BOSTON — The last time the Blue Jays opened a series against the Red Sox in Boston, they set multiple franchise offensive records with an otherworldly 28-run output. By the end of the three-game series, the Blue Jays had outscored the Red Sox 40-10 on their way to a sweep that seemed to put a nail in the coffin of the Red Sox’s season.
Toronto’s offense wasn’t as prolific on Tuesday, but they beat the Red Sox 9-3 to open a three-game series. The Blue Jays did most of their damage in the third inning when they ran through their lineup, scoring eight runs, all with two outs. Meanwhile, on the mound, Ross Stripling was again efficient, pitching six innings of one-run baseball. It’s their fifth win in their last six games, a nice comeback after losing eight of their previous 10 games.
With the Red Sox this week, the Blue Jays begin a stretch against sub-.500 opponents, representing an optimal time to enjoy non-contending teams to increase their win streak. After three games in Boston, the Blue Jays return home to Rogers Center for three games each against the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs. Then, they hit the road again for three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s 12 games in which the Blue Jays can muster wins before a potentially crucial four-game opener in Baltimore against the Orioles, who remain in the playoff picture and look like a big game-breaker.
The Blue Jays have been dominant against weaker opponents, going 31-12 against teams below .500 before Tuesday’s game. They will try to continue this trend over this next period and, if possible, hope it can lead them to a tougher end of their schedule and break them out of the dirty pattern in it. which they have dropped for most of this season.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason to it, you know? That’s how our season went this year,” said Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman, who went 2-for-4 with a triple. “We’ve been a little bit of a mess, I think maybe we haven’t been able to put together a big, big month — it’s been like 10 good days, maybe not 10 good days and so and so, so we’ve had been able to stay where we want to be, but we’ve been kind of stripped down. So I think if we can continue to play like this and be on trend for the rest of the season, we can’t tell what we’re able to put together in a whole month.”
The Blue Jays showed this dangerous offense in the third inning. With the score 1-0, Jackie Bradley Jr. managed to double the lead in his first game at Fenway Park as a member of the visiting team. George Springer, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Thursday, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. walked, but the Blue Jays plated nine more before the Red Sox reached the third.
welcome back @JackieBradleyJr!
Spoiler alert: He scored this inning. Many people did. pic.twitter.com/CIedxAg2ua
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 24, 2022
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He got it going when he drove in Bradley with an RBI single up the middle to tie it. Then the sequence went walk-one-one-one-one-walk-one-walk-triple, which led to eight runs on six hits in the inning.
“I think I don’t get too big, staying in the middle of the infield and working the other side,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said of that approach. “It was an eight-run game with two outs, which is really, really impressive up and down the lineup. It’s not very often you see eight runs and two outs from Vladdy in the same innings, so it was a really, really impressive run.”
Although down three runs, the inning had a similar feel to their last lopsided outing at Fenway, when they scored 11 runs in the fifth inning of that 28-5 game — all of which came with two outs.
On the mound, Stripling was again effective, holding the Red Sox to one run on six hits over six innings with six strikeouts and one walk. He battled base traffic through his first four innings. He also got nice protection behind him. In the first game, Bradley made a great read of the Green Monster on a single by Rafael Devers that didn’t score. Stripling eventually settled down, realizing the Red Sox were hitting his outside pitches well, so he tried to attack inside. It’s that in-game adjustment that has been so key for Stripling this year, en route to his 2.84 ERA.
“I think he’s a little more self-aware and believable every time,” Schneider said.
The return of Jackie Bradley Jr. at Fenway
Bradley had to head to the visiting club. He also had to ask his Blue Jays teammates where the batting cages were, which drew some laughs. Bradley has spent his fair share of time at Fenway Park during parts of nine seasons playing for the Red Sox — but he’s never been on the visiting side.
The center fielder made his first visit to Fenway since joining the Blue Jays after the Red Sox released him on Aug. 4. Bradley said returning to Boston with the Blue Jays was an “adjustment” but that it was good.
“I parked in the same parking lot where I always park here with my boys. It was wonderful,” he said. “I am happy to be back here. I have a lot of memories here.”
Bradley went 2-for-3 with a walk while making some key defensive plays in familiar center field.
“I’ve always enjoyed watching him play when I’ve played against him, but to have him in our team is good. He just has a lot of confidence out there,” Chapman said. “He always seems to be in the right place. He’s making all the plays and obviously has some experience in this area.”
The rapid return of Tim Mayza adds to the shame
Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, Tim Mayza was in Minneapolis, clutching his right shoulder in pain after dislocating it on a play at the plate when he collided with a Twins base runner. After the game, there was a mix of sadness to see the left-handed reliever go down, but optimism that since it was his non-throwing arm, he would be able to return before the end of the season.
Not only is Mayza back, back from the 15-day injured list on Tuesday, but he’s back within the most optimistic two-to-three week timeframe.
For several days after the injury, Mayza had pain in his right shoulder joint, but images showed no serious damage to the area, giving him an optimistic diagnosis.
Within days, Mayza was back shooting, though he still couldn’t catch the ball with his right hand. In typical fashion, a member of the Blue Jays medical staff held him while Mayza placed a soft, medium ball under his right arm to prevent him from putting too much stress on the joint.
Ten days after the injury, Mayza threw the ball with intensity. He felt almost ready to turn. He took a rehab outing with Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday to make sure he can. He also took fielding practice before the outing to test his catching arm. He had a goalless innings and checked all the boxes he needed to. After feeling no ill effects on Sunday, he was ready to go back.
Mayza will have no restrictions in terms of throwing the ball on the field.
“Just go out there and pitch,” Schneider said was the message.
This was Mayza’s second time in IL this year. When he returned after about 3 1/2 weeks in June, it took him time to get back into a good rhythm with his mechanics. In Minnesota, he felt great on the mound, so the timing of his shoulder injury wasn’t ideal (it never is). But if there is a silver lining, Mayza was able to work on a few things while briefly in IL.
“If something like the ball (under my arm) and the ability to stay compact around my delivery was something I probably took away from him,” he said. “But at the time, I never want to go to IL and you never want to see that happen.”
Mayza has a 2.88 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. His absence was felt by the Blue Jays, especially late in the game. It gives them another arm for high-impact situations or when a lefty is needed.
(Photo of Jackie Bradley Jr., Cavan Biggio and Matt Chapman: David Butler II / USA Today)