The Var-Show: Toronto OF shines again as Blue Jays beat Padres

Jose Berrios struck out six batters while Daulton Varsho continued his hot hitting ways with a three-run homer to lead the Toronto Blue Jays over the San Diego Padres 5-2.

SAN DIEGO – Before we get to Saturday and the latest hit-stealing exploits of Daulton Varsho, let’s once again appreciate the remarkable, 10-per-cent-probability, 126-feet-covered catch he made Friday night off the bat of Xander Bogaerts.

[brightcove videoID=6351274588112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“Off the bat I didn’t think I had a chance of getting it,” said the Toronto Blue Jays left-fielder. “Then all of a sudden it hung up there just a little bit longer and was hoping and praying that it would go in my glove. In my head, I was on a route to where I was going to be able to climb up the wall. But obviously it was right at the wall, so it was having an idea that it’s kind of coming down and being able to adapt to it.” 

Sounds simple enough. Far from it.

“You have to have intent to make that play and he did from the get-go,” said four-time Gold Glover Kevin Kiermaier. “I had the best seat in the house. He’s incredible. I didn’t realize how good he was until I played with him last year. And this year, he’s even better.”

Back to Saturday then, when Varsho picked up where he left off with his fifth home run in the last eight games – this one a three-run shot in the first inning – and made another highlight-reel grab in helping the Blue Jays beat the San Diego Padres 5-2.

[brightcove videoID=6351336616112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Varsho added a double in the third and then singled off lefty Yuki Matsui, stole second and scored in the ninth, which combined with his work in the outfield made for an all-facets night of contributions.

“Yeah, it’s a lot of hard work from Varsh,” praised manager John Schneider. “He’s really playing at a high level right now.”

Varsho’s latest homer came off Randy Vasquez and extended a recent pattern of early-game outbursts by the Blue Jays that their pitchers then nurse home, which Jose Berrios, who threw six shutout innings in his latest gem, and four relievers did.

Minus Chad Green, who was placed on the injured list with a right teres major strain, it was bend-but-don’t-break in the late innings as Genesis Cabrera surrendered Xander Bogaerts’ run-scoring groundout in the seventh and Erik Swanson gave up a Ha-Seong Kim RBI single in the eighth, making it a 4-2 game.

But after Varsho singled, stole second, moved to third on Alejandro Kirk’s groundout and scored on Ernie Clement’s pinch-hit single that made it 5-2 in the ninth, Jordan Romano delivered a clean ninth for his second save.

Along with Isiah Kiner-Falefa cleverly scoring on a wild pitch in the second, the Blue Jays played complete baseball to win for a sixth time in seven outings.

“I think it’s huge,” said Varsho. “You’re able to tack on two extra runs in a close ballgame and help Rommie do what he does in the ninth along with the rest of the relievers that we have. If you’re able to tack on those extra runs, it just puts a lot less pressure on that bullpen to be perfect.”

Minus Green, who won’t throw for a couple of days before the next steps are charted, the Blue Jays will need to rely more on Nate Pearson, who was recalled from triple-A Buffalo. Still, Green’s absence will test the bullpen’s depth, especially while Swanson and Romano fully get up to speed having just returned from arm injuries.

One saving grace is the way the rotation has performed through its past couple of turns, with Berrios keeping the ball rolling before a crowd of 43,273 on a cool evening.

Berrios allowed five hits and two walks while striking out six and had some traffic to navigate, stranding two in the first when he caught Jurickson Profar looking at a pitch the left-fielder got himself – and manager Mike Shildt – ejected over.

He also left the bases loaded in the fifth, getting Manny Machado to chase a high sinker that he popped out to end the inning.

“I just want to hold the game right there,” said Berrios. “My mindset is always trying to pitch a quality start, to help my team get the win, trying to do my job. I know the (hitters) are going to do their job offensively, that’s why we already have a few wins. I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well but also they’ve been hitting and defending well, so at the end of the day we’re winning like a team.”

Also helping Berrios was this catch from Varsho to end the sixth on a 97.7 m.p.h. liner from Jackson Merrill. 

[brightcove videoID=6351341323112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

While the defence has always been there, his contributions at the plate are especially important for the Blue Jays offence needing lineup depth. Underpinning his recent success is a 20.2 per cent chase rate that’s in baseball’s 88th percentile, giving him a chance to sustain the production.

“If you can’t control the zone, usually you can’t really do damage at the plate,” Varsho explained. “When you’re able to get the pitch you’re looking for to do damage with and you don’t miss it, usually good things happen.”

Last year, his chase rate of 28.1 ranked in the 51st percentile.

The difference this year is in “having a better understanding of where my swing’s at, not missing my pitch when it’s there, and having a better plan, I would say, overall of how to attack every starting pitcher that I’ve really faced. Obviously, you’re going to run into those days where you can’t see the ball very well and you make bad decisions, but it’s about being able to move on to the next one.”

All in a day’s work right now for the Blue Jays outfielder.

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.