Bassitt baffles Braves with 2nd career shutout

Right-hander tosses Blue Jays' first nine-inning SHO since Buehrle nearly eight years ago

May 13th, 2023

TORONTO -- The next two weeks are like a midterm exam for the first semester of the Blue Jays’ season, and just aced it.

Bassitt threw the Blue Jays’ first nine-inning shutout in nearly eight years, going back to Mark Buehrle on June 3, 2015. It had been 1,176 games since that gem from Buehrle, and 889 games since Marcus Stroman threw the last nine-inning complete game for the Blue Jays on April 23, 2017. Both were the longest droughts in MLB history.

These things are rare, but in Friday’s 3-0 win over the Braves at Rogers Centre, so was Bassitt.

“That’s the best version of Chris Bassitt,” said manager John Schneider. “It’s really unique to have a guy adjust on the fly in-game. The way he manipulates the ball, it’s really cool to watch him. Competing is a really big part of the game, and we knew that when we signed him. I think it was just really evident tonight that he didn’t want to back down from any challenge.”

As Bassitt cut through a strong Atlanta lineup over and over, the daily mental math churned through the minds of Schneider and pitching coach Pete Walker. Schneider ran out to speak with Bassitt in the top of the eighth with two outs, but that went no further than a quick check in. With the numbers in a comfortable spot, there’s still an inch-wide opening for the eye test to play a role in 2023.

The Blue Jays bet big on Bassitt when they signed him, and when the opportunity presents itself, they bet on the person as much as the pitcher.

“He never quits and never gives in,” said George Springer. “He just has this way about him. He’s an extremely confident guy but a very, very humble man.”

That’s why no one was surprised when Bassitt dodged the credit after the win, downplaying the importance of a complete game along the way.

As Springer and Schneider both pointed out immediately, this Atlanta lineup is scary. There’s a reason the Braves are off to one of the best starts in Major League Baseball and have been a menace on the road, their .793 OPS as a team overall ranking second behind only the Rays. Still, after doing something that no current Blue Jays were around to see the last time it happened, Bassitt wanted the praise pointed elsewhere.

“It was more so the offense,” said Bassitt, who notched the second shutout and second complete game of his career. “Obviously, we got a run early and we added a run in the seventh. One run, you’re playing with fire with the offense. Once it got to three, I’m not saying it was easy by any means with that lineup, but I could be more aggressive.”

Bassitt shared some love for his defense, too, and deservingly so. Kevin Kiermaier, Bo Bichette and Matt Chapman all made standout plays in the field, another feature of the Blue Jays’ developing identity that we simply didn’t see as regularly a year ago. Bassitt said that the club’s defense, as much as anything, led to his decision to join Toronto. It allowed him to grip it, rip it and be confident in what’s behind him.

On their recent road trip, the Blue Jays played a loose and untidy game at times. Friday turned it back to early April, when defense and baserunning were the engines behind a tight zipped-up style of play. For an opponent, it’s incredibly frustrating, and that’s exactly what the Blue Jays want.

“We didn't barrel up too many balls, for sure,” said Braves manager Brian Snitker. “[Sean] Murphy had the lineout and Eddie [Rosario] had the double. But other than that, there wasn't a lot of great contact. I think that's just the second time this year we've been shut out. It was just a really well-pitched game against us.”

There’s never a bad time for a shutout, but Friday was especially valuable for the Blue Jays. They opened a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, a run that includes series against the Braves, Yankees, Orioles, Rays and Twins.

There’s been a mental shift, though. This thing goes both ways.

“Other teams are saying that it’s going to be a tough series when they come in here, too,” said Schneider. “It’s about understanding that and getting back to what we’re good at, which is having good at-bats, getting good starting pitching and making good defensive plays.”

Check, check and check.

The upcoming schedule is a row of heavyweights, but with Bassitt’s performance and the Maple Leafs completing their annual playoff exit a few blocks away, Toronto belongs to the Blue Jays again.