ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Bo Bichette didn’t have to look to the standings to see the carnage inflicted on his team over the past couple of weeks.
Nor did the Blue Jays shortstop see any sense in dwelling on those struggles — or looking too deep for solutions.
“We know what we’ve been through,” Bichette told the Toronto Sun prior to Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field. ”We know what we can do to try to get better regardless of what has happened in these games lately.
“But definitely guys want to play better and we’ll continue to try to do that.”
The initial act was to stunt a five-game losing streak, something the Jays did Saturday night at the Trop with a big eighth inning from a pair of players who spent most of April on the injured list.
The first of those monster morale boosters was a solo homer from Teoscar Hernandez — a towering beauty that the outfielder stopped to admire. And later in the inning, a two-run blast from Danny Jansen in his first game back from an oblique strain that caused the Jays dugout to erupt.
It was a different vibe all around, starting with a different lineup from manager Charlie Montoyo, who took a stab at hastening the turnaround.
With George Springer out with a sprained left ankle, Matt Chapman took over at the top of the order with Vlad Guerrero Jr. hitting second, Hernandez third and Bichette batting cleanup.
“We’ve been pressing a little bit so just give them a different look and see if we can get them going,” Montoyo said. “I felt like today was a good time.”
Yes, timing is everything and it was precisely what the Jays needed after a tough run in which they had won just two of their previous 10.
“Danny Jansen looked like he hasn’t missed a beat,” said a beaming Montoyo afterwards. “It was good to see the home runs back. (Jansen) only had 11 at-bats down there (on a rehab stint) and he looked locked in like he was last September.
“To have a four-run lead which hasn’t happened very often — that was also good to see.”
The relief was felt all around and may ease some of the stress of recent days.
The key to getting through it, Bichette believes, was to be the same guy at the plate at Tropicana Field on a Saturday evening as he is at Yankee Stadium on a Wednesday afternoon.
“Just continue to stay consistent,” Bichette said when asked how he copes with the inevitable lull in a season. “We have no choice. It’s 162 games so I think if you come into a season expecting it to be an easy ride the whole time, you’re probably not going to be able to deal with anything.
“It’s difficult for sure. But at the end of the day if you believe in your work ethic and your preparation and the people around you then you can get over it.”
It was just one inning in one game, but that four-run eighth was an outburst the Jays had been seeking for the past couple weeks. Coupled with a solid effort from Hyun-Jin Ryu in his first start since returning from a month on the injured list and it was an uplifting win against their fellow AL East foe.
“I will say that when you start a season playing as many good teams as we did, it’s tough to get comfortable,” Bichette said. “We grinded really hard for the whole season so far. We’ve been in very tight games all season and it’s difficult to get your feet under you.
“To be honest, we should feel very proud with how we’ve played.”
And with a record that has improved to 18-16, perhaps another corner turned in the right direction.
The return of Ryu didn’t get started in style as he gave up a home run to right file from Rays leadoff hitter Yandy Diaz. But the big lefty settled in nicely after that giving the Jays 4.2 innings and allowing just four hits and that lone earned run … It was just Ryu’s third start of the season and his longest outing as he threw 71 pitches, something to build on going forward. “It was great to see Ryu do what he did today,” Montoyo said. “He was commanding his pitches and he looked like the Ryu we knew.” … The Jays had a promising first inning of their own scoring one run on a Santiago Espinal sac fly but left a pair stranded.
So you made a pre-season wager on the Jays win total where in most sports books the number was set at 92.5 and you bet the over?
Well, if that’s the case you’re probably feeling a little bit squeamish. To get to 93 wins (to cash that ticket) the Jays would have to go 76-53 in their remaining 129 games.
Doable? Of course it is, but remember that their 17-16 record after 33 games is the same as it was in 2021 which ended in that heart-breaking 91-win season.
AROUND THE BASES
Montoyo said that Springer won’t be headed to the injury list but it certainly appears that the team won’t rush him back into the lineup …
Some roster moves to go along with the lineup shuffle prior to Saturday’s game — Jansen and his batterymate, Ryu were both activated from the injury list. To make room, catcher Tyler Heineman and pitcher Trent Thornton were optioned to Buffalo … Alek Manoah is scheduled to get the ball in Sunday’s series finale, a rubber match of the three-game set.