KANSAS CITY -- As the Blue Jays entered the 2019 season, they knew it would mostly be about offering opportunities and getting a glimpse of what they hope will be a bright future.
With two-thirds of the season over and Wednesday’s Trade Deadline only hours away, Toronto’s clubhouse has gotten significantly younger as the year has gone on, and the results have been encouraging.
The latest illustration of what the youth movement might have to offer came in Tuesday night’s 9-2 win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium, with Sean Reid-Foley on the mound and a rookie-led lineup behind him. Recalled from Triple-A Buffalo to make the start, the 23-year-old right-hander scattered four hits and four walks over five scoreless innings while striking out four.
Reid-Foley’s outing was backed by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s second career grand slam, which sealed Toronto’s victory in the ninth.
Toronto’s first four runs were all driven in by singles, and Guerrero's 11th home run of the season was only its second extra-base hit of the game. Entering the contest, 247 of the Blue Jays’ 473 runs this year had come via homers, a percentage of 52.2 that was second in MLB behind only the Brewers.
“He’s getting hot now,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of Guerrero. “I knew that was going to happen. … He’s seeing the ball better, having better at-bats, because he wasn’t doing that early, but he was still getting hits, because he’s that good. … Now, he’s getting really hot and hitting the ball hard.”
Guerrero helped the Blue Jays set a Major League record with five grand slams hit by rookies in the same season.
Working around a quartet of walks, Reid-Foley stranded a runner in scoring position in four of his five frames. In an up-and-down year, the righty has battled command issues and struggled to consistently hit the strike zone. So, his ability to work through stressful innings against Kansas City was encouraging.
“When he got in trouble, he minimized damage,” Montoyo said. “He made the big pitches when he had to, and then at the end, he ran out of gas. And he still kept making big pitches to get out of trouble. … From the beginning, he had to work hard to get out of trouble and he did a good job with that, so that’s a good sign.”
Reid-Foley lowered his ERA to 2.55 over five appearances spanning 17 2/3 innings. He relied almost exclusively on the two-pitch combination of his fastball and slider, as those accounted for 85 of his 92 pitches, according to Statcast.
Kansas City went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against Reid-Foley, who lowered his career average against in those situations to .184 (9-for-49).
“[Catcher Danny] Jansen fed off of what was done last time against the Royals,” Reid-Foley said. “We looked at what the hitters’ tendencies were, and I just look back there [to Jansen] and I just throw what he puts down.”
Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was slotted into the leadoff spot for the second game of his big league career. The 21-year-old shortstop notched two singles, walked and scored a run, and he is 3-for-8 so far after hitting .288/.355/.485 with eight home runs and 16 stolen bases in 60 Minor League games this year.
“I like that kid,” Montoyo said. “He hacks. He looks like he’s having fun. And he had great at-bats, even with [runners] at second and third [in the fifth], he hit a bullet to short. He had a good game.”