The Toronto Blue Jays four-game series on the road against the Minnesota Twins is in the books, with the Blue Jays earning their first series win of the season by taking the first two games in dramatic fashion and slugging their way to a win in the finale.
The series showcased the good and bad of what comes with fielding a young team full of players still figuring out the everyday battle of playing at the highest level. It included some downright hilarious misplays and fist-pumping successes, making it arguably the most entertaining series of the young season.
Here are three positives and three negatives from the four game set against the Twins.
Teoscar The Good - I think you already know which Teoscar Hernandez play is going to end up being listed in the ‘down’ portion of this piece, but before we get there it is worth mentioning that he had some absolutely huge moments in this series.
In game one on Monday night, after cementing a place on blooper reels for the foreseeable future, Hernandez got redemption with a game-winning 3-run bomb in the 8th inning to left field to complete a come-from-behind 5-3 win.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 16, 2019
The next night he delivered a go-ahead two-run single in the 7th to give the team a two-run lead.
Hernandez’s clutch appearances didn’t end there, as he came up big on the last play of the game, starting a relay from the left field corner to Freddy Galvis, who threw a perfect ball to the plate to gun down the potential game-tying run at home.
He collected six hits in the series, with two home runs and drove in six, and it is a good sign to see his power coming around after he started the season showing improved plate discipline. If he can strike the right balance between being patient and still making solid hard contact, he can be a very dangerous player.
The bats showed up - Finally, a series where the majority of the story isn’t how terrible the Jays hitters looked. They scored five or more runs in three of the four games, and multiple hitters looked locked in at the plate against Minnesota.
Since returning from the neck strain that plagued him in the opening weeks of the season Justin Smoak has been on a tear, hitting .333/.514/.625 with 10 walks over the eight games. Along with the aforementioned Hernandez, Randal Grichuk had six hits in the series, including two doubles and a home run.
Even newcomer Eric Sogard found his footing at the top of the lineup, posting a 6-for-12 series including breaking the game open with a three-run double on Thursday.
We knew the constant no-hitter threats and record-setting pace of futility wasn’t going to last the entire season, and it is nice to get a reminder that these things come and go in waves. When legit hitters like Smoak get going, secondary support like Grichuk, Galvis, and Hernandez are locked in, and, oh, let’s say maybe the best prospect in baseball gets pencilled in at some point, the lineup is going to have their share of nights where they put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
Winning a series - At the risk of being painfully basic: Winning feels good.
The Blue Jays finally picked up their first series win of the season, and did so with a mix of a little bit of everything that goes into good baseball. The bullpen was effective, the defence was solid, and the bats came up big in important spots.
It’s a long season, and the all-around good vibe performance against the Twins is a nice change of pace after the repetitive doom-and-gloom that followed them around after the losses in Cleveland and against the Rays. With so much of the discussion already this season being focused around what they can’t do and who isn’t in the lineup, it is a welcome relief to finally be writing about several players playing well and runs being scored in bunches.
The team is still very much a work in progress and there are many players still finding their way as major leaguers, unsure of how they may fit into the bigger picture with the team. The positive flip side to the team’s overall inexperience is the flashes of excellence where players show the tools that landed them in these roles.
Plus, hitting homers and scoring runs is just way, way more fun than taking screenshots of strike zones.
Teoscar The Bad - All that was said in the first positive points of the piece about Hernandez remain true, but all of them are prefaced with a sizeable “That being said,” disclaimer.
The base running (or lack thereof) mistake in game one was downright hilarious to watch (if you aren’t Charlie Montoyo) and signaled the main drawback that a lot of observers see in Hernandez. It was a lack of focus that led to him being picked off with ease after basically standing still in a confused fashion during Brandon Drury’s mistaken three-ball walk.
Blame does not solely fall on Teoscar’s shoulders, of course - multiple people can be at fault for things, and at least three people share the goat horns for this one - but it’s the kind of thing that underscores the biggest faults in his game. A lot of his fielding issues appear to stem from a lack of concentration on seemingly basic plays, and if he could sand down those harsh edges just a bit he has potential to really be a valuable piece.
As evidenced by how he bounced back from the base running blunder with a strong at-bat later in that same game and carried over that energy into Game 2, when Hernandez is locked in and focused he can be a very good player.
Twitter fingers - Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson found himself in the middle of the news cycle this week, after a charged-up bat flip following a home run led to the customary hit by pitch and bench-clearing stare down.
As the baseball world reacted to the scene, Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk fired off his displeasure over the trend of big flips on mid-game home runs.
You’re allowed to feel however you want about bat flips, and even if you love them you should even be able to understand where Grichuk is coming from in terms of it being a pretty meaningless home run to pimp, but you’ve got to keep the same energy when you get pressed on it. We all sometimes put out bad tweets (except me), but to tweet about bat flips AS ONE IS HAPPENING and then say it wasn’t specifically about the person involved is just silly.
Credit to Grichuk, however: he put his money where his tweets are. After hitting a home run early on Thursday, he went full head-down David Eckstein sprint around the bases and met his teammates firm handshakes back in the dugout.
Record setting Socrates - I hate to kick a guy when he’s down, and we’re still in very very small sample size theatre here, but Sócrates Brito has now added his name to the Blue Jays franchise record book in infamous fashion.
He’s up to 0-for-21 with the Blue Jays, now the longest hitless streak to start a career with the franchise in team history.
Ross Atkins was effusive with his praise of Brito on the day he was acquired so it stands to reason that he’ll probably have a little bit more rope and a few more chances to get himself right, but it’s not the first impression you’d have loved to see from a guy looking to prove he can make it happen at the major league level.
Brito is being attacked with offspeed and breaking balls so far and hasn’t done anything to necessitate pitchers deviating from that plan. He’s whiffing on nearly half his swings and chasing nearly half the pitches out of the zone, signifying that he’s looking to swing his way out of the slump one way or the other.
Anthony Alford had a borderline unfair start-and-stop call up to start his season and is ready to be brought back into the outfield rotation as soon as the phone rings. The Blue Jays can afford to be patient with the post-hype prospects they continue to hope to pan for gold with, but even that will have a limit if the pieces never come together.
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