NEW YORK — In recent days, the Toronto Blue Jays have described the change in their game in recent games after a long streak in different ways. John Schneider used the word urgent. Kevin Gausman echoed that, saying they’ve realized where they are and what’s at stake. Teoscar Hernández sees the team playing together more effectively. Ross Stripling called it an understanding that they can’t just out-talent other clubs.
However you frame it, what has become clear is that the Blue Jays have had far more control of the game during what is now a four-game winning streak after Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees than they did. they had during 3-9. section that preceded it.
“It’s a real thing,” Schneider said before his team triumphed over the on-paper mismatch between Mitch White and Gerrit Cole. “If you’re dictating the pace of the game at either end, it allows you to do things that you’re more comfortable with. It allows guys to get out of the bullpen at the right time.
“If you can score early, if you can get a good starting pitcher, things usually fall into place the way you planned.”
For the most part, that’s happened in the last couple of days, though Saturday’s win definitely featured a healthy dose of not being able to predict the ball, too.
Through the first four innings, Cole didn’t allow a hit and faced only two batters over the minimum, while White was in constant traffic, forced to dodge seven hits and constant pressure.
That might have been expected, but the Yankees, now 3-14 in their last 17 games, managed just one run despite the disparity in offense and the Blue Jays’ relentlessness at the plate broke through in the fifth.
Santiago Espinal doubled off the left-field wall to break Cole’s no-hitter bid and Danny Jansen then narrowed his zone to work a critical four-pitch walk. Jackie Bradley Jr. followed up with his biggest moment with the Blue Jays to date by hitting a two-run double into the right-field corner for a 2-1 lead.
“Great at-bats from those two guys,” Bradley said. “Danny wore him down a little bit, he visited the mound and I knew he wanted to get ahead early. I swung the first pitch, my first at-bat, so I wanted to see a pitch and then from there I wanted to be aggressive with my pitch, get something I could handle, and I was able to swing it good.”
Crucially, they kept the heat going, with the help of the BABIP gods, as Raimel Tapia and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. both connected with infield singles to load the bases for Alejandro Kirk, who on the sixth pitch of the at-bat hit a 99.6 mph fastball to left center for a two-run double.
Guerrero, just a few feet behind Tapia, who had to hold at second in case the ball was caught, was ejected at home plate a hair’s breadth after the speedy outfielder slid in safely.
As the inning ended, the Blue Jays had the game firmly in their hands, with a crowd of 45,538 fretting and booing their right ace. One of them stood up and extended his middle finger toward the Yankees’ dugout as he yelled many words beginning with the letter ‘f’.
“The guys worked on the count,” Bradley said. “We were able to take some good swings. Obviously, Gerrit is a really tough competitor, a really good pitcher and I felt like we were able to put together some good at-bats towards him towards the middle of the game and made it worthwhile.”
The Yankees, of course, didn’t and the Blue Jays knew such misery earlier this week, underscoring how quickly things can change.
That’s why Yankees manager Aaron Boone was hitting the table in his postgame availability, saying, “We’ve got to play better, period, and the best part is that it’s right in front of us. It’s right here. And we can fix it.”
Cole criticized himself for letting a good start slip away, aided by Aaron Judge’s jumping catch off the right-field wall on a Bichette drive, likely stealing a home run, by not attacking Jansen and not fielding the ground ball. Warrior.
“When you’re doing well, sometimes you cover up those mistakes,” he said, “and when you’re not, you just have to be cool.”
In the last four games, the Blue Jays have been just that, the integrity of their game turned the tide.
Stripling’s return from the disabled list with a perfect six innings Wednesday along with a crucial bare-handed Bo Bichette play on a Ryan Mountcastle infield ball helped set the stage for a breakthrough and that level of attention to the detail has followed ever since.
“You started hearing guys say, look, we have to … we have to do the little things and we need to tighten up the defense, we need to fill out the strike zone, the basic things, which sounds really cheesy, but we have to do it.” Stripling said. “You can’t show up and expect Vladdy to hit a three-run home run every night or Gausman to leave at 7 p.m. every night. Baseball is not going to work that way. You need everyone on board with the process, again, super cheesy, but that’s what it takes to win at this level, in a playoff race. You started to see that in the last few days. That’s what good teams do and you’re starting to see that.”
White, making his first start since displacing Yusei Kikuchi in the rotation, did a great job of limiting the damage, aided by five strikeouts. After the Blue Jays took the lead, Adam Cimber, the first of five relievers, struck out Aaron Judge leading off the bottom half to start a close three-up, three-out frame.
“Obviously it’s not ideal to have all that action on the bases, but we threw when we had to,” White said of his four-inning, seven-hit, one-run outing. “In that situation with the way Gaus pitched the other night, and (Jose Berríos) as well, there’s a new pen, so it’s my job to keep the first innings as clean as possible, never give in and we get to the ‘pen.’
David Phelps and Anthony Bass each followed with a scoreless inning and, after Zach Pop gave up a solo homer to Gleyber Torres in the eighth and Matt Chapman responded with one of his own in the ninth, Yimi Garcia, with Jordan Romano out after two laps. Days ago: closed the ninth.
“They know they’re really good,” Schneider said of his team. “Chappy’s home run was incredible in the ninth inning to say, ‘OK, yeah, we’re here.’ So they’re not going to back down from anyone.”
Given the circumstances, the Blue Jays couldn’t have planned the game better, taking control and then dictating the outcome.
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