The Toronto Blue Jays responded with a resounding ‘take that’ to those criticizing their first major slide of the season.
Having slipped to 18-14 on the season thanks largely to a four-game sweep at the hands of the division rival Boston Red Sox, the Blue Jays went out and erased their five-game losing streak with a three-game sweep of their own.
Facing off against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a weekend series from PNC Park, Toronto outscored its inter-league opponent by a combined score of 22-8, while its pitching up 27 strikeouts to Pittsburgh’s 16 over three outings.
“It’s a credit to the guys,” clubhouse manager John Schneider said of his team’s rebound performance. “There’s no panic. It is what it is in Boston, then you move on and try to win the next series. It’s always tough to take all three, but we finally got back to what we’re used to doing.”
The 21-15 Pirates were no pushover either. Toronto just plain and simply played better baseball en route to the three-win-in-three-day weekend set.
Chris Bassitt got things going for the Jays on Friday, as he went seven full innings, giving up just four hits and no earned runs with five strikeouts to his name, as Toronto opened the series with a 4-0 shutout. George Springer hit a two-run homer, while Whit Merrifield put up two hits on the night.
Six Blue Jays batters had multi-hit games on Saturday, while José Berríos turned seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work. He gave up just two runs on five hits for his third win of the season, as the Jays easily took the game by an 8-2 final.
Sunday saw another impressive outing from Yusei Kikuchi, who moved to 5-0 on the season with just four hits allowed over 6.1 innings of work. Once again, the bats came alive, with Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier and Merrifield each hitting multi-run long balls – as highlighted by Varsho’s river shot.
A fan swam in the river to retrieve Daulton Varsho's homerun baseball. 🏊♂️ pic.twitter.com/VoUPj0KQCJ
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 7, 2023
“That’s what this lineup is capable of,” Schneider added. “You’re seeing Brandon come around. Jansen is having great at-bats and Whit is having great at-bats. Kiermaier today had a couple of knocks. It lengthens it out and you don’t have to be so reliant on the top of the order.”
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It was actually the veteran Belt leading the way with three hits and one walk for two runs scored in the game. He went a combined six for nine with three doubles in the series.
“I’ve been through this before,” the 13-year MLB regular said of his tough start. “Many times. One thing I’ve learned is that if I try to force some things, it doesn’t work out. It ends up making you worse. I think I tried to force it a little bit. For the most part, I’ve got to get back to simplifying my approach. It’s see ball, hit ball. Don’t make it more complicated than that.”
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Belt started both Saturday and Sunday’s games with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sitting out due to some left wrist soreness.
“To be honest with you, for me it is still the same,” Guerrero Jr. said after being forced to miss his second-straight game. “I tried, I really tried to play. I just couldn’t.”
According to the first baseman, the injury occurred midway through Friday’s game, “and then when I woke up and it felt a little bit tight, so that’s when I realized that I better check this.”
He explained that the soreness wasn’t just in his wrist, but also in his forearm.
In having Monday off as his third-straight rest day, the Blue Jays are adamant that he will at least get in a good batting practice session, while his availability for Tuesday’s game against Philadelphia remains up in the air.
The 24-year-old has seven home runs, 21 RBIs and a .318 average to his name through his first 33 games of the 2023 season.
The Blue Jays will now check out the digs at Citizens Bank Park, as they take on the Phillies on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. They will then return back to Rogers Centre for home sets with Atlanta and division rivals New York and Baltimore over the next week and a half.
After seeing the No. 3, 4 and 5 pitchers put up strong performances in back-to-back fashion, the Jays will now turn to their big guns in Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman as they kick things off with Philadelphia.
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