NEW YORK -- They say you can walk everywhere in New York City. The Blue Jays put that to the test on Wednesday night in the Bronx and ended up with a seven-game winning streak.
With 11 walks, including seven against Luis Gil in the first 3 1/3 innings alone, it was the Blue Jays’ patience that earned them a 6-3 win over the Yankees, and with 10 wins in their last 11 games, the Blue Jays are the hottest team in baseball. Now just 1 1/2 games back of the Yankees in the AL Wild Card race, the Blue Jays have a shot at a four-game sweep in the Bronx, something that seemed impossible just two weeks ago.
“Their guy on the mound has really good stuff. We were patient, but he has good stuff and we did a great job of getting his pitch count up,” Charlie Montoyo said after the win. “There’s a reason he hadn’t allowed a run until today. Credit to my lineup for getting his pitch count up and he was out of the game early.”
Teoscar Hernández was the face of this win, it just happened more quietly than we’re used to from one of the league’s loudest bats. In the fifth inning, Hernández found himself in a 3-2 count against Lucas Luetge and fouled off not one, not two, but seven balls in a row. On the 13th pitch of the at-bat, Luetge lost a slider and Hernández jogged to first.
Two innings later, with Marcus Semien on third and two outs, Hernández shot a hard sinker the other way for the go-ahead single. These aren’t the moments you think of when you hear the name “Teoscar Hernández,” but this isn’t the same hitter who was demoted to Triple-A in 2019. This is the Silver Slugger version of Hernández who can truly hit, not just hit for power.
The power was supplied by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who launched his 41st home run of the season to pull him within two of Shohei Ohtani for the MLB lead. The solo shot in the ninth gave the Blue Jays some much-needed insurance, and it was an absolute no-doubter, leaving the bat at 114.3 mph. It was the type of home run that makes fans dodge the baseball instead of trying to catch it.
Of course, it’s not a Blue Jays win without Semien doing some of the damage. Semien drove in two runs with an early single, then singled again and took a pair of walks to reach base four times. With six home runs and 13 RBIs through just seven games in September, Semien is the engine of this Blue Jays’ run both on and off the field.
This Blue Jays run hasn’t come out of nowhere, though. The lineup is stacked with talent and the rotation has quietly become a legitimate strength of this organization. Alek Manoah gave up the big blow on a three-run shot to Brett Gardner, but kept the Blue Jays in the game over 5 2/3 innings. The bullpen has rarely been reliable, but that’s changed of late. A combination of Trevor Richards, Adam Cimber, and Jordan Romano combined to slam the door shut. Finally, after months of going 1-for-3 or 2-for-3, the Blue Jays have all three groups clicking at the same time.
“Everybody understands where we’re at. We know that if we’re going to do this thing, we’ve got to be all in as a bullpen down there,” said Cimber, who struck out three. “I think we definitely are. We’re having fun down there early in the game, then when it’s time to get the phone ringing, it’s focus time. We’re all locked in right now and excited for this push.”
You’re seeing these groups complement each other now, too. The lineup wants to give their starter a lead. The starter wants to carry it. The bullpen wants to finish it off.
“This is pretty huge,” Manoah said. “The guys are swinging the bat pretty good, the bullpen is throwing the crap out of it and the starting pitching has been amazing. We’ve just got to continue to throw that ball. You can’t win any championships in September, so we’ve got to continue to play good ball and keep it going through the whole way.”
The Blue Jays send José Berríos to the mound in Thursday's finale with an eye on a sweep, which would bring them within just a half-game of the Yankees. From there, it’s off to Baltimore for another winnable series. The hottest team in baseball is gaining more momentum by the day, and they’re proving they can win any style of ball game down the stretch.