Depending on your perspective, the Toronto Blue Jays‘ latest loss could be viewed through any number of lenses.
If you live and die with the results, Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners would be a frustrating one. The Blue Jays barely hit at all on their way to their 80th loss of the season, capping off a 1-5 road trip to Los Angeles and Seattle.
But if you’re more inclined to take the long view, there were some positives starting, as usual, with the Blue Jays’ rookies. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., hit an opposite-field double and Rowdy Tellez had an RBI single, but Bo Bichette was once again Toronto’s offensive standout.
Clay Buchholz also deserves credit for a strong return from the injured list, but we have to start with Bichette after his 15th multi-hit game of the season …
BO DOES IT AGAIN
Bichette’s first few weeks as a big-leaguer have been pretty special. On Saturday, he joined Carlos Delgado as the only players in franchise history to hit eight homers in their first 25 career games. He also came within one of Joe DiMaggio’s MLB record for extra-base hits through 25 career games (Joltin’ Joe had 22 to Bo’s 21).
To those who watched the first 25 games of Bichette’s career, what happened in game 26 was hardly surprising. He singled and doubled Sunday, improving his season batting line to .351/.388/.684, good for a 178 wRC+ (a stat that measures overall offensive production while taking ballpark and league into consideration).
For context, here are your MLB-wide wRC+ leaders entering play Sunday (qualified hitters only):
Mike Trout – 180
Christian Yelich – 172
Cody Bellinger – 169
Alex Bregman – 159
Anthony Rendon – 152
The best hitters in baseball do it month after month and year after year. There’s still lots of uncertainty surrounding Bichette’s eventual baseline. But by hitting on this level for even a few weeks, Bichette has given Blue Jays fans reason to be excited. Maybe he’s a better hitter than anticipated.
Clay Buchholz exceeded expectations in his first big-league start in more than three months, allowing just two earned runs on three hits over six innings of work. He needed only 65 pitches to get through six on a day he provided the Mariners with plenty of different looks.
Even though Buchholz topped out at 92.8 m.p.h. Sunday, he hit his spots within the zone, throwing 45 of his 65 pitches for strikes. As he said earlier in the season, “just because you throw 100 doesn’t mean you’re not going to give up a hit. You have to be able to locate.” Given the state of their starting rotation, the Blue Jays would happily take more starts like this from Buchholz down the stretch.
And speaking of guys who throw 100, Nate Pearson made his second triple-A start Sunday, pitching six innings in Buffalo. The top pitching prospect allowed two runs on two hits and no walks while striking out seven.
While workload, roster and service time considerations could prevent Pearson from joining the Blue Jays as a September call-up, it’s still encouraging to see him succeeding at triple-A.
DEFENCE ON DISPLAY
Bichette also contributed on defence, combining with Cavan Biggio to help Buchholz escape the fourth inning with a double play. With one out and a runner on second, Omar Narvaez hit a soft line drive into shallow right. Thanks to the shift, Biggio was able to run to his left and track the liner down for an out at which point he turned and threw to Bichette, who was waiting at second. Despite a tricky hop, Bichette kept his balance and held on to complete the double play.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 25, 2019
We also saw Bichette’s range on display in the bottom of the seventh when Derek Fisher appeared to have trouble tracking a ball in shallow left field and Bichette raced over to make the grab.
DONE WITH THE WEST COAST
Two trips to the west coast are standard for the Blue Jays, who visit the Mariners, Angels and A’s every summer. But since inter-league play paired the AL East and the NL West this year, the Blue Jays made four cross-country trips, the last of which wrapped up Sunday.
Two more road trips await the Blue Jays in September but by major-league standards, they’re pretty routine: no three-city trips, everything in the eastern time zone. In theory, that could help players stay rested down the stretch.
Next up, Josh Donaldson and the Braves arrive in Toronto for two games at Rogers Centre. After a two-homer game Sunday, Donaldson has 32 on the season with a .917 OPS. That’s quite a bounce-back for a player whose 2018 campaign was essentially a write-off.