The Blue Jays focused on tightening the game in close games after the all-star break – .

The Blue Jays focused on tightening the game in close games after the all-star break – .

DENVER – Tampa Bay Rays coach Kevin Cash is well aware of what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is capable of after watching the Toronto Blue Jays beat his pitchers for five home runs and a .913 OPS in 13 games until present this season.
Serving as the manager of the American League All-Star team gave him a different take on Guerrero and the close gaze didn’t offer him much comfort.

“Everyone’s saying how good he is and how good he will be,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “I’m not happy he’s that good because he’s in our division. But, listen, meet him and all these guys, so much appreciation and respect. And Vladdy is just a fun talent that we are all going to see for many years to come.

The Blue Jays return to play after the break 6.5 games behind the top Rays Cash and 4.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics, who currently hold second place. They are eight games behind the American League East leaders Boston Red Sox, but have a chance to reverse the standings with 10 games against them over the next three weeks.

Guerrero maintaining his MVP pace is undoubtedly key to this and his garish numbers against the Red Sox – .486 / .561 / .971 with four homers and 11 RBIs in nine games – bode well for this series.

But the Blue Jays are back on schedule at 45-42 largely because they haven’t played tight enough in close games, going 6-10 in one-point competitions, 7-12 in business. in two points and 2-5 in extra innings. In contrast, they’re 14-9 in flares decided by at least five points.

That’s why second baseman Marcus Semien immediately replied ‘close games’, when asked in which area the Blue Jays need to improve most in the last two and a half months of the season. .

“A lot of our wins have been big breakouts and you get to close games and we don’t do as well,” he continued. “It takes a better pitch, better defense and timely hitting. This is always what happens in close matches. We know we can blow up a team some nights because we have the sticks to do it, it’s those other games that we need to tighten up.

Endgame leverage is the main culprit, they lost nine games leading after six innings. Additionally, they lost seven times when they were tied for seven and six times when they were tied for eight, a major reason the Blue Jays underperformed an expected loss record of 50-37. based on their plus-72 point differential.

Even if they only converted half of those games, the standings would be completely different, with the recent additions of Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards to the reliever box designed to fill a critical gap.

Further additions are also expected, with trade negotiations set to resume after becoming “cold” during the project, in the words of an executive.

“We’ve shown what we’re capable of and it’s really important for us to know that as a team,” said shortstop Bo Bichette. “In the second half we have to come out and do it. We have a way to go, but we think we can do it and it should be fun. “

An all-star they could have had:

Throughout the offseason, there seemed to be an obvious match between the needy Blue Jays and the acquisition of 2020 trade deadline Taijuan Walker. Instead, he lingered in the open market until spring training when he signed a creative deal with the New York Mets that guaranteed him $ 23 million over three seasons.

What happened with the Blue Jays?

“Honestly, I’m really not sure. I still wonder why not? Walker said. “I spoke to a few guys there, players, coaches and staff, and I thought it was going to happen. And it is not. This is how it feels, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be right now. I’m in a good position and I am part of a very good team at the moment.

Without a doubt, Walker’s 2.50 ERA in 90 innings in 16 starts has helped the Mets build a 3.5-game lead atop the National League East. He struck out 89 batters against a WHIP of 1.033 while allowing just six homers.

Those numbers would certainly have looked good for a Blue Jays team Walker wanted to join because of the “young guys.” He kept in touch with pitching coach Pete Walker throughout the winter – “he helped me with some things, so I really appreciate him for that,” he said – but that does not occur.

“I knew they were going to be a really good team, a lot of young stallions,” Walker said. “I mean they have four stars here, they probably should have had another one at Robbie Ray, he threw lights. But just the way they play the game, they play the game hard. I was really intrigued by it and had a great time there.

An all-star who escaped:

Locking up Ray was the Blue Jays’ first deal over the winter and had they been successful, a multi-year deal with Kevin Gausman would have quickly followed.

Instead, the right-hander ended up accepting the San Francisco Giants’ extended $ 18.9 million qualifying offer, betting on himself to deliver a big season and then return to the free agent market. without issue. Good decision, as he delivered a 1.73 ERA in 114.2 innings in 18 starts, striking out 133 batters with a microscopic WHIP of 0.820.

“More than anything, the decision was made on comfort,” Gausman said. “It’s hard to want to sign somewhere for several years when you don’t know what to expect, especially adding all the COVID-19 (uncertainty). The fact that they’re in Buffalo has nothing to do with my decision, but after the fact you think about these things and you’re like, “Maybe we made the right decision. “I love Toronto, it’s one of my favorite cities, I’ve always loved playing there. He has a special place in my heart because I made my debut in Toronto and they made me a very competitive offer.

“But the $ 18.9 million one was just too much to pass up and I was going back to a place where I felt comfortable with everyone I knew was going to be in place, from the pitching coach.” to the manager, to all the strength coaches, knowing that they were just going to let me do what I did the year before and managed to do it. All of these things are taken into account. “

By performing so well, he’s positioned himself extremely well for an intriguing pitching market that will include Ray, Clayton Kershaw, Marcus Stroman, Dylan Bundy, and Noah Syndergaard.

“I would be lying if I said there weren’t times in spring training where I was like, ‘Dude, maybe I should have signed a multi-year contract. “But it was more just betting on myself and, yeah, it feels good when it works for sure,” Bundy said. “Even at the start of my career, when I was in trouble, I always had confidence in myself. And it may be naive to look back. But every time I didn’t have success, it was almost like I was just bad luck or they were just lucky, you know? Maybe it was just me who was naive. But somehow it kept me going.

Accessories for Vlad Part I:

“He’s dominating the American League right now with a bat in his hand. He profits. He should be. ” – Cash.

Accessories for Vlad Part II:

” It’s amazing. I remember seeing him in the home run competition a few years ago, and a youngster taking center stage and playing in front of the crowd and continuing to play like he did in this derby m ‘showed something. Obviously watched his career and he became one of the stars of the game. So I don’t know if he was sitting on the slider (on his home run), but man, (Corbin) Burnes is a hell of a pitcher and he got every piece of that baseball. And also with Vlad the next at bat he had a run-in situation and hit a ground ball to lead in a race. These are the things I love about baseball players. – Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

Memories of the Jays-Baltimore Orioles rivalry:

“The rivalry was so good because the teams were so good. It was power against power, and good pitch against good pitch. We have Aaron Sanchez on our team (in San Francisco) and I was talking to Sanchie from Toronto on a Friday night at the time, when everyone in the division was really good. It was the place to be. This place was moving, the whole city was into the Toronto game that night and it made for a really fun environment. The joker game in ’16 is one of my fondest memories. – Gausman.


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