Photo By: Donna Lay from Unsplash
That was a good week for the Blue Jays! A dominant four-game sweep over the Yankees in the Bronx plus a hilarious doubleheader against Baltimore that saw a pair of 7th-inning comebacks that would have sucked the souls out of the Orioles had they not already forfeited them upon signing their contracts with the organization.
After dropping the first game of the series on Friday on what was a very rare off-night for Robbie Ray, the Jays opened up their doubleheader on Saturday by sending Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound in Game 1. It, uh, did not go well for him. In what was easily his worst start as Blue Jay, he gave up seven runs on eight hits — five of those extra base hits — in just 2.1 innings of work.
When things go bad for Ryu, it typically looks worse than it does for most guys because he relies on command and location rather than power; just look at Robbie Ray’s off-night the day before. Now Ray wasn’t nearly as off as Ryu was — he only gave up three runs in 4.1 laborious innings but got out of a few jams that could’ve made his line far worse — but your margin of error is much greater when you throw in the upper 90s and have a devastating slider like Ray does versus a relative soft-tosser like Ryu. Nate Pearson is also a great example of this; he often missed Danny Jansen’s targets on Saturday but still had clean innings because he’s missing with 98-100 with life.
Typically, the telltale sign for a bad Ryu start is his fastball velocity. For the season, his average fastball velo is 89.9mph, but let’s call it 90, because that’s really the magic number for Ryu; of his 28 starts this season, 12 of those have seen his fastball average sit at 90mph or above. In those 12 starts, he has an ERA of 2.08 in 73.1 innings. Of the 16 starts where his fastball has been below 90mph? An ERA of 5.87 over 84.1 innings. This isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff, but it just goes to show what a fine line Ryu is dealing with when it comes to his fastball velocity.
Ryu’s pitching philosophy to righties has always been down-and-away changeups paired with inside cutters and fastballs; when effective, it’s a really good combo and has obviously earned him a lot of money and success over his long career. Look where his cutters were on Saturday against the Orioles (left) compared to where they were during his excellent previous start against the Yankees last week (right):
If you cut the strike zone in half vertically (the hot dog way?), I count just four cutters that are on the outside part of the plate on the image on the right, and three of those are right around that imaginary line. Now do the same exercise with the image on the left — his dud start against Baltimore — and it’s almost the inverse. So poor location with the cutter and a slower fastball are the primary culprits for this, and most of his other poopy outings.
But that was really the only black mark on what was another really fun weekend for the Jays, who scored 22 runs in 14 innings against the Orioles on Saturday, which saw all of the following things happen; turned a 10-5 deficit into an 11-10 win after scoring four runs in the final inning in Game 1, including a go-ahead two-run homer from Hobbled George Springer with two outs, and then scored 11 runs in the final inning in Game 2 after being no-hit through six innings.
(As I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. just hit his umpteenth grand slam of the season and it’s 5-0 Blue Jays before the Orioles have recorded a single out of the game, my god they’re atrocious.)
Oh, there was also a bit of an incident on Friday night where Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was spewing some highly explicit gobbledygook at Robbie Ray for no real reason, and while I don’t really want to waste time talking about how the “leader” of a team that has won just a third of its games since he took over as manager was screaming at a Cy Young finalist, I did stumble across this hilarious video of Ray explaining how he purposefully broke up his own perfect game when he was in high school to intentionally hit a batter after the opposing third base coach pissed him off. What a psycho, I love it.
(Live Sunday Update #2: Teoscar Hernández just hit another grand slam, it is now 14-3 and the Orioles have recorded just one out in the third inning. So that’s now 36 runs scored in the last 17 innings by the Blue Jays. Meatball city!)
The Jays have now won 14 of 16, went 7-1 over the past week and are now tied with the Red Sox for the first Wild Card spot with 19 games left in the season. They’ll head back home to face the Tampa Bay Rays for a three-game set to open up the week, so put up your dreamcatchers, prepare your preferred bovid for sacrifice, light some candles, or whatever other preventative measures you typically deploy to ward off magic, because that seems to be the only explanation for the logic-defying, American League-leading Rays. They do get to welcome in the lowly, last-place Minnesota Twins after the Rays series, so go sweep those guys and gain some ground on the Red Sox and Yankees.
(Okay, last live update, only because the Jays just won 22-7. 22-7! 44 runs in three games! The Orioles’ pitching staff is shamefully bad, like maybe CBA-altering-bad, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Perhaps I’m getting both greedy and ahead of myself, but it would be so great if the Jays could lock up the first Wild Card spot and be able to host the game in Toronto. After the nomadic seasons (seasons, as in, plural) these guys have had, the city deserves to see some postseason action.