Blue Jays’ Steve Matz became the first 4-game winner in the majors with a solid 5 innings in a 5-3 win over the Rays
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Tyler Glasnow struck out four batters in the first inning … but gave up 4 runs. Was the Glas-now half full or half empty? After striking out Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette, Vladdy singled to left centre. Rowdy Tellez followed with a run-scoring double. Randall Grichuk walked, and then Marcus Semien homered to put the Jays up 4-0. After Joe Panik singled, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. struck out on a wild pitch but reached first when the ball got past the catcher. Glasnow then caught Danny Jansen looking for his 4th strikeout of the inning.
Steve Matz pitched five innings with seven strikeouts and three earned runs. Not as holy-cow-Batman as his previous starts, but good enough to win. Then the bullpen – a freshly returned Chatwood, then Phelps, Mayza, and Dolis – held the Rays scoreless (and hitless!) for the final four innings.
The defense was a mixed bag. Vladdy continues to impress at first base. He made a diving catch of a hard grounder and threw from his knees to first for the out, and in the ninth when a bad throw pulled him off the bag he alertly tagged the runner before he reached first base. Lourdes made an are-you-kidding-me throw to home plate to catch Yandy Díaz in the first inning (it makes you wonder how much longer teams are going to test his arm like that). But Bo continues to struggle at shortstop, with two more errors in the game (bringing his season total to six – second only to Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s seven).
The Jays are in a difficult position relative to Bo. Obviously, the best possible outcome would be for him to continue to grow and learn at shortstop, to turn into a solid fielder there, and be a franchise cornerstone at that position for years. And if 2021 were purely a development year, it would make sense to just leave Bo at short for the remainder of the year and re-evaluate in the offseason (when a bumper crop of free agent shortstops will be available). But the early weakness that the Yankees are showing is making an AL East title for the Jays increasingly possible.
If, after the return of players like Romano, Springer and Hernandez, the Jays find themselves in a position where they are in serious contention and every game counts, it might be that much more difficult to accept the cost of Bo’s learning curve. And having a player like Semien – whose +18 DRS over 2018-19 was 12th best in all of baseball – available to fill in at short can only increase the pressure on Bo. Cavan’s struggles at third might exacerbate this situation, making a Cavan @ 2B, Marcus @ SS and Bo @ 3B scenario that much more attractive.
The bottom line? The Jays did a lot of things right tonight. Starting and relief pitching, timely hitting against a very tough opposing starter, and some (if not all) sterling plays in the field. For them to play this well with so many of their top players unavailable is doubly impressive, and bodes very well for when the team is healthy again.
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A Jays fan since pre-Series, Jim’s biggest baseball regret is that he did not play hooky with his buddies on 7 Apr 77. But hearing “Fanfare For The Common Man” played from a rooftop on 24 Oct 92 helped him atone.