3 takeaways from the Blue Jays loss to the Rays
The Blue Jays (18-17, third in AL East) lost two of three over the weekend to the Rays (21-14, second in AL East), and it was a series of ups and downs for this Toronto club, which has now lost seven of its last 10 games.
Here’s what you need to know:
The batting order finally gets an overhaul
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo has rolled with the same roster all season. It hasn’t worked lately, so he’s finally shaking things up.
On Saturday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came up both holes, Teoscar Hernández went third in the order, and Bo Bichette was knocked down to clean up. Matt Chapman also beat Game 1 on Saturday while George Springer rested his sore ankle, and the new roster saw some success against Rays pitches later in the game.
This has long been the most sensible roster setup for the Blue Jays this year. Moving Guerrero, OBP’s best guy from Toronto, up one spot gives him more sticks and puts him on base for the club’s run producers. Bichette, who is prone to strikeouts, didn’t have as much sense in the two runs, so his free approach fits much better in the four holes.
The latest notable change from the revamped roster saw Santiago Espinal drop to No.5 in the order, which seemed to be working out pretty well, as the 27-year-old started a run in the first set on Saturday. Espinal has quietly been one of the Blue Jays’ best players this season — his 1.5 bWAR leads Toronto position players — so a jump higher in the order was overdue.
Expect Montoyo to continue that batting order at home against the Mariners on Monday.
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Ryu shows he still has it
Expectations were very low for Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu when he returned from the injured list on Saturday, but the 35-year-old reminded everyone that he was a quality major leaguer.
A first circuit rocked the boat, then Ryu settled in afterwards. The southpaw rounded a few hits for 4.2 innings of work and came away allowing a single earned run. His 71 shots weren’t super efficient, but his passing method, especially on his strikeouts, showed that he was the best version of Ryu we’ve seen all season.
The change, Ryu’s X-factor pitch, was perfectly placed throughout the game and generated four swings and misses. The South Korean pitched well and speed returned to normal levels, indicating his forearm issues are behind him. Ryu also benefited from the return of personal receiver Danny Jansen behind the dish.
Jansen is back in force
Inactive since April 10 with an oblique stump, Jansen returned to the Blue Jays roster in style, smashing a two-run home run in a 1-on-2 Saturday night while managing Ryu on the mound.
The 27-year-old had the best start to his career before his injury, going 4 for 8 with two home runs, two RBIs, one walk and zero strikeouts. Toronto looked great when it had Jansen in the lineup earlier this year, and it picked up where it left off in its opener.
It seems odd to hail Jansen as the savior of this batting order, but it’s possible his addition could give the Blue Jays a bit of a spark. Jansen’s defense will help the pitching staff stay comfortable, and his bat should extend the lineup with some pop in the 7-8-9 zone where he often hits.
The Blue Jays may be the worst hitting team in the league with runners in scoring position, but they’re still fourth in the AL in homers. The clutch stats aren’t there, though the raw metrics give some insight into what the Jays bats are capable of. Maybe now with Jansen the attack will break out a bit.