The view from Deep Left Field on the Blue Jays’ 8-1 win over Tampa Bay at Rogers Centre on Monday:
It has to stop some time, but the opener of a three-game series against the league-leading Tampa Bay Rays wasn’t the time.
The Blue Jays failed to get to double-digits for the first time in four games, but they smacked 17 hits and overwhelmed their opponent again, thanks to dominating starting pitching and plenty of offence. They won for the 12th time in 13 games.
Rookie Alek Manoah, a Florida native, had the best start of his nascent big-league career. He took a perfect game into the fifth inning, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before giving up a two-out single to Joey Wendle. That was the only hit he would allow. The 23-year-old didn’t walk anybody and struck out 10 over eight scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, the bats kept on putting up crooked numbers — four runs in the fourth and three more in the fifth. The Jays have now scored 52 times over their last four games.
No. 5 hitter Teoscar Hernandez went 5-for-5 on a career night, but it was the bottom of the order that did the heavy lifting. The smokin’ hot Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk and Breyvic Valera, batting seventh, eighth and ninth, had three hits each and combined to drive in six of the Blue Jays’ eight runs.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got in on the action too, of course, belting a frozen rope that just snuck over the wall in the sixth inning. His 45th home run of the season put him back on top of the major-league leaderboard and also surpassed his Hall of Fame father’s best single season.
- Exorcism: Most of the Jays’ barrage came against Ryan Yarbrough, which had to feel pretty good since the Rays left-hander has been their kryptonite over the years.
In 73 career innings against the Jays, the soft tosser had posted a 2.47 ERA. more than two runs lower than his 4.53 against everybody else, and he had held them to a measly .219 batting average. Many was the time that a Blue Jay went back to the dugout shaking his head in disbelief at not being able to square him up.
That changed Monday. The Jays managed five hits off Yarbrough in each of the fourth and fifth innings, and Bo Bichette golfed a changeup to left for his 24th home run of the season. In all, Yarbrough allowed seven runs on 10 hits while recording only seven outs. His once-sparkling ERA against the Blue Jays went up almost a full run to 3.23.
- Good send: With the game still very much up for grabs in the fourth inning, the Jays played a little hit-and-run. It’s not a strategy we’ve seen all that often this season, as usually there’s too much risk of losing a baserunner. There’s also a lot of swing-and-miss in more than a few Blue Jays bats, but not young Alejandro Kirk’s.
The 22-year-old rookie has a strikeout rate of just 12 per cent this season, whiffing about half as much as the average big-leaguer, so when he got the count to 3-2 against Yarbrough with Hernandez on first and one out, manager Charlie Montoyo put the runner in motion.
The trust in Kirk’s ability to get the bat on the ball — or to have the discipline to take a pitch if it was out of the strike zone —paid off, as Kirk hit a ground ball through the open right side of the infield and Hernandez easily took third.
It didn’t look like much at the time, and it certainly could be easily lost in what wound up another blowout win but, if Hernandez isn’t on the move, that ground ball might be an inning-ending double play.
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