TORONTO -- Chris Bassitt gets paid by the job, not by the hour.
Bassitt tore through the Astros for two hours Wednesday, needing just 81 pitches over eight innings before Jordan Romano closed the door on a 3-2 win. It caps a whirlwind week for the Bassitt family, who welcomed their second child Saturday.
Bassitt might have missed some sleep, but he didn’t miss his bullpen session.
“I’ve got an incredible wife, I’ll say that,” Bassitt began. “We gave birth Saturday night. Sunday morning, I was here with [Danny] Jansen throwing a bullpen. Luckily, I had help there and my mom’s there. I didn’t really miss a workout. It was good. I didn’t really miss anything other than the chaos back at home.”
The win gives the Blue Jays two in a row from their front-line starters after the major news earlier this week that Alek Manoah had been optioned to the Florida Complex League. Bassitt and Kevin Gausman have been the definition of reliable, though, and now stand side by side for the MLB workhorse award.
MLB Innings Leaders:
T-1. Chris Bassitt (82)
T-1. Kevin Gausman (82)
“Gausman goes at it in a completely different way than I do,” Bassitt said. “I wish I could strike out a lot of guys like him, but I just can’t. It’s so cool to see him do what he does, but overall, we have to eat innings and give the bullpen as much rest as we can. We know we’re going to rely on them a lot coming down the stretch.”
On Tuesday, staff ace Gausman gave the Blue Jays seven innings of one-run ball, striking out 13. Among the many reasons Gausman belongs in the first sentence of any AL Cy Young Award conversation is his ability to consistently work deep into games, something he manages to do while racking up the most strikeouts in the American League. Strikeouts and deep starts don’t always go hand in hand.
Gausman and Bassitt combined: 15 IP, 2 ER, 0 BB, 18 K
That’s a beautiful line any day, but coming on the heels of Manoah’s demotion, it’s never been more important.
The Blue Jays’ starting pitching depth is not where it needs to be. The veteran names from Spring Training who were expected to provide that stability simply haven’t done so. No. 1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann has been slowed by a biceps injury, and while former ace Hyun Jin Ryu’s recovery from Tommy John surgery is going well, he’s still only beginning to ramp up with a target of returning after July’s All-Star break.
In a flurry of moves around Manoah, the Blue Jays recalled Bowden Francis and he seems like the number one suspect to start Saturday. Let’s call that a "TBD" game for now, but when Gausman and Bassitt follow your "TBD," those three letters suddenly don’t seem so scary.
“It’s great. When you look at those two guys, they’re veteran dudes who understand how to prepare and preserve themselves,” said manager John Schneider. “It’s a luxury that you can navigate deep into games with those guys and save your bullpen. They kind of buck the trend in today’s game. You can just trust them.”
This isn’t just about Saturday, but about the foreseeable future without Manoah. The Blue Jays don’t have a timeline for his return, and given how unique that situation is, there won’t be a timeline for a while. It could be Francis on Saturday, but as this goes along, the Blue Jays will need to patch this together with a combination of fringe starters or multi-inning “bulk” guys.
The Blue Jays can be more aggressive with how they approach that knowing that, for the two days following, they have two of baseball’s best.
“You don’t just want to say it’s a slam dunk, sure thing,” Schneider said, “But I think it allows you to be strategic, be creative and rely on some guys who have been really durable and really impressive.”
Bassitt and Gausman aren’t alone, either, as José Berríos finally seems to have rediscovered himself. This is about the big picture, and while the dynamic duo at the top just keeps finding ways to get the job done.