Blue Jays' offense heating up to 2021 level

Toronto scores seven runs in fifth inning of opener vs. Orioles

June 14th, 2022

TORONTO -- It looked like the Blue Jays would never record another out, destined to live forever with two outs in an eternal bottom of the fifth.

The Blue Jays sent 11 men to the plate in that inning, scoring six of their seven runs with two out. In a dominant, lopsided 11-1 win over the Orioles, that inning showed a Toronto lineup that’s not just capable of winning games, but running teams out of the stadium. 

The drumbeat of base hits began with an opposite-field double from Teoscar Hernández, whose re-emergence has helped to morph this offense into a juggernaut. Hernández was followed by a Santiago Espinal single and a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. double, before Raimel Tapia brought in a run of his own and scored on a Cavan Biggio triple.

After Tapia raced around the bases and slid headfirst across home, he took an extra beat to do two pushups in the dirt behind the plate. 

The Blue Jays don’t just want to beat you, they want to have a party while doing so. 

“This lineup is stretched out and I love that,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.] is having good at-bats, Teo is having good at-bats, Gurriel is at the bottom and Biggio, too. That’s just great to see. This is what we expected and they’re doing it now.”

It’s been a remarkable run for Toronto this month, already 8-4 while outscoring opponents 83-39. This is what we all expected to see, coming off a 2021 season in which the Blue Jays led all of baseball with a .796 team OPS and ranked third in runs scored (846), but April was a low-scoring adventure. 

“With Vladdy, it’s funny. He has really good numbers but he’s not there yet,” Montoyo said after Guerrero launched his 15th homer of the season. “He’s almost there, which is why I say that, yes, we’re almost to the same level [as ‘21]. Then there’s Teoscar, the last couple of days have been great at-bats for him. Whenever those two get going, it will be the same as last year for sure.”

Combine this fully realized offense with Toronto’s rotation, though, and it’s lethal.

Alek Manoah was back to doing what he always does. The towering right-hander shut the Orioles down with six scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while striking out seven. The win moves Manoah to 8-1 with a 1.67 ERA, further cementing his spot as one of today’s best pitchers in Major League Baseball. He’s risen to this point with astonishing speed and consistency, but Manoah has earned his way into the early AL Cy Young Award conversations. 

The big man loved what he saw from his lineup, too, especially after battling through so many close games earlier in the season.

“Once we got to seven I was like, ‘OK, enough,’” Manoah joked. “Then the second pitching change, I was like, ‘OK.’ This offense can do that on any given night. They always show up and put runs on the board. For me, being able to go out there for the sixth with a nine-run lead? There’s nothing better than that.”

These blowouts also afford the Blue Jays the rare luxury of giving their starters some extra rest on purpose, too. Manoah needed just 86 pitches to get through his six frames, and for a pitcher who seems to chase a complete game each time he’s out, saving some stamina for later in the season matters. George Springer got a few innings off his feet, too, with Bradley Zimmer taking over in center after the game was clearly out of reach.

It matters who the Blue Jays did this against, too. 

Baltimore, now 26-36, is an improving club. The Orioles are on a run of debuting top-end young talent that will be part of future success, led by No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman, but this is still the last-place club in the AL East. It’s also the first time the Blue Jays have played them, oddly, on June 13. 

With 18 more games to go against the Orioles, the Blue Jays need to make their hay while the sun shines. The Yankees have already played the Orioles 13 times, going 9-4 in those games, so this is one of the ways that Toronto can slowly close the gap over the remaining months of the season. 

The Yankees come to town on Friday, bringing a far more daunting challenge with them, but that red-hot run through the fifth inning offered a glimpse of what this Blue Jays team is capable of when they’re operating at the height of their power.