The Blue Jays left the doors sitting wide open for the Red Sox on Saturday night at Fenway Park, both as a lineup and a defense, but their bullpen had other ideas.
It all started with Anderson who, to his credit, gave the Blue Jays an abbreviated version of exactly what they’re looking for from their rotation. The right-hander threw 45 pitches in his return from a right oblique strain and, while he didn’t flood the strike zone, he limited the damage to one run on a hit and two walks.
“I was a little nervous today, and I was kind of surprised about that,” Anderson said. “Especially with no fans in the stands, it’s more of a controlled environment. But getting out there, repeating my delivery and getting up and down three times, it felt really good. I’m glad the team got the win. It was great.”
The Blue Jays don’t need complete game shutouts every night, but they do need some consistency. Not only will that make things easier on skipper Charlie Montoyo and his bullpen management, but if the rotation keeps games close, the lineup will have to wake up eventually, like it did in the late innings on Saturday.
After Wilmer Font bridged the gap, Kay took over and was in full control. Firing a fastball that touched 96.5 mph, which he spotted on both edges of the plate, Kay continued to be one of the most impressive players on this Blue Jays roster through 12 games. The left-hander struck out three, never backed down against right-handed hitters and, in every sense, earned his first win of the season.
“Everything was clicking and I was in the strike zone for the whole outing,” said Kay, Toronto's No. 11 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “It was good to go right after guys and attack them.”
This bullpen isn’t littered with top prospects and superstars, either. There are pitchers who have needed to play in Japan to revive their careers, like Anthony Bass or Rafael Dolis. There are pitchers who took the long road, like Jordan Romano, and a strong group of young starters making it work in shorter roles, including Kay. Coming together as one, they’re pushing one another.
“We’re pretty much competing against each other to see who can have the better outings,” Kay said. “It’s really fun to have all of these guys coming out here throwing hard. You’ve got Hatch and Romano doing really well, and pretty much everyone’s doing their job. It’s fun to go out there and pick each other up.”
From Montoyo’s seat in the dugout, there are plenty of reasons to nitpick Saturday’s win, but the bullpen effort isn’t one. Kay’s effort, in particular, had Montoyo heaping praise following the game.
“Today was amazing,” Montoyo said. “You have to stay even keel to do what he did today. The misplays behind him, and he kept making big pitch after big pitch. I was really impressed.”
The Blue Jays needed tonight’s win, too, as their lineup struggled to string together hits and continued to create unnecessary outs on the bases, which plagued them in Friday’s opener. Toronto finally tied things up in the seventh with a loud RBI double from Bo Bichette, then crept ahead in the eighth with a dribbling groundout off the bat of Rowdy Tellez, which brought a runner home from third.
That set the stage for the back end of the bullpen, which picked up right where Kay left off. Romano, who stands right alongside Kay as one of the stories of the young season for the Blue Jays, struck out two over his scoreless eighth inning before Bass tossed a clean ninth to pick up his third save of the season.