In recent years Blue Jays fans have made Seattle feel like a second home, outnumbering Mariners fans at T-Mobile Park. Just in case thousands of loud Canadians weren’t enough, the Blue Jays even wore home whites this year as part of MLB’s annual Players’ Weekend.
Still, the Mariners came out ahead, winning 7-4 despite a forgettable MLB debut from Justus Sheffield. The Blue Jays did see some promising developments at the plate, including a three-hit game from Bo Bichette, but the pitching just wasn’t there. In that sense, the fans who made the trip to Seattle saw a truly representative version of the 2019 Blue Jays.
From the offence to the rotation to the uniforms, here are some observations after the Blue Jays’ sixth consecutive loss.
BICHETTE – AGAIN
We’re less than a month into Bo Bichette’s major-league career, so some caution’s probably wise here. Few players could sustain the pace he’s on now. Even so, that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying what Bichette’s been doing.
With three more hits Friday, he now has multiple hits in most of his games as a big-leaguer (13 of 24). All told, the 21-year-old’s hitting .333/.375/.648 through his first 112 plate appearances in the majors.
Truly impressive stuff — enough to make you wonder whether he could be a star in this league right away. As Ben Lindbergh recently showed at the Ringer, “hitters are arriving much closer to their prime performance level than they used to.” If these last few weeks are any indication, Bichette looks to be part of that trend. For the Blue Jays, that’s the best-case scenario.
Even on defence, Bichette has been fun to watch. His aggressiveness was on display in the fifth inning when he raced out to shallow left field in pursuit of a shallow pop up. It was the left fielder’s ball, so Derek Fisher rightfully called Bichette off, but it’s encouraging to see a developing shortstop give chase with intent.
Maybe you liked the Players’ Weekend uniforms, maybe you didn’t. Personally I didn’t, but that’s not really the point here.
The all-black and all-white uniforms on display Friday reminded me that aside from their role in branding teams, they also serve a practical purpose. Many of them, in fact. For example…
• The home team wears white
• Uniforms are consistent for each team
• Numbers and usually names are easily visible for fans
• Umpires wear black so they’re easily distinguished from players
Whether you’re watching in the ballpark or on TV, uniforms provide us with some important hints. Yet on Players’ Weekend none of these normal clues were available. The Blue Jays wore white on the road — truly a disorienting look. Adding to the confusion, names and numbers were virtually invisible and umpires often blended in with the Mariners’ black gear. While most of the Blue Jays wore white hats, all pitchers had to wear black ones to ensure the Mariners could see the ball.
All things considered, the uniforms created more confusion than they solved Friday.
TEOSCAR IN CONTEXT
A slow start at the plate cost Teoscar Hernandez his spot on the big-league roster back in May, but there’s no denying his production since returning. Entering play Friday, the 26-year-old was hitting .239/.315/.533 with 16 home runs in the 59 games since his recall while also providing solid defence in centre field.
With two more hits in the series opener against the Mariners, Hernandez added to his offensive totals for the year. And on defence, he may have saved the Blue Jays two runs with a running catch that ended the sixth inning.
SOME CREDIT FOR BIGGIO
Cavan Biggio’s been struggling at the plate lately, but at the same time, there were encouraging signs from Biggio Friday. He nearly hit a three-run home in the third inning, instead flying out 339 feet to right field. Even with the near-miss, he still reached via walk and single. And if you look at the data from Friday, you can see he hardly expanded the strike zone at all.
It was a tough night for starter Trent Thornton, who allowed three earned runs on nine hits over the course of four innings Friday. Simply put, Thornton left too much over the plate against the Mariners, who connected for two home runs against the rookie right-hander.
At times, Thornton will flash intriguing upside. Take his second inning at-bat against Tim Lopes, for example. Thornton started the at-bat with a cutter on the outside corner, located a fastball atop the zone for strike two and finished Lopes off with a breaking ball below the knees. If you’re the Blue Jays, you like to see that. They just haven’t been seeing it enough of late and Thornton’s season ERA climbed to 5.34 in the series opener.
Meanwhile Brock Stewart (trailing opener Wilmer Font) and Clay Buchholz (returning from the injured list after three-plus months) are slated to start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.