TORONTO – Four months into a season that’s included some borderline unwatchable baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays are legitimately entertaining again.
Teoscar Hernandez is having his best month of the year. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s been hitting like a star lately. Bo Bichette’s swinging from his heels, setting records and stealing hits.
Bizarre as it may seem to those who watched game by game as this team struggled through the first couple months, the Blue Jays are suddenly intriguing again. In part it’s because of who they might become, but it’s also because of who they are now. Either way, it sure beats Alen Hanson, Socrates Brito and Ryan Feierabend struggle.
Even at field level, there’s a difference between now and early in the year.
“Definitely,” catcher Danny Jansen said. “You’ve got all the guys they hope to have here for a long time and they’re producing. It’s been a blast so far. Having Bo come up here and rake and set records and play good defence and show his talents right away. You’ve got Vladdy, you’ve got Lourdes (Gurriel Jr.), you’ve got Biggio. All of these guys are playing well. It’s an exciting time.”
On Friday, the Blue Jays beat the Yankees 8-2 thanks to a four-homer day that included two more from Hernandez. While anyone hoping to see Bichette make more history at the plate left disappointed, the 21-year-old did make an impressive diving catch up the middle to end a potential rally and help Sean Reid-Foley escape the fifth inning.
“That was the play of the game easily,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That lineup, you get them going and they don’t stop.”
Bichette entered play with an 11-game hitting streak and an MLB-record streak of nine consecutive games with a double. Both ended after Bichette went hitless in three at-bats with a walk.
“I’m glad I saw it,” Montoyo said. “To do that as a rookie, that’s amazing. He deserves all the credit he’s getting.”
Even though Bichette’s bat was quiet, the visitors made sure there was no shortage of entertainment for the 25,782 in attendance. Though it wasn’t quite last month’s ‘savages’ rant, manager Aaron Boone and Brett Gardner both expressed outrage over a called strike three against Cameron Maybin. The pitch appeared low, but Jansen presented it well and a borderline call went in the Blue Jays’ favour.
“It’s part of the game,” Jansen said. “It’s human error. I guess it’s part of the craft of catching.”
Maybe it was a missed call, or maybe Jansen framed the pitch well. What happened next isn’t up for debate.
After Maybin took called strike three, Gardner started banging his bat against the top of the visiting dugout. While his actions clearly showed frustration, he didn’t actually say anything. In fact, footage of the dugout showed that Maybin was the one who called home plate umpire Chris Segal’s zone f***ing terrible, not Gardner. Even so, Gardner was the one who got ejected by Segal, normally a triple-A umpire.
While Boone sought clarity from Segal, Gardner realized what had happened. That prompted him to rush the field, enraged at having been thrown out of a game despite saying nothing.
Regardless of whether the pitch was a strike, Toronto scored more than enough on a day Jansen and Randal Grichuk also homered.
On the mound, Reid-Foley limited the Yankees to one run over five innings in spite of having the worst bullpen warm-up session he can ever remember. The right-hander struck out five while walking just two — an indication that his command was better than usual.
“You know what he did today? He threw more strikes,” Montoyo said. “He’s got good stuff. He’s going to get people out, because he’s got the stuff to pitch in the big-leagues. His problem has been that he gets wild and walks people.”
Meanwhile, Gurriel Jr., will be placed on the injured list Saturday after straining his left quadriceps running to first base Thursday. The Blue Jays initially thought it was a cramp, but will instead place him on the injured list for what they expect to be a short breather. Brock Stewart will likely be recalled to take Gurriel’s spot on the roster Saturday afternoon, giving Toronto a two-man bench for the time being.