TORONTO—On Sunday the Toronto Blue Jays offence was shut out and held to just two hits in a 7-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
That’s not good. The fact they did so against a pitcher, Yusei Kikuchi, with a 5.56 ERA who’d yet to hold a team to a goose egg in a multi-inning start is worse. That he was able to do it on just 96 pitches, is pretty ugly.
“It was a combination of him doing his job and us,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Our approach wasn’t that great today.”
A couple mitigating factors were in play, such as the absence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as well as Kikuchi’s talent far outstripping his production in an up-and-down rookie year since being a highly-sought signing from Japan. Even so, those pieces of information are damning.
Despite the grim picture they paint, the fact they come as a surprise has to be encouraging for the Blue Jays.
Earlier in the season, making pedestrian competition look otherworldly was part of the club’s routine. It’s hard to forget them letting Jordan Zimmerman - who currently carries a 6.66 ERA and has been a disaster for three years now - sniff a perfect game against them on opening day.
It’s days like Sunday, or more specifically, the fact our gut instinct is to find them surprising, shocking even, that shows just how far this lineup has come. Part of that has been the result of calling up players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio, while some of it has been the result of players like Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, and even Brandon Drury, finding their bearings.
Whatever you want to attribute the climb to, it’s been steady and remarkable. It’s easy to forget just how painful to watch the Blue Jays offence was in the first few months of the season.
Of course, the August numbers come from a smaller sample, but we’re almost two thirds through the month so it’s not just a couple of games. From the beginning of the season, the Blue Jays were transparent about how this season was about development and taking strides, not competing. That table pretty clearly indicates they’re doing that, at least offensively.
Although Sunday’s performance was an unmitigated disaster - and make no mistake, it was, with only a couple of slick defensive plays by Bichette serving as a silver lining - it was exception that proves the rule about this team’s bats.
The Blue Jays look like a team that’ll make some noise on offence down the stretch, especially if Vladdy is indeed OK, and into 2020. They’ve gone from creating an expectation of getting silenced to fostering one where they’re expected to hit. That’s a big step.
More important than shifting expectations is shifting production. That’s what this club has been doing lately - Sunday aside.
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