Efficient Bassitt hauls innings as Blue Jays win again vs. Astros

Bo Bichette and Brandon Belt hit solo shots, while Chris Bassitt threw 81 pitches over eight innings of work, allowing just four hits and two runs with five strikeouts to boost the Toronto Blue Jays to a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros.

TORONTO — Bizarre though it may sound so soon after the Blue Jays demoted their opening day starter, the top of this team’s starting rotation looks really good right now.

In Kevin Gausman, they have an ace. With a 2.48 ERA over the course of his last ten starts, Jose Berrios is in the midst of a bounce-back season. And as Chris Bassitt showed again in the Blue Jays’ 3-2 win over the Astros Wednesday, he’s fully capable of shutting down MLB’s best teams, too.

A pinch-hit single from Alejandro Kirk gave the Blue Jays a hard-earned lead in the seventh inning and home runs from Bo Bichette and Brandon Belt kept the game close early, but more than anyone else Bassitt was responsible for the Blue Jays’ second consecutive win. That it came just four days after the birth of his son makes the start all the more remarkable.

“It’s still unbelievably impressive for him to just compartmentalize things and keep what’s important in order, whether that’s at home or in the field,” said manager John Schneider. “And it’s just a credit to him. His personality, his demeanor, everything. His last two outings have been phenomenal.”

The right-hander pitched eight innings of two-run ball on just 81 pitches, allowing a two-run home run to Yordan Alvarez and little else. He struck out five without walking a hitter and lowered his season ERA to 3.29. After Tuesday, he’s tied with Gausman atop the MLB leaderboard for innings pitched with 82 apiece.

We’ve got to eat innings and give the bullpen as much rest we can because we know we’re going to rely on them a lot,” said Bassitt after a game that took just two hours and three minutes to complete.

“It’s a luxury,” Schneider added. “You don’t want to just say ‘slam dunk, sure thing,’ but it allows you to be strategic and creative and rely on some guys that have been really durable and really impressive” 

[brightcove videoID=6328980413112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

If anything, Bassitt would have been ready to log one more inning Wednesday. Yet with Yordan Alvarez due up third for a fourth at-bat, the Blue Jays turned to Jordan Romano for the ninth inning. A veteran of nine big-league seasons, Bassitt wasn’t surprised by the decision. According to his manager, he accepted the message like a ‘total pro’ and the conversation was ‘as professional as it could be.’ At the same time, he wasn’t thrilled to leave the game.

“If you know me at all, I’ll fight analytics until I die,” Bassitt said. “But I knew I would have had to face Alvarez in the ninth, and I was not going to face Alvarez in the ninth. I’m not sure if you know my numbers against him (5/15 with 4 HR and 9 RBI), but they’re not good. So I could have maybe gone eight and two thirds, but we have one of the best closers in the game and I got to see his walk-out. It was a win-win.”

Thanks to some help from Kevin Kiermaier, Romano locked down save No. 16, setting up the chance to take the season series from Houston Wednesday — an advantage should tie-breaker scenarios emerge this October.

With results like these, the Blue Jays have reason to be thrilled with the stabilizing presence Bassitt’s offering in the first year of the three-year, $63 million deal he signed last off-season. Without his presence, the struggles of Alek Manoah would have been even tougher to overcome. As it stands, the Blue Jays are 35-28.

Of course compared to the last time he started, this outing was relatively routine for Bassitt. After facing the Mets in New York last Friday, he flew back to Toronto where his wife, Jessica, was in labour. She gave birth on Saturday night.

“Perfect weekend complete,” the pitcher tweeted afterwards. “Momma and Colson are doing great.”

Yet with the Astros approaching, Bassitt also felt a pull to prepare.

“I understood who was coming in,” he said. “Houston’s an unbelievable team. I figured if I miss three days then try to face this team, it would not have went well. So I was like, ‘listen, I’ll get in and out as fast as I can. But I’ve got to go.’”

By Sunday morning, Bassitt was at Rogers Centre throwing his regularly scheduled bullpen session to Danny Jansen, who was in town rehabbing from a groin injury. Whatever they did worked, as Bassitt delivered his ninth quality start of the season. 

[brightcove videoID=6328979626112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“You almost anticipate him throwing a shutout,” Belt said. “A nine-inning shutout. And he was pretty much that good today.”

As for Jansen, he’s making real progress from the groin injury that’s sidelined him for 13 games. On Thursday he’ll join the Blue Jays’ triple-A team for a weekend rehab assignment and if all goes well, he could be activated by the time the Blue Jays open a series in Baltimore next week.

The Blue Jays will be busy in the meantime, with one game remaining against the Astros before the Twins visit for the weekend. And in the months ahead there’s plenty of work to do both on and off the field and as the trade deadline approaches. Yet thanks to Gausman, Bassitt and Berrios, this rotation looks capable of winning series in October should the Blue Jays do enough in other areas to get there. 

“We’re a good baseball team and we never lost sight of that,” Belt said. “You’re seeing that result now and you’re going to see more good baseball from us.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.