ST. PETERSBURG -- If the current Blue Jays rebuild is going to be successful, the organization will have to find pitchers to complement an elite group of position prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. They might have found one in Ryan Borucki.Borucki put the finishing
ST. PETERSBURG -- If the current Blue Jays rebuild is going to be successful, the organization will have to find pitchers to complement an elite group of position prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. They might have found one in Ryan Borucki.
Borucki put the finishing touches on an impressive rookie campaign Saturday night by tossing 6 2/3 innings in a 4-3 losing effort to the Rays at Tropicana Field. The 24-year-old allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks while going toe-to-toe with Cy Young contender Blake Snell for the second consecutive start.
Snell got the best of Borucki in a classic pitchers' duel earlier in the week, but on Saturday night it was the Blue Jays lefty who held the edge until faltering in the seventh. Despite the loss, Borucki outlasted the 25-year-old possible Cy Young favorite and stopped Snell from becoming the youngest pitcher since Dontrelle Willis in 2005 to win 22 games. That's no easy feat, and it's a testament to how far Borucki has come in his first season in the Major Leagues.
"Going into the season, I really didn't know what the plan was. It was good just to be able to prove myself and get that confidence that I can get these hitters out," Borucki said. "For so long, you think these guys are invincible and they never get out, but just being up here and proving to myself that I can do this, it's definitely a confidence boost going into 2019."
Borucki didn't even join the Blue Jays until late June and yet he still finishes the season tied with Marco Estrada for the team lead in quality starts, with 11. That leads all AL rookies, and it's the most quality starts by a first-year Toronto pitcher since Marcus Stroman had 14 in 2014. To make it even better, all 11 of those starts involved going at least six innings and allowing two or fewer runs, instead of the prerequisite three runs or fewer for a quality start.
The only real downside to Borucki's outing was that he appeared to tire late. He entered Saturday's game having surrendered three hits in each of four consecutive starts, which tied a Blue Jays record. The only other Toronto pitchers to allow three hits or fewer in that span were Juan Guzman in 1991, Roger Clemens in 1998 and Estrada in 2015.
Borucki finishes the year with a 4-6 record and 3.87 ERA over 17 starts. He carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth but allowed an RBI single to Brandon Lowe and a solo home run to Austin Meadows in the seventh before he was pulled with a man on second. Borucki threw 56 of his 94 pitches for strikes.
"I'm trying to build up to be able to pitch 200 innings each year, and it's going to be a different animal," said Borucki, who tossed a career-high 174 2/3 innings this season between the Majors and Minors. "I felt myself getting a little bit tired at the end, those last couple of starts. But now I just have to build my body up to be able to sustain through September. It'll be a little bit different, but I'll be in Toronto too, so it'll be good to work with the coaches here and I'm excited for this offseason."
Toronto was led on offense by left fielder Teoscar Hernandez, who homered for the second consecutive game and now has 22 on the season. Reese McGuire added a solo homer in the ninth, Rowdy Tellez chipped in with a sacrifice fly and third baseman Aledmys Diaz reached base three times. Snell was chased after five innings, having allowed one run on three hits and an uncharacteristic four walks, but he struck out 10. He finishes the year with an AL-leading 1.89 ERA.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Slipping away: Borucki appeared to be on his way to picking up his fifth victory of the season when he returned to the mound in the bottom of the sixth. Snell had already been taken out of the game. But Tommy Pham led off with a single and later stole second base, and with two outs, a seeing-eye single up the middle by Lowe tied the game. Tampa Bay took the lead in the seventh on the homer by Meadows.
"It wasn't the spot where I wanted it, but he made a good swing on it and took advantage of it," Borucki said of the changeup to Meadows. "That's just how it goes sometimes. I was making a couple of mistakes, couldn't really keep the ball down, but that's what they do. That's what big league hitters do -- they make you pay for your mistakes."
Teoscar time: Hernandez is finishing his season on a high note with home runs in consecutive games. According to Statcast™, Hernandez's 22nd of the season went a projected 440 feet and left his bat at a blistering 111.5 mph. Prior to this series, Hernandez had just two home runs since Aug. 10 and he was batting .206 with a .591 OPS over that span.
"I think if he just cuts down on his strikeouts, he'll be just fine," manager John Gibbons said. "He has all the talent in the world. He has shown that. He has done a lot of good things. If he puts it in play, he'll hit that many more."
HE SAID IT
"I'm very impressed. You know what? For the first time coming to the big leagues, he looks like a big league pitcher. He really had some dominating-type games. He took his lumps along the way, but the kid has shown us he can pitch. I've got nothing but praise for the kid and he's just going to get better." -- Gibbons, on Borucki
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Tampa Bay challenged when catcher Danny Jansen picked off Willy Adames at second base in the fourth inning. After a review of 1 minute and 1 second, the call on the field stood.
The Blue Jays will wrap up their 2018 season against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 3:10 p.m. ET. Scheduled starter Estrada was scratched with a sore back, so Sam Gaviglio (3-9, 5.19 ERA) will instead make one more appearance. He's coming off a start in which he allowed four runs (three earned) over five-plus innings. Tampa Bay will go with a bullpen day, with Ryne Stanek (2-3, 3.08) set to open. Gibbons will cede managerial duties to Russell Martin for the finale.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.