TORONTO -- The Blue Jays just landed their counterpunch in dramatic fashion.
Danny Jansen launched a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the 10th to break a scoreless tie that felt like it might last forever Wednesday night at Rogers Centre. This game demanded drama, though. It’s all these Blue Jays and Yankees know.
Coming off two tense days that saw the AL East rivals trade blows over a suspicious glance from Aaron Judge, the placement of base coaches and Tuesday's ejection of Domingo Germán, Wednesday’s 3-0 win matters more than your average May 17 game. Beyond the division implications and individual performances of it all, these two teams simply don’t like one another.
“This is an exciting feeling,” Jansen said after his second walk-off hit in less than a week. “We knew coming into this series that it’s two good teams going at it. Every game is important, right? We know it’s going to be a battle throughout this series. This is good, and we’re going to try to build momentum off of it.”
Jansen has slowly been turning the corner lately, showing more of the pull-side power that he’s wrapped his arms around as an identity over the past few years. He has the power to be a 30-homer bat, without question, but he has battled injuries in the past and started the 2023 season slow. This lineup needs some length, though, and Jansen is capable of stealing some games from the seventh or eighth spot in the order.
“When he’s good and when he’s doing his thing, he’s got damage potential -- great bat-to-ball skills and he’s on base a lot,” said manager John Schneider. “He’s shown that over the course of the past couple years. He’s huge for our lineup. When you look one through nine, and you get contributions up and down, you’re just so much more dangerous.”
To win a game 3-0 in the bottom of the 10th, something else clearly had to go right. Chris Bassitt was brilliant once again, which shouldn’t surprise you anymore.
Since his debut on April 2 in St. Louis, when everything that could go wrong went terribly wrong, Bassitt has been one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, pitching to a 1.71 ERA in eight starts. He’s coming off a complete-game shutout and another fantastic start to open the month of May, giving him 27 consecutive innings without allowing a run.
That’s the third-longest streak in Blue Jays history, behind only Dave Stieb (34) and Roger Clemens (33). That’s the kind of company you want to keep in the record book.
What makes Bassitt’s seven scoreless innings against the Yanks even more impressive is the fact that he, like a handful of Blue Jays players right now, is sick. He’s been dealing with a sinus infection, and the pressure from that was giving him headaches any time his heart rate increased. That’s why he took his time -- even taking a pitch-timer violation for an automatic ball at one point -- and used mound visits strategically to keep those headaches down to a dull roar.
“I was basically trying to pitch like a zombie today,” Bassitt said.
You also saw experience on display. Bassitt’s mind is just as interesting as his 50-pitch arsenal, and following the win, he reflected on exactly why he was able to handle this moment so well and turn a series on the verge of boiling over into a regular baseball game again.
“I think I’ve been around long enough to not make a big issue out of just two losses,” Bassitt said. “As dumb as it is, young me would have lost tonight’s game. I would have went in there, overthrown, walked guys, given up hits and we would have lost tonight’s game. Being around long enough to not panic and relax ... we have today’s game and that’s it. You can’t change the past.”
One game doesn’t change much, but just by avoiding another argument about where base coaches were standing relative to their boxes, everyone takes a small win from Wednesday. The Blue Jays needed the big win, too, in an AL East that should look just as stacked and just as tight come September.
Toronto will send José Berríos to the mound in Thursday’s finale looking for a split, and it finally has an ounce of momentum on its side after Judge took total control of the series for the first two games. Now that it looks like the focus is back where it belongs, the Blue Jays are back in business.