KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Toronto Blue Jays began their post-Jose Reyes era with their second straight win and third in four games, creeping back to within a game of the .500 mark. They’re going to bring their brooms to Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon with Brandon Morrow on the mound.
Here are three things that stood out to me about Saturday night in K.C.
THAT’S MORE LIKE IT
Blue Jays fans haven’t seen nearly enough dominant outings from their starting pitchers this season, and they’ve had every right to expect them to given the five gentlemen who line up to take the ball.
Morrow was terrific against the Indians in his first start of the season, and J.A. Happ threw 5.1 innings of one-hitter against the Red Sox his first time out, but through the first 10 games of the season no Blue Jays starter saw the light of the seventh inning.
R.A. Dickey changed that, though. With his knuckleball knuckling as it hadn’t in his first two sorties, Dickey took a four-hit shutout into the seventh before giving up a one-out double to Jarrod Dyson, who later scored on a bunt single off reliever Darren Oliver.
Dickey kept the Royals off-balance all night, working quickly and constantly getting ahead in the count. He only walked two in delivering a very strong outing, and one which he didn’t seem terribly happy to leave after 100 pitches.
More of the same from Dickey — and some of that from his mates in the rotation — will help out the Blue Jays quite a bit as they deal with the loss of Reyes.
DIG THE NEW GUY
Munenori Kawasaki was a late addition to the Blue Jays’ organization this year, signing a minor-league contract after spring training had already started. Little did they know they’d need him this early as the emergency airlift replacement for Reyes at shortstop. But need him they did, and he made a terrific first impression.
Kawasaki played flawless defence at shortstop, handling every ball hit his way easily and looking awfully smooth starting a 6-4-3 double play in the third inning, and he contributed on offence as well, which wasn’t expected.
Kawasaki’s first plate appearance as a Blue Jay came with Maicer Izturis at third base and one out in the top of the third, and he delivered a fly ball to right field that was just deep enough to drive the run in and give the Jays the early lead. Next time up, Kawasaki drew a leadoff walk in the sixth inning and was eventually ushered home by Jose Bautista’s massive home run down the left-field line.
BRETT CECIL, HIGH-LEVERAGE RELIEVER
Cecil came into spring training fighting for a spot on the roster and maybe even his life as a Blue Jay, but 10 games into the season he’s emerged as a guy John Gibbons can count on to get a big out late in a close game.
Cecil gave up just two hits over his first six innings of work this season, walking three and striking out six while flashing his brand-new, good-old fastball that has touched the mid-90s at times, and left-handed hitters had been completely stymied, hitless in eight at-bats.
So with the tying run on first, two out in the bottom of the eighth and lefty Mike Moustakas coming to the plate, John Gibbons went out to the mound and yanked Sergio Santos and brought in Cecil, who needed all of four pitches to strike out Moustakas and take the game into the ninth with the two-run lead intact.
Cecil was supposed to be a mop-up guy, guaranteed a spot on the roster only because he was out of options. Less than two weeks into the season though, and it appears he could very well wind up being much, much more than that — a very valuable weapon who can be used at the back of the bullpen. That can only help a Blue Jays team that’s really going to need to pitch and pitch awfully well in the absence of their big-time top-of-the-order catalyst.