Rowdy, Palacios flex power in win over Yanks

April 14th, 2021

On a night where dominated the Yankees and the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup did damage, the most encouraging moment of the game was a solo home run off the bat of . He needed it.

Tellez opened the season 0-for-21 before breaking the goose egg with a single off Gerrit Cole on Monday, but this 409-foot blast was classic Rowdy, complete with the high finish, the confident jog out of the box and some fun in the dugout to follow. It punctuated Toronto’s 7-3 win over New York at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., and knotted the three-game series with the division rivals.

This Blue Jays lineup needed that thump, too, as contributions from its depth hitters and the bottom of the order are what will help this team avoid the offensive peaks and valleys it has experienced early.

Last season, Tellez hit everything, posting an .886 OPS with eight home runs over just 35 games, leaving the Blue Jays optimistic that he was ready to cement himself as a classic, full-time slugger. The pressure was on, too. Beyond Cavan Biggio, a healthy version of this Toronto batting order has no other left-handed hitter, leaving it up to Tellez to either break up the righties or be the heavy bat waiting on the bench for a late pinch-hit spot.

Without the positional versatility that keeps other Blue Jays in the lineup or on the roster through cold streaks, Tellez needed to turn this slow start around in a hurry. His teammates have certainly had his back through this, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. playfully calling for the ball to be removed from play on Monday when Tellez finally singled. When he crossed home on Tuesday night and headed to the dugout, his teammates gave him the silent treatment, leaving Tellez to skip through the dugout alone, high-fiving the air.

“He can be the Rowdy Tellez that carried us last year at the end before he got hurt,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after the win. “We know it’s in there. It was good to see him hit a home run off a left-hander, too. That means he’s staying in more, and that was good to see. I’m expecting him to get hot.”

Before Tellez had his moment, it was No. 9 hitter who put the Blue Jays on the board with a two-run single in the second inning. Choking up with two strikes, Palacios slapped a ball back through the middle, another impressive at-bat after the rookie went 4-for-4 with a walk in just his second Major League game on Saturday.

Guerrero and Bo Bichette both had multi-hit games to stay scorching hot at the plate, but it’s performances like these from unexpected contributors that will round out the offence on a nightly basis. Sometimes it will come in the form of players stepping into everyday roles, like Randal Grichuk in his excellent start to the season, or in brief cameos, like Santiago Espinal coming up for a single game over the weekend and going 3-for-5. The Blue Jays still need far more from their catchers offensively, but one thing at a time.

Having Ryu at his best made this much easier, of course, as the ace allowed just one unearned run over 6 2/3 innings of four-hit ball, lowering his ERA to 1.89. Deep lineups and team efforts will be needed in the months ahead, but every once in a while, Ryu will walk out to the mound and win a game all by himself.

“He was awesome. He was vintage Ryu,” Montoyo said. “He was painting the corners and keeping hitters off-balance with all of his pitches. We didn’t know from the bench what pitch was coming next. Sliders inside. Changeups away. He was outstanding.”

Phelps, Merryweather leave game with injuries
Reliever David Phelps was the first Blue Jays reliever of the night to leave early after taking a 106.9-mph Clint Frazier liner off his lower back in the eighth inning. Toronto is calling it a “contusion” for now, but the club should have more information Wednesday.

Julian Merryweather came in to clean up a tight situation in the eighth and threw just two pitches, but he didn’t come out for the save in the ninth after experiencing “left hip irritation.” Merryweather’s final pitch in the eighth was spiked in front of home plate, but Montoyo didn’t have information yet regarding when Merryweather felt the irritation or what the cause was.

With right-hander Tyler Chatwood already on the IL with right triceps inflammation and righty Kirby Yates done for the year with Tommy John surgery, this bullpen can’t afford to lose many more arms.