Gausman continues to shine as the Blue Jays shut out the falling Yankees

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NEW YORK – Kevin Gausman is having a breakout season, even though he regularly runs into bad luck. Consider that the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander headed into his Friday outing against the New York Yankees worth 4.4 wins above replacement, as calculated by Fangraphs, third among all major league pitchers. However, his 3.16-plus ERA was more than a run above his 2.08 FIP, and then, of course, there was his .372 batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, the highest by a wide margin. margin between qualified pitchers.

The way the Cleveland Guardians bled him for five runs last weekend in a 7-2 victory, finding holes in pitches that defeated them, was a prime example of why the Blue Jays went 11-11 in his first 22 starts.

“It’s weird,” caretaker manager John Schneider said before the game. “When you put his stuff in the void, it’s like, really, really, really good. So part of it is I think everyone goes through these fluctuations of ups and downs, luck, bad luck, whether you’re a hitter or a pitcher. We like your stuff. Obviously, we trust him and I’m sure things will turn in his favor.”

In the 23rd start, they certainly did, Gausman dominated seven scoreless innings to push the Blue Jays to a third straight, 4-0 victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night.

Initially, it looked like he might be ready for a night of fighting when DJ LeMahieu threw his first pitch of the game, a 91.2 mph fastball, 404 feet to center where Whit Merrifield tracked him down on a play he had a 35-percent catch chance. cent, and Aaron Judge followed with a walk. But Gausman escaped that inning unscathed, striking out to the side in the second and allowing just three hits in the next few frames while striking out seven.

“That’s huge,” Gausman said of Merrifield’s capture. “I always think the first guy in the game definitely sets the tone, whether he hits him or walks him. Having a good defensive play on the first pitch of the game definitely woke me up.”

From there, the Yankees, 12-24 in their last 36 games, crumbled helplessly in their mostly fastball/splitter mix, with eight of their 15 swings in the divisions resulting in a puff. Even with his fastball velocity dipping a notch to 94.1 instead of his season average of 95, he was in command from the second inning onward.

He pitched seven or more innings for the sixth time this season.

“To be honest, I never felt like I got into the groove that much, which sounds weird to say,” admitted Gausman. “Some days, batter to batter, you like to be on the beat. Some days are long stretches of tickets. Today I felt like I was getting a lot out of the first guy and when you can do that, you put yourself in a good position to not allow big tackles.”

The Yankees, already beside themselves for an extended period, floundered helplessly on their fastball/splitter combination for the most part, with eight of their 15 swings in the divisions resulting in a puff. Even with his fastball velocity dipping a notch to 94.1 instead of his season average of 95, he was in command from the second inning onward.

The offense, meanwhile, without George Springer, who fouled the ball with his knee during a five-hit effort in Thursday’s 9-2 win, didn’t do quite the same, but again posed a threat. constant from the jump. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., was robbed of a home run in right by Oswaldo Cabrera’s jumper on the first pitch of the game and the pressure started from there.

Yankees starter Jameson Taillon kept them in check until the third when Merrifield led off the inning with a single, advanced to third on Cavan Biggio’s double and scored on Gurriel’s groundout.

One inning later, Alejandro Kirk led off the inning with a hit before Teoscar Hernandez hit home run No. 18 over the left-center field wall after missing a throw to center field in the second.

“I was looking for one of those breaking pitches (in the first at-bat), I got it and hit it pretty good, but not enough to knock it out of the park,” said Hernandez, who homered on a fastball in his second turn at bat “But for me, it was a good sign because the plan that he had was working from the beginning.”

The Blue Jays blew a chance to bury the Yankees in the sixth, when they placed men on second and third with no outs, but Lou Trivino replaced Taillon and stranded the runners. They eventually got it together in the ninth when they loaded the bases against Aroldis Chapman before Ron Marinaccio delivered a sacrifice fly to Danny Jansen that made it 4-0.

Steadfastness of focus is the biggest difference between his current three-game winning streak and the 3-9 streak that preceded it.

“Patience is good. Communication between players is good. Kind of like having a collective focus on how they’re going to get that starter out every night,” Schneider said of what’s allowing the Blue Jays to keep the pressure on the plate right now. “When you’re shooting a little bit, it doesn’t have to be the same guy every night and each one doing his part and passing the baton to the next. That’s kind of the most important thing here.”

Jordan Romano blocked things out in the ninth, ensuring that a brilliant night from Gausman would not go to waste. At 64-54, the Blue Jays are again strengthening their hold on a wild-card spot after nearly letting it slip away.

“We just know we need to win games,” Gausman said. “Sometimes, in general, we focus on other teams and now we have put ourselves in a good place. But we’re going to make it to the postseason or not depending on how we play this last month or so. We all know that. We know it’s going to be a challenge, although I think the urgency was missing at certain points during the season. Where we are now, there are (44) games left, we have to buckle down and now we have to go.”

Gausman will be one of the keys to getting them there. He’s now thrown at least six scoreless innings in three of his last four starts, surrounded by that unlucky outing against Cleveland. It’s a reminder of what a great season he’s having, even better than his impressive stats already suggest.

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