really trying to stay behind it more than trying to get around it. And so, I think it was just a gradual thing. But Pete kind of highlighted that for me in the relieving pen before the game.
And Matz’s exit could have been even better if he hadn’t been on the wrong side of two borderline strike decisions in 1-2 and 2-2 against Clint Frazier with two strikeouts in the seventh. This forced Matz to drop a fastball on home plate and watch Frazier hammer him down center left for a brace. Then it was a slider to Kyle Higashioka, who the Yankees wide receiver tore down the left field line to cash Frazier and end Matz’s night.
Fortunately, the Blue Jays were working with some margin of error thanks to a five-runner that the offense put up in seven innings despite three failures in the first two. It started when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went over Yankees starter Corey Kluber in the third – his 16th MLB lead was a 114.7 mph missile over the fence on the opposite field – who, well, what else is new? It’s amazing that Guerrero is still featured.
The head of MLB WAR is on the kind of world-destroying tears for Toronto fans of a recent vintage regularly watched by Edwin Encarnacion. He’s taking on the kind of disciplined, selective, and punished-all-off-the-plate trips that Jose Bautista has built one of the Blue Jays’ greatest careers in. He’s racking up counting stats – Guerrero ranks in the American League’s top three in every triple crown category – with the kind of increasingly deep cellar production fans Carlos Delgado will remember.
“What he’s doing right now and what he’s going to accomplish for the rest of the season is amazing. It’s amazing, ”said Lourdes Gurriel Jr.“ I would say his confidence right now is so high that we in the dugout, every time he goes to hit, we think he is going to hit a home run. That’s what he’s showing right now. Lots of confidence. “
But he needs help. Toronto’s bottom line was a barren stretch on that losing skid, as injuries to George Springer, Cavan Biggio and Alejandro Kirk forced the bench players into daily roles. The only exception is Gurriel, who piloted the BABIP express through its deep early-season funk and had two more wins on Tuesday, his seventh multi-shot effort in his last nine games.
“I just focus on every batting, every swing. I’m just trying to have good contact. It paid off, the work I did. I got there early on, I worked really hard. I’m feeling great right now, ”Gurriel said. “I know I went through a crisis at the start of the season. But things are happening. What I’m showing right now is me. This is the kind of hitter that I am.
Gurriel’s night featured a fourth inning homerun against Yankees reliever Michael King (Kluber left the game after three innings due to a tightness in his right shoulder) and a seventh inning single to load up the bases with a withdrawal for Santiago Espinal.
A utility infielder with a career of .600 OPS, Espinal is exactly the sort of part-time player currently overexposed at the low end of Montoyo’s lineup. And the 0-2 tally he quickly found himself in, followed by the soft ground ball he sent short, demonstrated why.
But the Yankees made a mess, as Gleyber Torres’ home pitch skipped Higashioka, allowing a pair of points to score on the kind of lucky break game the Blue Jays couldn’t buy this week. last. The kind, by the way, they couldn’t buy while blocking nine baserunners in the first six innings of Tuesday’s game.
“It looks like for the last six games we’ve been in every game. But we weren’t lucky that the other teams got it, ”said Montoyo. “And it was great that we had this chance today. It helped us win the game. I am really happy that this has happened.
But it can never be easy. In the seventh, Matz handed the ball over to Chatwood, a reliable weapon for the high-leverage Blue Jays in the first six weeks of the season, whose equipment has been far less efficient and well-located in recent outings ( Tuesday was the fourth time in his last five appearances that Chatwood hasn’t recorded a swinging strike, a length in which he has five marches against three strikeouts).
And so, Chatwood walked the first batter he faced on five pitches. But a good cutter from Luke Voit produced the ground ball he needed, blocking two. Returning for the eighth, Chatwood’s first pitch was a loud one on Gleyber Torres’ warning lane, and the next four were nowhere near the zone, as Aaron Judge took his free pass. But again, Chatwood got the floor ball he needed – this time on a pitch right in the middle of home plate, it has to be said – as Gio Urshela launched into a late-inning double play.
“It’s going to happen, because it’s such a long season,” Montoyo said of the recent Chatwood tremors. “Rescuers will not be turned off every time. He’s probably going through that right now. He walks people. But he will get it back. And he still did the job. He hasn’t been as good the last two outings. But it’s such a long season that not every reliever will be good every time. Then he will be fine.
It’s definitely a long season, never more important to remember than during a particularly difficult six-game losing streak at the end of May. No one can fault you for covering your eyes. It hurts, which has happened to the Blue Jays lately. It is as if the sky is falling.
But recency bias is a hell of a drug. And when you zoom out to find a team hanging out around a game over .500 at the end of May with the eighth best points differential in baseball, after playing one of the most fixtures. tough in the MLB, having spent the second-highest road time of any club AL, having suffered 14 of 23 losses by two points or less, and still having 32 games to play against the 17-30 Baltimore Orioles , the Detroit 18-29 Tigers and the Minnesota 18-29 Twins, it doesn’t look as bad as it sounds.
It has certainly been a difficult time. But every team goes through it – the good ones too. Just a month ago, those same Yankees were in freefall, with their contender status openly called into question after a poor 9-13 start to the year. They started just three out of .500 games last week – looking at the Blue Jays in the standings – before securing six straight wins.
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost 15 of 20 games they played between April 18 and May 9, falling to third in the NL West. But they have only lost once since and have come back to the top of the table. The Houston Astros, the fourth-best points differential in the MLB and currently four out of .500 games, have lost 9 out of 10 at one point.
It’s a baseball season. You ride the highs, deal with the lows, and try to get out the other side after doing more of the first than the second. And if you can find your way to a little luck along the way, that always helps, too.
“I think everyone has a lot of confidence in this team at this clubhouse. We have a lot of veterans who have had a long season, ”said Matz. “They know that throughout the season you’re going to go through ups and downs. So I think these types of personalities in the clubhouse are really helpful. We played some really good baseball – we just lost a few tight games here and there. So no one was panicking.