In six of his seven starts heading into Friday night’s outing at Safeco Field, the 24-year-old lefty allowed two earned runs or less while pitching at least six innings, a gift from the heavens for a beleaguered pitching staff scrounging for innings as desperately as a thirsty man searches for water in the desert.
Dude’s been good.
Still, despite all that quality, the Blue Jays had won only two of Borucki’s starts as the offence failed him time and again, managing to plate only 11 runs in total while he’s on the mound. As a result, a lot of strong mound-work went to waste, a trend that finally turned Friday in a 7-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Borucki was terrific once again, logging a career-high eight innings, allowing just one unearned run on four hits with two strikeouts before a hoser-heavy crowd of 30,715. And this time, the Blue Jays sufficiently backed him up, Devon Travis leading the way with an RBI single in the first and two-run home in the fifth, while Russell Martin added a solo shot off in the fourth and an RBI single in the ninth, giving the native of Mundelein, Ill., his first big-league win.
“I’m on Cloud 9 right now, it was definitely worth the wait,” said Borucki. “These fans here, I was just riding on those fans, they were keeping me in it. When I went out in the eighth, I felt myself getting a little bit tired, but those fans kept me going. It was a lot of fun.”
How good was Borucki?
Well, he’s the first Blue Jays starter to go eight innings without allowing an earned run this season, and Friday was just the third time the team had its starter get through eight, the since-departed J.A. Happ lasting 8.1 and Aaron Sanchez going eight even.
More importantly, it’s another progression for Borucki, who continues to show why rival scouts project him as at least a back-end of the rotation starter, if not better.
“The composure, it was good from the get-go, but it’s gotten better,” pitching coach Pete Walker said of Borucki’s growth. “He’s executing his fastball, locating it in on righties, and he’s just in a good rhythm with his pitches. He works quick, but not out of control. The changeup is just the equalizer, he can throw it anytime in any count, that’s a weapon at the major-league level. And the breaking ball is used effectively at times. It’s not a pitch he’s going to dominate somebody with but he certainly can execute it.”
Primarily riding a sinker that sat at 91.6 m.p.h. and got up to 93.1, he kept the Mariners on their heels, throwing 30 changeups and 16 sliders to complement the heater.
The only run against him came in the fourth, when Aledmys Diaz airmailed the throw on a Mitch Haniger grounder and with two outs, Kyle Seager poked a grounder against the shift.
Beyond that, the only other threat he faced came in the sixth when Jean Segura and Haniger singled with one out but Borucki coolly induced a soft pop-up from Nelson Cruz before Seager lined out to right to end the threat.
“I felt confident out there and let my stuff work,” said Borucki. “I knew if I got soft contact they were going to make the plays and that’s how I always do, I’m trying to pitch to contact and get weak contact and let my defence work.”
His development could not be more timely for the Blue Jays, who will need to augment their rotation over the winter with Happ gone and Marco Estrada also headed to free agency. An important test will come when teams start seeing Borucki for the second and third time – he’s yet to face anyone twice – but his strike-throwing ability in concert with his fearlessness bodes well.
“He’s good. He’s got what it takes and he’s not afraid out there,” said Martin. “It’s nice to see somebody out there who attacks the zone and goes right after guys.”
The difference having a pitcher in complete control on the mound makes has been evident during the first two games of this series. The Blue Jays only got 11.2 innings out of Estrada, Sam Gaviglio and Marcus Stroman while losing three straight in Oakland to start the week but they’ve looked like a revitalized club playing behind Mike Hauschild on Thursday and Borucki on Friday.
“Usually when the guy pitching is good, the game is crisp, it’s usually moving pretty good and it’s fun to play behind those guys,” said manager John Gibbons. “If you get pounded, nobody wants to be out there, so it makes a huge difference. When we’ve played some good ball this year it’s usually because we’re getting a good start, giving ourselves a chance.”
Each got rewarded, too–-two days, two pitchers getting their first major-league wins.