The Texas Rangers moseyed into town and laid down the law on the Blue Jays in the opener of a big four-game series on Monday.
Though Texas had been in a major slump and Toronto had been surging in recent weeks, you wouldn’t have known it by what transpired in the 10-4 Rangers win.
Nor would you have felt like it was a big game, with the smallest crowd (less than 24,000) of the season on hand to see a pair of teams battling for a wild card spot.
Texas broke open a close game with five runs in the seventh inning — four of them off a grand slam by catcher Jonah Heim — to move within a half game of Toronto with three more games to be played in this series.
Jays starter Chris Bassitt had been rolling heading in, going eight innings in each of his previous two outings with 10 strikeouts and only one walk, but didn’t have the same success Monday. Bassitt gave up nine hits and walked three in 5.1 innings of work, allowing five earned runs, the third-most he’s given up this season. But it got worse for the Jays when the bullpen took over. Even though the Jays’ bullpen had a 3.53 ERA heading in, third-best in baseball and Texas had a 4.89 ERA (ranking 26th) Genesis Cabrera melted down in relief of Bassitt and Chad Green, who allowed one run in two thirds of an inning. Cabrera, who had been sensational since being acquired from St. Louis, allowing only one earned run, walked three and gave up two hits, including Heim’s grand slam on a 3-2 count.
“It’s a good team. Good pitching, really good hitting,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider had warned of the Rangers beforehand.
That pitching had been struggling mightily, but not on Monday. Dane Dunning was solid, if unspectacular in lasting a batter into the seventh inning. Dunning allowed only one extra-base hit
If you wanted an ideal photo to describe this game, one of Charlie Sheen playing Wild Thing in Major League would work. Bassitt balked in the first run of the series, the Jays walked seven Rangers on the night and Toronto even got a run in part because of a Dunning wild pitch which set up a Cavan Biggio sacrifice fly.
KEEPING THE FAITH
Since improving to a season-best 24 games over .500 on August 15, Texas had gone 6-16 before Monday’s win. Toronto had gone 13-9 in that span to erase a big deficit and move in front in the Wild Card race but veteran Rangers manager Bruce Bochy didn’t seem too concerned about it pre-game.
Sitting in the visiting dugout earlier Monday afternoon, Bochy, who won three World Series with the San Francisco Giants and a pennant with the San Diego Padres, explained all was not yet lost.
“We’ve done a lot of things right and we still have time to get back to who we are,” Bochy said.
Terming 2023 “not quite a tale of two seasons, but close,” Bochy added: “We have to remember who we are, not who we’ve been the last few weeks.”
For one night at least they did just that.
REPLAY NO HELP FOR JAYS
One of the key moments of the game came in the bottom of the fifth. Texas had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the inning, but Kevin Kiermaier led off with a double. George Springer followed with a single, but instead of playing conservatively with no outs and the heart of the order coming up, the Jays sent Kiermaier home. It made some sense, since he’s an elite runner and would easily score on a bad throw, but rookie Evan Carter unleashed a laser from left field to get him at the plate. The Jays challenged the call, but it was upheld.
Toronto failed to score in the inning and Texas chased Bassitt with two more runs in the sixth. Had Kiermaier tied it with no outs, things could have played out differently.
CARTER LOOKS LIKE A KEEPER
As for Carter, the 21-year-old had himself a night. Formerly Texas’s top prospect, Carter had only collected one hit in his first three games, but hit his first career homer to tie the game 3-3 in the third. Toronto would never lead again.
MLB.com has Carter ranked eighth amongst all prospects in baseball, and the fast-riser showed the Jays why.
Carter, a second-round draft pick in 2020, also singled, in addition to his great outfield assist.
AROUND THE BASES
The Jays activated Erik Swanson, one of the team’s top relievers, before the game and optioned Jay Jackson. Swanson has appeared in a career-high 60 games and is 3-2, with a 3.10 ERA and 1.086 WHIP … thus far this season, going 3-2 with a 3.10 earned run average and 1.086 WHIP over 58.0 innings of work … Manager John Schneider on Kirk catching for a fourth straight day: “With (Danny Jansen out for the rest of the regular season due to a hand injury) we’re going to ride him as much as we can.” Danny Jansen will not return in the regular season due to his hand injury … Toronto will start … Brandon Belt was removed from the game with lower back muscle spasms.
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