TORONTO — A slumping Daulton Varsho delivered a much-needed walk-off extra-inning hit. Still, starter Kevin Gausman and the pitching staff continued to carry the Toronto Blue Jays to one of their best starts in club history.
Behind Gausman’s career-high 13 strikeouts in seven innings, the Blue Jays squeezed out a 1-0 victory after Varsho’s drive to right centre field with none out and the bases loaded in the 10th inning on Saturday.
“We’re throwing the crap out of it right now,” Gausman said about how well the Blue Jays starters and relievers have performed recently.
“We just have kind of a bulldog mentality, next guy up mentality and making them beat us mentality. We’re attacking the zone and going after them with our best stuff.”
Gausman needed his best stuff to give the Blue Jays a chance to survive 25-year-old rookie Easton McGee. He arrived in Toronto with only three innings of experience from a relief outing on the final weekend of 2022.
McGee retired the first 12 batters he faced before issuing a walk to Matt Chapman to lead off the fifth inning. Chapman then stopped the no-hit bid with a two-out double off the top of the centre-field wall to end McGee’s afternoon in the seventh inning.
“It wasn’t the best pitch, but I’m not going to nitpick and say I’m mad,” McGee said. “That was awesome. I’m very thankful.”
After surrendering a fourth hit to begin the third inning, Gausman settled down to retire 14 in a row.
He escaped injury in the sixth inning when Jarred Kelenic’s comebacker hit the Toronto starter high on the back of his left leg.
Gausman recovered to toss out Kelenic and retired the next two Mariners to end the inning. He survived the seventh after surrendering back-to-back singles with two out, striking out his final batter, Sam Haggerty, for his MLB-leading 54th strikeout.
Gausman turned the game over to relievers Zach Pop, Jordan Romano and Erik Swanson (1-0), who struck out three in the 10th inning.
The Blue Jays bullpen has gone 15 innings without yielding a run through five games on this homestand.
“Pitching can be contagious, like hitting,” Toronto manager John Schneider said.
After Swanson’s decisive 10th inning, Varsho crushed a pitch off Seattle reliever Trevor Gott (0-2) to right centre field to score designated runner Bo Bichette. The Blue Jays loaded the bases with none out with Vladimir Guerrero’s single to centre and an intentional walk to Chapman before a sellout crowd of 41,475. Varsho has just 18 hits in his first 94 at-bats with Toronto.
McGee made his first career start, arriving at Rogers Centre with only three innings of MLB experience from a relief appearance for the Mariners late last season.
Seattle manager Scott Servais replaced his rookie pitcher with reliever Matt Brash. McGee struck out a pair in his 64-pitch, 6 ⅔ innings.
“To do that against that kind of club was fantastic,” Servais said. “To get 6 2/3 of no-hit ball out of him was way more than what we thought we were going to get today.”
In his 108-pitch shutout performance, Gausman allowed six hits and issued only one walk. He struck out former Blue Jay Teoscar Hernandez three times.
Toronto closer Jordan Romano also fanned Hernandez in the ninth. Swanson struck out three and walked one in the 10th inning.
Not only has the Blue Jays pitching staff enjoyed a solid run, so has catcher Danny Jansen. He has been behind the plate for three consecutive Toronto shutouts.
“(Jansen) has been working at this since he got into the league in 2018 and 2019 when we had a revolving door of pitchers,” Schneider said. “He’s learned how to do his homework. The communication with the pitching staff is great, and the communication with (pitching coach) Pete Walker and him is great.”
Blue Jays RHP Chris Bassitt (3-2) will start in Sunday’s finale of the three-game set against Seattle. He will face LHP Marco Gonzales (2-0).