TORONTO – Bo Bichette dropped to his knees and smashed his bat on the ground in anger after a 97.1 m.p.h. pitch hit his forearm and narrowly missed his head on Monday.
All that emotion had dissipated by his next at bat, however, as Bichette hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied past the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2.
Bichette joked that his life flashed before his eyes when the ball almost hit his face but added that he really wasn’t thinking about the close call when he later stepped back into the batter’s box.
“No revenge,” said the soft-spoken Bichette. “Not really worried about that, just trying to get a winner for the team.”
Bichette also had an RBI single for Toronto (79-61) hours after he was named the American League’s player of the week. The 24-year-old Bichette batted .500 (16-for-32) with 11 runs scored, four doubles, one triple, five home runs and 13 runs batted in last week as the Blue Jays posted a 5-2 record. Toronto was 8-2 over that critical 10-game road trip.
Monday’s win was the first game of an eight-game homestand as Toronto hosts Tampa Bay and the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays’ nearest competition in the American League East.
“I think every game is going to be a big one,” said Toronto interim manager John Schneider. “If you look at who we’re playing, every game is going to be magnified a little bit, every game is going to be important.”
The win put Toronto ahead of the Rays in the AL standings, tied with the Seattle Mariners for the top wild-card spot. Baltimore is 5 1/2 games back of the Jays and Mariners.
“Yes, it’s big. We’ve got four more games (against Tampa) so we’ve got a series to finish,” said Bichette. “You’ve got to stay locked in.”
José Berríos earned a quality start, allowing six hits but limiting the Rays to just two runs with four strikeouts. Yimi Garcia, Tim Mayza (7-0), and closer Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., came out of the Blue Jays bullpen. Romano earned his 33rd save of the season.
Jonathan Aranda drove in a run in the second inning for Tampa Bay (78-61). Cooper Criswell struck out four and allowed one run on two hits and a walk over 3 1/3 innings for the no decision. JT Chargois, Javy Guerra, Colin Poche and Jason Adam (2-3) came on in relief, with Adam taking the loss.
Bichette tied it 1-1 in the fourth inning when his single scored George Springer from third base. Criswell had a perfect game going through three innings in his second-ever Major League Baseball start until Springer reached base with a walk.
Manuel Margot helped the Rays re-take the lead in the sixth. He hit into a fielder’s choice that gave Randy Arozarena enough time to score for a 2-1 Tampa lead.
After Bichette was hit by the pitch in the bottom of the sixth, Berríos started the next inning by putting a fastball into the hip of Rays leadoff batter Francisco Mejia.
“Obviously, I hit the hitter but I don’t want to have that guy on base in that inning,” said Berríos. “I don’t know why (the umpires) put the warning on me, but I want to keep pitching my game, you know? Try to attack the hitter.”
With two outs in the eighth, Bichette sent a 3-2 pitch from Adam just over the wall. His 24th home run of the season also scored Raimel Tapia and made it 3-2.
“It’s going to be a long series,” said Schneider. “It’s a good team, obviously, a division rival and there’s not a better guy to have at the plate than Bo there with two outs.
“Every game is big. Every game is important.”
QUIET ON THE HOME FRONT — Monday night’s Rogers Centre crowd of 23,002 was the smallest for the Blue Jays since June 30, a span of 29 home games with better attendance.
ON DECK — Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah (14-7) will get the start in the first game of Toronto’s doubleheader against the Rays on Tuesday. Schneider said that Mitch White (1-6) would likely be the Blue Jays’ 29th man for the doubleheader and would be the presumptive starter for the evening game. Jeffrey Springs (7-4) will take the mound for Tampa in the first game with the second starting pitcher to be determined.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 12, 2022.
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