BOSTON – The standard response to factoring in a mid-April game, 11 games into the season, is to put it into perspective.
But the hungry group of Blue Jays players embarking on this campaign have their own take on such things, one deeply rooted in the events of the early evening of October 3, 2021.
“There really is a premium on every game, especially after last year when we came up a game short,” Jays bench coach John Schneider said on Tuesday, referring to the upwardly mobile team that just missed the post-season on the final day. of the schedule. “I think the guys know that. I think that’s how we see it.”
It’s certainly the attitude the Jays have taken this season, including a scorching 20-game spell that started with Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
They won’t go too high or too low on an individual result, but there’s clearly a heightened sense of control whether it’s in Game 11 or Game 151.
Not that urgency leads to annoyance. And there was some pain in the final loss as the Jays only allowed one deserved run and the Red Sox winning score came thanks to the normally confident shortstop Bo Bichette’s second foul of the night.
“Guys are going to make mistakes and it comes back to my point: when you play against teams like this you can’t give them anything and we did that this time,” said Jays manager Charlie Montoyo after his team fell to 6-5. . “His first two mistakes of the season, I don’t go into that too much. But we do know that in close games you make mistakes against teams like this, they will find ways to score.”
Scoring has been a boon lately for a Toronto attack touted as one of the best in the league. They had eight hits that night, but were able to get only one run-up in the second inning on a solo homerun by Zack Collins.
This time it was the Red Sox who were opportunistic. When Bichette made his throwing error to first place to start in seventh, the Red Sox made the Jays pay when Bobby Dalbec advanced to second place on the wild pitch and went on to score on a sacrifice fly.
It’s been a really rough April/early May schedule for the Jays. Before this 20-game run is over, they have six more against the Bosox, six against the reigning AL West champ Houston Astros, and three against the Yankees.
“If you want to be good, you have to beat the good teams,” Schneider said ahead of Jays’ first loss of the season. “It’s definitely something we look forward to and look forward to.”
Placing a premium on early-season games may be counterintuitive for players slogging for the 162, but these Jays see it differently.
“The players set a good tone in the spring to keep that at the forefront,” said Schneider. “It’s good when the players think about it. There is a lot of want, ability, need and you try to get the most out of that, especially at the start of the season.”
That mentality will serve the team well, even if the attack has yet to be broken off and there are still some questions about the starting rotation.
Heading into this three-game set at Fenway, the Jays have one more run to drop in their first three. Keep it up and suddenly April can be scored as a big month.
Against the Red Sox — a team they will face seven times in a ten-day period beginning Tuesday — the Jays went with slow-moving lefty Yusei Kikuchi, who was wobbly early but helped his own cause with solid defense.
The Japanese lefty also hit five complete, giving just one run on three hits, the only damage caused by back-to-back doubles by Henrique Hernandez and Trevor Story to start the fourth.
Better yet, Kikuchi was the first Jays starter to reach 90 pitches (91) and seemed to get more efficient as the game went on. The Jays will definitely need some efficiency from the rotation with Hyun-Jin Ryu sidelined due to a forearm injury.
“I feel so good about him now,” Montoyo said of Kikuchi. “We lost the game, but he’s hitting 96 (miles per hour) and he was in control.”
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The Jays opened the score in the second on Zack Collins’ second homer of the season, a solid shot to the right.
The hit extended the hit streak of Collins, who was DHing on Tuesday, to four games. If his recent form is a harbinger of things to come, he could be a big help to Jays attack. In his 12 at bats during the weekend series against the A’s back in Toronto, Collins reached base safely seven times while going 6-for-11 with two doubles, a homer and three RBI.
With a two-out single in the eighth to accompany his earlier blast, Collins had another two-hit night on Tuesday.
It was an unreliable start for Kikuchi, who walked several times on his first nine pitches. But when Rafael Devers grounded into a double play and Xander Bogaerts grounded out short, Kikuchi was out… He was able to get out of another jam in the fourth. After a handful of great plays in short, Bichette had a bulge to start the fourth when his wild pitch first went over the head of Vlad Guerrero Jr. sailed, for his first foul… Collins, who batted safely four games in each of his past, added a single to his homer for another night with two hits… Guerrero had better at bats than the past few games, rapping a few singles out. He now had a hit in 11 consecutive games at Fenway.