TORONTO -- The Blue Jays may face a long road back to respectability, but the blueprint of how that might happen was on full display at Camden Yards on Monday night.The rookie battery mates of Ryan Borucki and Danny Jansen almost single handedly led the Blue Jays to a 5-0
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays may face a long road back to respectability, but the blueprint of how that might happen was on full display at Camden Yards on Monday night.
The rookie battery mates of Ryan Borucki and Danny Jansen almost single handedly led the Blue Jays to a 5-0 victory over the Orioles. Borucki tossed eight scoreless and Jansen hit a two-run homer as Toronto picked up its third consecutive victory on the current three-city road trip.
Borucki was nearly flawless from start to finish as he scattered three hits and walked just one while striking out seven. Jansen finished 1-for-3, Kevin Pillar chipped in with a couple of extra-base hits, including his 14th home run of the season, and Aledmys Diaz added his 18th of the season with a solo shot in the ninth.
"Just filling the zone up with strikes," said Borucki, who lowered his ERA to 3.86. "My fastball-changeup combo was working. My slider has really been coming along as an out pitch, keeping them off balance, gives them a third pitch to worry about in certain counts. I kept the ball down and the defense was making a lot of nice plays, and when I keep getting a lot of ground balls, it's knowing I had good sink that day."
The 24-year-old Borucki has enjoyed a resurgence this month after going through some struggles in August. He has allowed two runs or fewer and has gone at least six innings in each of his last three starts, and even though he has only been with the Blue Jays since the end of June, he has already moved into a tie with veteran Marco Estrada for the team lead in quality starts with 10.
When Borucki is at his best, he consistently fills up the strike zone, and that was the case against Baltimore. Borucki threw a first-pitch strike to 13 of the 27 batters he faced, and overall threw 67 of his 105 pitches for strikes. By working ahead, he was able to mix in all of his pitches, as he got three swinging strikes with his changeup, three more with his slider and four with his sinker.
"Honestly, he's got to do that, he's got to do that to be successful," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "If he doesn't, he's going to have some tough outings because he's not an overpowering guy. He's going to get occasional strikeouts, but he needs to get ground balls, so he needs to keep those guys off balance. I'll tell you what, I'm proud of him, for the first go-around, he has really done a nice job for us."
The eight innings matched a career high and his seven strikeouts were one shy of a career best. Borucki's 10 starts this season of pitching at least six innings and allowing fewer than two runs are tied for the second most by a rookie pitcher this season. San Francisco's Dereck Rodriguez leads all rookies with 13 such starts, while Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler and Cardinals righty Jack Flaherty each have 10.
Jansen's two-run homer in the second inning off Orioles right-hander Evan Phillips was his second of the year and first since Aug. 14. The 23-year-old Jansen hit .333 with a .974 OPS in his first 12 games for Toronto, but prior to Monday night, he was batting .143 with just four hits in September as he continues to adjust to Major League pitching. Jansen is ranked as Toronto's No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline, at least in part because of his bat, which produced an .863 OPS in the Minors this season.
"I got it pretty well," Jansen said. "It's funny too, my family is here again. My last home run is when they were in town too. It seems like whenever they're around, I hit a home run."
FUTURE GOLD GLOVERS?
There was a bit of one-upmanship in the bottom of the seventh when Borucki and Jansen completed a pair of highlight-reel plays. First it was Borucki, who partially knocked down a comebacker off the bat of Chris Davis. The ball bounced off Borucki and rolled several feet behind the mound. Without missing a beat, Borucki ran after the ball and made an off-balance throw to Rowdy Tellez at first base for the out, before rolling into a backward somersault.
On the next play, Jansen fielded a little dribbler out in front of the plate. With Timothy Beckham running, Jansen didn't have a lot of time, but he managed to gather the ball and fire a hard strike to Tellez for the final out of the inning. Borucki and Jansen had huge grins as they embraced and walked off the field at the same time, clearly soaking in the moment.
"I was just hoping I could make the play," Borucki said while laughing after the game. "When the one to Danny came up, I was like, 'I am not getting to that ball. Please Danny, make a play.' I was just gassed after. I was trying to catch my breath. Luckily, the umpire gave me a little bit of a breather, so that was good."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Blue Jays nearly pulled off a triple play in the bottom of the third. With runners on first and second, Austin Wynns hit a sinking line drive directly at Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Toronto's shortstop appeared to catch the low liner before purposely dropping it right in front of him.
Second-base umpire Larry Vanover signaled safe to indicate the catch had not been made. Gurriel reacted by throwing the ball to Richard Urena for the forceout at second. Urena then fired to first for an out there, and Tellez then threw the ball across the diamond to attempt the triple play at third.
A good throw would have got the runner, but Tellez's toss sailed high, and as a result, Renato Nunez slid in safely. Orioles manager Buck Showalter ran onto the field to argue that Gurriel dropped the ball on purpose, and while the umpires later converged on the field to discuss the play, the original call on the field stood, and the Blue Jays were credited with a double play.
"I think he was wondering if he had it and dropped it," Gibbons said in reference to Vanover. "With a low throw, we get three, so it was kind of neat. First and second, no outs, that's big. If they end up getting a knock there, or something goes haywire, you're looking at a different score. Big, big play. Gurriel is playing a nice short for us."
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (4-6, 4.90 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Orioles on Tuesday night with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. Sanchez is coming off one of his best starts of the season, which saw him allow just one earned run over seven innings vs. the Yankees. Baltimore is set to counter with right-hander Dylan Bundy (8-14, 5.48).
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.