Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
We’re only 4 games into the 2018 MLB season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look at some of the positives and negatives that we’ve seen thus far from the Blue Jays. With the Jays starting 2-2, it’s hard to get too excited or be too disappointed in how they’ve played. But there were definitely some takeaways from the series, and that’s what I’m going to do in this article.
Over the course of the first two games of the season, the Blue Jays only mustered a total of 5 hits off of Yankees' pitching. They also struck out a lot in those 2 games, and in the rest of the series. In fact, they’re currently 2nd in the MLB in strikeouts, with 45. The good news for Blue Jays fans is that the Jays figured out their hitting in the final 2 games of the series. After only getting 5 hits through the first 2 games, they got 21 in the final 2. They got production from everywhere in the lineup in those final 2 games, but most notably from the 3 spot, and Justin Smoak. On Saturday, Smoak went 3-for-4, with a double and 2 RBI’s. Then on Sunday, Smoak completely stole the show, going 3 for 4 with 2 home runs, including a go-ahead grand slam in the 8th inning. As mentioned, it’s only been 4 games, but Smoak is doing everything he can to silence the “One-year wonder theories” that surround him. He’s picked up right where he left off last year, and if he can continue that, he’ll probably find his way to the All-Star Game for the 2nd straight year
Another bright spot for the Blue Jays over the weekend was Kevin Pillar. After hitting well in spring, Pillar brought his hot bat into the regular season, going 6-for-13 in the opening series. Pillar also homered on Opening Day, and stole 3 bases in the 8th inning on Saturday, including a steal of home off of Dellin Betances. What I’m going to focus on the most from Pillar’s weekend was his speed on the basepaths. The Blue Jays only stole 53 bases last season, which ranked them 29th in the MLB. They’re not going to slug it out the way they’ve done it in past years, so the Jays need to find other ways to score runs. If Pillar can steal 20-25 bases this year, that could add an element to the Jays’ offense that they didn’t have last year.
As for the pitching this weekend, I’d say it was a success. All of the starters had decent outings, and even though some people will say J.A. Happ had a bad outing, he really didn’t. Yeah, he only made it through 4.2 innings, but he only gave up 4 hits and 2 earned runs. It also doesn’t help when your left fielder drops a ball to start the game off, before you have to face Judge and Stanton. As for the bullpen, they were excellent in this series. Over the course of 13 ⅔ innings, the Jays bullpen only gave up 3 runs on 5 hits, while walking 5 batters and striking out 14. Probably the most impressive pitcher from the Blue Jays bullpen in this series was Ryan Tepera. Tepera pitched to 7 batters in this series, and retired all but of them. But, these weren’t just any 6 hitters; Tepera had to face Judge twice, Stanton twice, Neil Walker once, and Didi Gregorius once. And like I said, other than a walk to Stanton, Tepera was perfect against the Yankees best hitters, and if he can keep that up, he’ll be a key for the Jays down the road against other teams’ best hitters.
Overall, it’s just great to have baseball back, but it’s also great that the Jays were able to pull things together this weekend and get 2 wins. It would’ve been demoralizing to watch the Jays get off to as bad of a start as they did last year, so these 2 wins were pretty big for the overall morale of the fan base. We can now look forward to this week, where the Jays finish off this homestand with a 3-game-series against the White Sox, and then travel to Texas to play the Rangers.
Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)