Clutch & historic: Bo, Semien power Toronto

September 30th, 2021

TORONTO -- and made history on Wednesday night, leading the Blue Jays to their most important win of the season in front of the biggest and loudest crowd that Rogers Centre has seen in two years.

Semien launched his 44th home run of the season, a record for the most home runs by a second baseman in AL/NL history, surpassing Davey Johnson’s 43 with the Braves in 1973. This is another accolade atop a career year for Semien, who was named an All-Star and should land within the top five of American League MVP Award voting.

The clutch moment belonged to Bichette, though. After hitting his 27th home run of the season in the third inning, which set the all-time Blue Jays record for the most by a shortstop, Bichette hit No. 28 in the eighth inning -- a tiebreaking blast to give Toronto a 6-5 win over New York. After allowing the Yankees to tie things up and with the season on the line, this moment was Bichette’s biggest in a Blue Jays uniform.

“This is what we dream of doing. I wouldn’t be playing baseball if it wasn’t for moments like this,” said Bichette, who admitted he was trying to homer in his final at-bat. “This is why I work hard, why I do what I do. I think that can be said for a lot of us in here. We’re just embracing it. This is an unbelievable opportunity we have.”

The win pulls the series even at one apiece while keeping the Blue Jays just one game back of the Red Sox, who also won Wednesday, for the second AL Wild Card spot. New York is now one game ahead of Boston for the first spot. Seattle defeated Oakland to remain a half-game in front of Toronto.

Semien’s timing was impeccable on the early blast, helping the Blue Jays jump out to an early 2-0 lead in their biggest game of the season against the Yankees, coming off Tuesday’s loss in the series opener. After starter José Berríos struck out the side in the top half to fire up the crowd, George Springer ripped a double on the first pitch he saw and Semien delivered the big blow. Doing it against Yanks ace Gerrit Cole, who’s neck-and-neck with Robbie Ray for the AL Cy Young Award, makes it even more impressive.

The home run also gave Semien 101 RBIs on the season, while putting him just two homers shy of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (46) for the team lead and four shy of Royals catcher Salvador Perez (48) for the MLB lead. The all-time home run record for a second baseman is qualified as any player who has spent more than 50 percent of their time at the position, which Semien easily meets, as 142 of his starts have come there.

For one of baseball’s most consistent players, a historic record starts with daily routines. It might not be the exciting part, but for Semien, it’s the catalyst for everything fans see on the field.

“I love what I do. I love the process,” Semien said. “I’m always open to new things, but since late April or May, I’ve found a routine here that works for me. I wouldn’t be able to do that without our strength coaches, hitting coaches and infield coaches, because they do a lot for us, but it takes a lot of dedication from us players to buy in and do everything.”

This game had its hands on history throughout, with more franchise firsts, and it set the table for something that’s happened just four times in club history:

Robbie Ray, the stage is yours
By putting five runs on Cole over six innings, the Blue Jays drove his ERA from 3.08 to 3.23. Cole also gave up seven runs to Cleveland 10 days ago. Ray already had a strong case for the AL Cy Young Award, holding the MLB strikeout lead with a 2.68 ERA, but now it’s his for the taking. He looks to join Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens (twice) and Pat Hentgen as Toronto hurlers to win the award.

The 4x100
Bichette’s home runs gave him 101 RBIs, joining Teoscar Hernández (112), Guerrero (106) and Semien (101) in the 100-plus club. This marks the first time in franchise history that four hitters have reached that mark in the same season, and according to STATS, the Blue Jays are the first team since the RBI became an official stat in 1920 to have four hitters reach 100 RBIs for the first time in their careers in the same year.

With four games remaining, there are still some personal milestones up for grabs as the Blue Jays chase a Wild Card spot, but they would rather notch postseason wins over regular-season records. They’ve piled up enough of those already.