Wilner on Jays: Kawasaki making strong impression

The Blue Jays placed Munenori Kawasaki on the paternity list Friday. (CP/Chris Young)
April 15, 2013, 10:55 PM

TORONTO– The Toronto Blue Jays came home and celebrated Jackie Robinson Day by creeping closer to the .500 mark with their third win in four games.

Here are three things that stood out to me about the series-opening victory over the Chicago White Sox:

THAT CONTINUES TO BE MORE LIKE IT:

Mark Buehrle had by far his best start as a Blue Jay — in his first-ever appearance against the team for which he had pitched for a dozen years. After a shaky first inning that saw the lefty give up two runs on four hits, Buehrle settled right down and scattered just five singles the rest of the way, taking it into the seventh before handing off to Esmil Rogers.

It was the first time in three starts that Buehrle didn’t give up six runs, although the Blue Jays have won every time he’s taken the mound.

More importantly, in this third trip through the Blue Jays’ rotation this season, Buehrle became the third of three starters to take the game into the seventh inning, which was pretty much the minimum expected from the Jays’ solid starters, but such outings were in very short supply through the first ten games of the season.

TUBTHUMPING:

The Blue Jays got knocked down, but they got up again – and they got up right away. They shrugged off Buehrle’s shaky top of the first by tying the game just three batters into the bottom of the inning.

Emilio Bonifacio started it with a line drive that just ticked off the glove of Adam Dunn at first, and of course, he had no trouble hustling it into a leadoff double. He went to third on a passed ball and scored easily on Melky Cabrera’s sacrifice fly to centre.

J.P. Arencibia, batting third because Jose Bautista’s back was in spasm, then went off the top of the wall and out in right-centrefield. The rare opposite-field home run for Arencibia was his team-leading fourth of the season.

It was the second straight time that the Blue Jays immediately answered a go-ahead rally by the opposition, and they did one better by taking the lead the next inning on Maicer Izturis’ leadoff home run.

MUNE- MORE – EE:

In his home debut as a Blue Jay, shortstop Munenori Kawasaki didn’t take too long at all to win over the Blue Jays faithful. As he did in Kansas City, Kawasaki fielded his position flawlessly and was an absolute bundle of energy with his deep-knee bends at the plate, bows to his teammates and other various and sundry fun tics and eccentricities.

More importantly, he contributed offensively.

In his first at-bat, Kawasaki hit a one-hopper back to the mound, raced down the line and made what should have been a routine out very close at the bag. Next time up, Kawasaki hit a liner over shortstop that rolled all the way to the wall in left-centre, and he didn’t slow down for a second in legging out his first big-league triple — and only his second extra-base hit in the majors.

He scored easily on Bonifacio’s fly ball to deep right to give the Blue Jays a lead they never relinquished. In his final at-bat, Kawasaki battled back after falling behind 1-2, fouling off a couple of pitches and taking a couple in the dirt, and as he grinded out his at-bat that ultimately ended in a groundout, the Rogers Centre crowd started to chant “KA-WA-SA-KI” in the place of a usual “Let’s go Blue Jays” chant.

Now that’s love.

Kawasaki punctuated his first night wearing Blue Jays’ home whites by fielding Jeff Keppinger’s two-out grounder in the ninth and firing it over to first to end the ballgame.

His play in the field == albeit it over only three games — has been perfect, and while anything he does with the bat is a bonus, Kawasaki has made such a terrific first impression on the Blue Jays that they’re no longer looking quite so hard for a replacement for Jose Reyes for the next three months or so.

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