NEW YORK — Yankee Stadium is where great postseason scripts are written, and the Blue Jays have used it as the backdrop for their workouts.
Wednesday night’s 6-1 win over the Yankees is what October will look like for Toronto. This team is built to play well, defend well and overcome a few more runs than other players, making this the best scheme we’ve seen in weeks.
Getting to the postseason is the first step, but the Blue Jays continue to help themselves to wins in the Bronx. Wednesday saw their fifth win in a row. The Mariners, Rangers and Astros also won, but with seven games remaining between Seattle and Texas, the Blue Jays’ recent wins are their own version of running out the clock.
Until New York’s bullpen completely disintegrated in the eighth and ninth innings, this game had all the hallmarks of a classic Kevin Gausman game, right down to the lack of offense.
A year after Gausman was cursed with some of the worst batted-ball fortunes in MLB history, he spent 2023 cursed with low support. No matter what crimes Gusman committed in his past life to achieve that goal, he pulled through them brilliantly, building to another of the most dominant seasons in Blue Jays history.
“Firstly, he impresses me every time he does it. Secondly, he has the attitude that suits him perfectly,” said manager John Schneider. “He doesn’t let moments or situations get too big. I think that’s a big part of what makes it great.”
With 10 batters fanned over six scoreless innings, Gusman’s 232 strikeouts trail only Robbie Ray (248) and Roger Clemens (271, 292) for a single season in franchise history. It fits all definitions of the word “ace”, but now this is what matters most.
“It helps with playing in meaningful games, too,” Gusman said. “You get that extra bit of adrenaline when you know that. To be honest, I try to do better for my teammates more than I do for myself. That’s kind of the point we’re at. No matter how bad you feel, everyone feels just as bad if not worse.”
This should be the Blue Jays organization in October. This roster ranks 13th in OPS and 14th in slugging percentage, so it’s not quite built for a return to games like the 2015-16 teams. With the position behind this rotation, they shouldn’t need to.
Chad Green looked at his best for the Blue Jays, Jordan Hicks homered at the top of the Yankees order, and Eric Swanson allowed the only error, a solo homer in the ninth. Either Jordan Romano or Tim Maiza will be part of those big moments come October, but this is what the scenario looks like.
“Everything seems to be moving in our direction,” Wyatt Merrifield said. “The pitching was good, the offense was good, the defense was good, the base running was good. We’ve got to continue to do that against teams that are … more invested in what the end of the season brings, if I can say that as politely as I can.”
role of crime? It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it has to be something.
Wednesday’s edition was a series of early hits from Kevin Kiermaier, George Springer and finally Bo Bichette, who started hitting the ball again. That kept Toronto ahead until New York’s bullpen collapsed, marching within two runs on a pair of ugly innings, something the Blue Jays don’t see often from bullpens built for the postseason.
Come October, some in baseball believe a certain style of offense is best suited for the big stage.
“People always say communication is at its highest when you get to this point in the year and in the postseason,” Schneider said. “It’s hard to string together multiple hits against really good players and really good relievers. People gravitate toward contact, but at the same time, you need to clip a homer with a guy or two on base. Getting it, the first part, is probably the most important.”
The Blue Jays did a lot of that first part on Wednesday, walking six in addition to their nine strikeouts.
All that’s left to turn this scenario into a huge success is to replicate it against teams that will also play through October, as Merrifield subtly hinted at.
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