The Toronto Blue Jays are just under a month removed from a difficult 1-3 start. That disastrous opening weekend is now a distant memory, as the team has stormed out of the gates to a 16-9 start through its first 25 games.
Most recently, Toronto found solace in a three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox in its friendly home confines of Rogers Centre.
Having lost just a single series (at Houston) since their opening weekend blunder with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Blue Jays have recovered handsomely, and despite their .640 win percentage sit third in the American League East standings.
And the teams they trail? No, not the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, but rather the 20-5 Tampa Bay Rays and the 16-8 Baltimore Orioles.
Yeah… most didn’t see that one coming – unless your name happens to be Randy Arozerana, who can apparently see everything (pitches included) from now until 2025.
After beating up the previously undefeated Rays twice in a row, Toronto suffered a series loss to the Astros at home, before bouncing back to take two of three from the Yankees in New York. The club returned home for a three-game set with Chicago, to which it put up 20 runs to the White Sox’s 2, through 27 innings of work.
Starting pitching was sensational for the Jays, as Chris Bassitt allowed just three hits over 6.1 innings in the series opener. Jose Berrios followed that up with another solid performance. He struck out nine batters on four hits over seven complete innings.
“We have the talent,” Berrios said following his third-straight strong outing. “We have the pitching staff to do that. Start by start, we’re doing it. For me, Chris threw last night and threw well, so I took that to motivate myself and keep rolling with that streak. We have really good chemistry. We all have the same goal, to win every ballgame we can. We want to keep rolling, keep pushing, more and more.”
Then, on Wednesday, it was Yusei Kikuchi, who retired eight batters of his own through 5.2 innings of work.
“All five of us have really bonded,” Kikuchi said of the team’s starters following his performance on Wednesday. “We’ve been eating together, and in the bullpens we’ve been giving each other advice. It’s really good to see each and every one of us succeeding so far.”
Although Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman have surprisingly been somewhat of wild cards this season, the other three hurlers have put together a slew of strong outings, following disappointing starts to their respective seasons.
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“I think we can say he’s on a pretty good roll,” clubhouse manager John Schneider said of the 28-year-old Berrios. “It can snowball either way. Maybe you saw it a little bit the opposite way last year. He’s just being confident in his work and now he’s seeing the results that go with it. I’m not going to ask anyone to be who they’re not, but when you’re doing what he’s doing, it’s easy to feel the way he’s feeling.”
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Berrios, who began the 2023 season much like he ended last year – with an inflated ERA off a his first two games that saw a combined 15 hits and 12 earned runs – has bounced back dramatically, bringing his ERA down from 12.71 to 4.71 in just five starts.
“When you have a night like this, you pitch well and we win, you have to enjoy it even more than the bad days,” he laughed. “It’s a blessing and a gift to wake up every morning, to be alive and have my family, to be able to still play at this level. When we win, we have to enjoy it a little bit more.”
And for Toronto, it wasn’t all pitching in the series either. The bats once again came alive, as Cavan Biggio, Danny Jansen, Whit Merrifield and Bo Bichette took centre stage.
“It just goes to show how deep we are, from top to bottom, we’re very diversified,” Biggio said of his team’s batting order. “I feel like the way our lineup is constructed on any given night anybody can help the team win. Tonight was a big one for the bottom of the lineup, but it just goes to show how talented we are and how well we play together.”
The Jays are off on Thursday, before welcoming the Seattle Mariners to Rogers Centre for a three-game weekend series, beginning on Friday night. Saturday and Sunday’s games will feature afternoon start times. All three contests can be found live on Sportsnet.
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