With power out at park, Blue Jays light up Tigers in opener

Kevin Gausman gave up one run over six innings and three Toronto Blue Jays hit home runs en route to a 9-1 rout of the Detroit Tigers.

DETROIT — Thursday evening, the internet went down at Comerica Park.

Which, when you first say it out loud, sounds pretty inconsequential. After all, they play baseball at Comerica Park, and it was a beautiful night for a game between the struggling Detroit Tigers and a Toronto Blue Jays team desperate to finally build some momentum. You didn’t need the internet to see an interesting game was on the schedule — quite possibly a pitchers’ duel.

Except, ongoing network issues meant no replay review for managers until the late innings, no radar gun readings on the scoreboard and no functioning iPads for hitters in the dugout — all significant differences for teams used to playing with up-to-the-second information. And, of course, the technical problems impacted fans at home, too, as both teams’ broadcasts were limited for most of the game.

So make no mistake, this was a different kind of game for all involved. At first, it was an adjustment — “really weird,” as Isiah Kiner-Falefa put it — but as the game wore on and the internet remained down, the Blue Jays adjusted best, turning the unexpected to their advantage on their way to an encouraging 9-1 win.

“It was kind of refreshing,” said Kiner-Falefa. “When we found out what was going on, it was old-school baseball in a way. It’s your eyes. Your teammates have to talk and you have to rely on each other more, rather than just going out and looking at the screen and looking at the metrics. So it was a flash from the past and gave us all that feeling of being a kid.”

[brightcove videoID=6353549220112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Thanks to a strong start from Kevin Gausman and home runs from Kiner-Falefa, Daulton Varsho and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Blue Jays emerged with a resounding win. They’re 23-26 on the season after winning four of their last five. When the internet crashes, they’re undefeated.

“I think, honestly, it kind of helped us,” Varsho said. “It kind of goes back to old school baseball — just going out there and playing and competing.”

From his perspective on the mound, Gausman agreed. He managed 10 strikeouts, setting a 2024 high while allowing just one run on three hits over six innings of work. It’s the kind of start he made regularly in his first two seasons with Toronto, but it marks just the fourth time in 10 tries this year that Gausman has completed six innings.

Interestingly, Gausman said after the game that his stuff didn’t feel especially good. He thinks it’s a good thing the Tigers’ hitters couldn’t see exactly how hard his pitches were.

“I think it kind of helped me, because I don’t think I was throwing very hard tonight,” Gausman said. “If they were able to look up there and see 90 or 91, maybe they’re swinging a little harder, so I think it benefitted me.”

The limited pitch data we do have suggests Gausman’s velocity was indeed down, with a maximum recorded pitch of 93.2 m.p.h. Regardless, he stayed aggressive against a Tigers lineup that entered play with MLB’s 20th-ranked offence.

“You’ve got to keep that mentality no matter what. Even when I’m throwing 91, in my head I feel like I’m throwing 100,” Gausman said. “If you don’t, these guys are sharks in the water. They’re gonna eat you alive.”

Before the game, manager John Schneider said he likes the way Gausman and fellow starter Chris Bassitt have been carrying themselves despite some early-season struggles.

“I like the intent and the intensity he has right now,” Schneider said. “I think him and Chris — I don’t want to say (have been) pissed off, but I think they’re looking to just be who they have been.”

Eventually, the network issues were resolved, the broadcasts made it back to air as planned and the iPads hummed back to life in the Blue Jays’ dugout. By then the Blue Jays were in add-on mode, with three runs in the eighth inning and three more in the ninth.

“It’s been nice to see the home runs, and it’s been nice to see the doubles,” Schneider said. “And it’s the usual characters that are getting going in Bo (Bichette) and Vlad. You could kind of get used to this.”

[brightcove videoID=6353549905112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Clearly, the Blue Jays will need to continue playing like this if they’re going to recover from the early season struggles that led them to the bottom of the American League East. With series against the Tigers, White Sox and Pirates coming up, that opportunity exists — and they need to keep seizing it with sustained quality play that lasts for weeks, not days.

Adding to the sense of possibility, the Blue Jays are avoiding Tigers ace Tarik Skubal and will likely avoid Paul Skenes and Jared Jones, the Pirates’ dynamic young duo. That creates a rare weak spot on the schedule, continuing Friday with Alek Manoah on the mound.

Presuming the network issues are fully resolved by then, the rest of the series promises to be a little more ordinary. But maybe this night of old-school baseball offered an important reminder or two for some Blue Jays hitters. And if nothing else, they were the better team Thursday, gaining an important game in the standings, internet or not.

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.