TORONTO – Toronto was forced to be an adrenaline dump for the Blue Jays, after Friday’s ridiculous, rolling What-that-actually-just-happened The comeback against the Texas Rangers, where the club became third after 1901 to overcome a seven-run deficit on the first day and set a hell of a goal for their upcoming season.
There’s an inevitable emotional hangover from this kind of epidemic, and you can be sure that every player pulled in because Jess 162 returned to the Rogers Center for Game 2 to report that they were just a few hours after leaving Game 1. The turn was confronted. , Day-game-after-night-game test. Put another way: everyone really needs their coffee for this.
But what Blue Jess manager Charlie Montoya really needed was to see a reliever availability card, yellow (can pitch if needed), orange (use only in case of emergency) and full red (unavailable) for Trent Thornton, his bullpen in the final 26 of Friday’s ordeal. Asked to record out, Kevin Gaussman had a strong start.
Or a long one, at least. Cough up some hits, some runs if you have to. Just spread the damage, say, instead of concentrating five innings into one – as Jose Berrios did the night before – so that his bullpen doesn’t stay under water for less than 48 hours a season.
And that is what Gaussman gave. Three runs in eight hits on five frames – stretched out like outings with starters on a tough pitch count after a concentrated spring – a 4-3 Blue Jays win against the Rangers.
Gaussman made five outs along the way, keeping things close enough to do the rest of Toronto’s quick-strike offense. It started with several scratch-cross runs at first and then got louder as Bo Beachet launched his first homer of the season and Santiago Espinal continues to transform winter hard work into real spring results. A solid, run-scoring double went ahead in the sixth.
It was the third ball to reach 106 miles per hour from the Espinal bat or his first four plate appearances in a tough season. Do you know how many balls he played in the presence of more than 246 plates last season? Zero. Zilch. Not one.
Observers mocking the “best shape of my life” announcements are as tired as the announcement of the spring training event. But the results of the 15-plus pound Espinal added in the off-season are still measurable and real. Will it last the whole season due to daily training, night sports, weekly travel, poor sleep and abnormal nutrition? We’ll see. But you can’t argue with what he has shown so far.
Meanwhile, Gaussman’s splitter was destructive, generating 11 whistles in 22 swings, as usual. His use of the slider was more than usual – something to observe and perhaps an insight into how he could continue to develop as a starter with his new team. And he has flashed his change against the left-handed, achieving a pair of swing strikes with a pitch that could be very effective for him when it’s on.
But the way Gaussman identified his fastball was particularly interesting, as he and catcher Alejandro Kirk did it both under the plate and on the arm against the left-handed Rangers lineup.
Gaussmann’s general formula is simple to summarize – much less to hit: fastball up, splitter down. Tunneling a wide variety of offers while repeating a consistent arm angle and release point makes them separate from each other until it’s too late. Heaters use that deception and unexpected sequencing to guess. Believing his stuff on the plate, even if they guessed correctly, is bad enough to avoid the barrel or miss the bat completely for poor communication.
Cody Bellinger’s two-pitch sequence from last season, where Gaussman follows a 95-mph heater with an 85-mph splitter in the same lane, is a beautiful example:
This is no different from the method used by Robbie Ray on the Blue Jess rotation last season to win the AL Cy Young. Here’s my initial pitch, a heavy heater. It’s on the plate. Try to hit it. Here’s my secondary pitch, a wicked slider in Ray’s case. It’s on the plate. I make it look as awesome as my fastball from my hand. Again, try to hit it.
And when the formula works the same as Gaussman and Roy, why make it more complicated? That’s why the Blue Jays are telling their catchers to set Gaussman just below the heart of the plate, just as they did for the verdict. Why are they asking him to give her a clear target in the box, encouraging her to tear up the zone pitches and let him eat. It’s no coincidence that Kirk, who started out as 19 of Ray’s 36 Blue Jays, drew assignments for Gaussan’s debut on Saturday.
But there was an interesting new sacrifice. Ray scoffed at the way Kirk got pitches under the zone and the purposeful arrangements backed him up. According to Baseball Savant, Kirk helped convert 61.7 percent of the pitches received below the strike zone into a call strike, the highest mark of any qualified catcher in the game.
And if you’ve seen Gausman’s work before, you can imagine why Blue Jess would combine the two. But it’s not just about stealing a few strikes with a splitter on the right hand knee.
For intelligence, here’s what helped Kirk Gaussman get a much-needed strike at 3-0 counts on just four pitches in Saturday’s game:
And here he is, creating another one, helping Gaussman to even count two outs after an innings against Willie Calhoun:
It was then that Gaussman was led by Corey Cigar in a critical, scoring position with two runners in the third inning and no one was out:
And finally, perhaps the best frame of the night for Kirk, who stole another strike against Miller as Gaussmann advanced against the number of his pitches:
What is the similarity between those pitches? All fastball. A similar heater cork helped Rake regularly call it a strike last season.
Yes, elevating the pitches has always been an important part of Gaussman’s game, as he makes vertical separations to the north with fastball and to the south with his splitter. But if he can start getting a few more fastball strikes down and on the edge, it will only open up more avenues of sequence for him. Now, heaters can’t predict that every pitch in the zone is likely to end up near the dirt a splitter. It could just be a vacuum up at the knee for a fast strike of a fastball cork.
Just as the pitchers cannot predict that they will blow up the fastballs with the bat of the Espinal – or any pitch he can play could easily gobble up. Yes, early in the season. Not everything we see now will be there. The mirage is everywhere. But with the Blue Jays going 2-0 in the season, they give some interesting glimpses of how the games could have evolved.