TORONTO — This three-game walloping from the New York Yankees isn’t something the Toronto Blue Jays should simply just flush, and move on. No, after getting outscored 43-15 and watching their pitching staff get shredded by a club that suddenly looks like the clear favourite to emerge from the American League, there needs to be a deeper look at the how and why of this sweep, and some adjustments made before they meet again for four games in Buffalo next week.
Now, teams get hot and there are times when they can look unbeatable, but what the Yankees did at the plate over the past three days is beyond absurd. Consider the full-on ambush of Chase Anderson in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 10-7 finale — a result made closer than it was by a four-run rally in the ninth — when the Yankees went Gary Sanchez RBI double, Brett Gardner homer, DJ LeMahieu homer and Luke Voit homer on consecutive pitches off the righty.
After a three-pitch strikeout of Aaron Hicks — what was he doing? — Giancarlo Stanton went deep on the next pitch before Gleyber Torres needed to see six offerings before sending a cutter over the wall. The five-homer inning tied a major-league record and New York’s 19 homers in the series set a record for a three-game span.
It was almost like they knew what was coming.
“They took good swings on all those pitches so I wondered if I was doing something,” Anderson said of the fateful fourth.
Given all we’ve learned about the Houston Astros in recent months, nothing is out of the realm, and it’s interesting that Danny Jansen was using multiple signs even with the bases empty. “Just trying to switch it up, trying to compete,” he explained.
Still, everything starts at dreadful execution first and foremost, then continues on to a look at game-planning and, finally, a search for pitch-tipping.
“That’s one thing we always do, check on everything, what’s going on, just in case,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “We’ll do all that for sure.”
Anderson followed opener Julian Merryweather, who allowed two runs in the first after loading the bases with one out, and kept the Yankees in check through the second and third innings before lightning kept striking the mound in the fourth.
The trouble started with one out, when Clint Frazier worked a 10-pitch walk. After falling behind Sanchez 1-0, he threw a four-seamer to Sanchez in the happy zone that became a go-ahead RBI double. LeMahieu hammered a sinker up and in to the opposite field, Voit pounded a cutter down at the knees, Stanton tagged a four-seamer middle-away while Torres turned on a middle-in cutter.
“I think after the third one, maybe we should have just tried to throw a ball and see if they’re swinging,” Jansen said of the barrage. “Obviously that was a tough game and the whole game was about that one inning. Try to mix it up, try to keep them off it, not really trick them but it’s an inning that spiralled out of control a little bit, and maybe I should have taken a mound visit earlier just to relax, get on board and try to make a more competitive pitch.”
Sanchez went deep again in the seventh, this time off T.J. Zeuch, the 2016 first-rounder recalled from the alternate training site in Rochester to become the latest mop-up arm added to the churn. The Blue Jays added Jacob Waguespack and Hector Perez before Wednesday’s 13-2 thumping, and both were cleared out Thursday afternoon, Waguespack to the injured list with a left back strain, to make room for Zeuch and Wilmer Font, who came off the IL.
Font, with 1.1 scoreless innings, and Anthony Bass, who recorded one out Wednesday, were the only pitchers of the 14 Blue Jays to take the mound in the series not to surrender runs.
“That’s a good question,” Anderson replied when asked what the Blue Jays need to look at before the teams re-engage. “I think a lot of things. Pitching at Yankee Stadium, the ball goes to right field pretty easy. With the balls now, I feel like they’re flying more than they ever have, homers are up across the league the last couple of years. Got to make better pitches, sequence better. It’s cumulative, (there are) a lot of things we need to do better, not just one thing. Definitely go back and look at a few things.”
There may yet be more churn ahead of Friday’s doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies, when Robbie Ray starts the first game and Ross Stripling the second. While the Blue Jays (26-23) are now 2.5 games behind the Yankees (29-21) for second in the AL East, they are still comfortably in possession of a playoff berth, 4 1/2 games up on the Seattle Mariners and five ahead of the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers.
Regardless, they don’t want to give others any real hope, which means they need to quickly pick things up.
“When it comes down to it, I need to be better, we need to be better at just getting ahead, and avoiding those 2-0 counts, those hitter-friendly counts,” said Jansen. “I need to do a better job of keeping my guys on the plate earlier and then expanding later. Obviously tough series, but we’re looking out to the next one, we’ve got important games ahead of us. We are going to flush it, move on, and we play them again in four days. Looking forward to that.”
Their pitching woes in the Bronx obscured their lack of meaningful offence, although they erased an early 2-0 deficit on the first of Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s two homers and Bo Bichette’s RBI single in the third inning off Masahiro Tanaka.
Gurriel went deep again in the fifth but by then it was too little, too late, although they loaded the bases in the ninth and scored four on Jansen’s infield single, Cavan Biggio’s bases-loaded walk and Bichette’s two-run single off closer Aroldis Chapman, providing a little pick-me-up before the bus trip to Philadelphia.
“Honestly, it really does (offer a lift), because after getting hit like that and they still battled back, that shows you what kind of team we have in there,” said Montoyo. “They’re hungry and they want to win. It’s fine. Credit to the other team that swung the bats well, and credit to my team that came back and made them use their closer today.”
The Phillies won’t throw anything as daunting as Tanaka, Gerrit Cole and Deivi Garcia at the Blue Jays in Philadelphia, so there will be a chance to make some hay, but four more dates with the Yankees loom afterwards, a series always set to be a litmus test, but one that may have a little more riding on it, now, too.