Bassitt hits 'benchmark' 200 IP as Blue Jays close in on WC spot

September 29th, 2023

TORONTO -- Take a bow, .

The starter with an old-school edge sauntered off the mound Thursday night at Rogers Centre with an even 200 innings next to his name, finishing in style with a strikeout of Aaron Judge. Bassitt earned one of the season’s loudest ovations, the crowd roaring for an accomplishment that has grown so rare but never grown out of style.

“I’m going to try not to get emotional tonight, but I think it’s the benchmark for the elite pitchers, 200 innings,” Bassitt said. “I get throwing 160, I’ve done it. I get throwing 180, I’ve done it. To get to 200 innings, you have to have so many people to trust you, you have to have so much work behind the scenes that people don’t see. It’s been my only goal forever. To get it and to have this organization believe in me like they do, it means the world to me.”

Coming off back-to-back shutout losses to open this series against the Yankees, the 6-0 win finally looked like what this series was: a team on the doorstep of the postseason facing a team with nothing left to play for. The Blue Jays’ work isn’t quite done yet, but the door is wide open for them to clinch their postseason spot prior to the final day of the season, which would allow them to bump Kevin Gausman from Game 162 to Game 1 of the American League Wild Card Series.

  • Games remaining: vs. TB (3)
  • Standings update: Toronto (88-71) sits second in the American League Wild Card race, one game up on Houston (87-72), which was off Thursday night, and two games up on Seattle (86-73), which beat Texas.
  • Tiebreakers: Win vs. Houston; lose vs. Seattle; lose vs. Texas
  • Magic number: Toronto has a magic number of 2 (a combination of 2 Blue Jays wins and Mariners losses) to clinch a Wild Card berth.

Bassitt ends his regular season with a 16-8 record and a 3.60 ERA, and he has only gotten stronger as the season has rolled on. A year ago with the Mets, Bassitt felt like he lost his legs late in the season and couldn’t generate the power he needed, but the 34-year-old looked as sharp Thursday as he did in May. Now, he has put himself in consideration to be the Blue Jays’ Game 2 starter in the postseason if they can get Gausman to Game 1.

“It seems like he’s always got the ball when we need a win,” said manager John Schneider. “He’s stepped up consistently. He’s been an innings eater. He’s the ultimate competitor and teammate. He’s been consistent and really, really good for us. You kind of know what you’re going to get at this point with Chris.”

In every way, Bassitt is his own pitcher. He’s blunt, brutally honest about what is and isn’t working. He moves at his own pace, throws more pitches than you can name and rarely looks like he’d even register a heartbeat on the mound. 

It all adds up to one of the most complex and unique personalities on this roster.

“He’s intense, but relaxed, if that makes sense,” Schneider said. “He’s a little quirky. He probably should have been left-handed in another life. He’s as good of a competitor as I’ve ever seen.”

Bassitt is just the fourth pitcher in baseball to crack 200 innings this season, joining the Giants’ Logan Webb, the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole and the D-backs’ Zac Gallen. Turn the clock back a decade to 2013 and you’ll find 34 pitchers who reached this milestone, but the game has moved away from the workhorse starter. There’s a stubbornness to how Bassitt pitches, though, so it’s only fitting that he threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings, the exact number he needed to reach the magic number.

“I didn’t try to chase 200 innings,” Bassitt said. “I never tried to do that. I tried to chase the postseason. There’s been a pain that I’ve held for well over a year because of how last year ended for me. I just promised myself that I’m going to give the best chance I’ve got to the team that signs me every single day. That’s truly what I’ve done.”

Bassitt’s regular season is done now. It has been a success by any metric, and more than enough to put him in the conversation alongside José Berríos for Game 2 of a potential Wild Card Series, if all goes right. 

The veteran’s goals are bigger now, trying to rewrite the ending to his 2022 season and all of the prior years that didn’t go as far. He’ll have that opportunity soon, but for tonight, he has his own moment.