Gausman deals against ex-team in twin-bill opener
BALTIMORE -- The way interim manager John Schneider sees it, it’s not even worth watching the out-of-town scoreboard every night. That’s how jumbled this year’s American League Wild Card race is.
The math is less overwhelming on paper, but it’s complex enough to forecast drama: four teams for three spots, separated by a handful of games, with a month to play. And the reality is, the Blue Jays won’t need to scoreboard watch, because almost every night from here on out they will look up to find one of those teams in front of them.
Don’t get it twisted: The AL Wild Card race won’t be decided this week in Baltimore, which Toronto opened Monday with a 7-3 Game 1 win against the Orioles. But the four-game series the Blue Jays embarked on provides them with the first of many opportunities this month to seriously separate themselves from their pesky AL East rivals in the Wild Card hunt.
“It's just a matter of time with this team,” said winning pitcher Kevin Gausman, who padded his Cy Young Award case with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball. “Right now it would be the perfect time to get it going. So I hope it's right now.”
So it began Monday, when the Blue Jays took care of business behind Gausman in the opener of their doubleheader at Camden Yards. Back in the ballpark where his career began, Gausman worked around a controversial balk call and struck out six against his former team in his biggest start as a Blue Jay to date. Teoscar Hernández added a big eighth-inning home run, and Toronto tacked on in the ninth. The Blue Jays won the nightcap, 8-4, on the strength of three homers by Bo Bichette.
Including Monday, the Blue Jays and Orioles play 10 times down the stretch. After this four-game series in Baltimore, Toronto hosts Baltimore from Sept. 16-18, then heads back to Camden Yards to close out the regular season from Oct. 3-5. In between, the Blue Jays also face the Rays nine more times, meaning 19 of Toronto’s final 30 games are against their direct competitors in the Wild Card hunt.
Every one matters.
“From the first play of the game, you could tell that the whole stadium was pretty fired up for this,” Gausman said. “It was weird to hear the ‘O’ chant [during the national anthem] and realize they are cheering against me now. But it was really cool. The Baltimore faithful let me hear it, good and bad. This is a special place for me, and I’ve always loved pitching here.”