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Perhaps the evidence of the differing directions the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees are currently experiencing was revealed with the reaction of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Channeling the events of Aug. 9, 1993 when Bo Jackson struck out against Oakland’s Bobby Witt (the father of the Royals rookie) and audibly snapped his bat over his leg, Guerrero did something similar when he struck out to end the fifth against Jameson Taillon.
While Jackson’s bat snap occurred in a game the White Sox won and held a 3 1/2 game lead in the AL West during the final year of the two division era, Guerrero’s display of strength with his bat occurred during a frustrating series for the Blue Jays.
Guerrero’s snap occurred just after the Yankees took a two-run lead on a three-run homer by Gleyber Torres. It also occurred after Taillon threw a pitch to the backstop and Bo Bichette never left second and never saw Guerrero frantically waving him to advance.
After Guerrero’s bat slam, he made the final out of a game that saw two AL East teams on differing streaks. When Guerrero popped out, the Blue Jays were on the losing end for the ninth time in 14 games, capping a series where Yusei Kikuchi lost a no-hit bid Tuesday and two of their three ejections occurred about 15 minutes later.
Meanwhile Wednesday marked the 15th win in 17 games, a surge that has six ahead of the Blue Jays, the trendy pick to win the East and the same team who dominated the Yankees by a 25-8 margin last September in a four-game sweep.
So far, the Yankees are 6-3 in the season series and it could be 7-2 since they left the bases loaded last week against standout closer Jordan Romano, who also gave up Aaron Judge’s mammoth game-ending three-run homer on Tuesday.
Thirty games are slightly above a small sample but perhaps not one that predicts how the rest of the season will go. At this point, the Yankees are 22-8, their best record at this point since 2003 when they were 23-7 and eventually won 101 times while also enduring a stretch of 21 losses in 34 games culminating in the Houston Astros using six pitchers to throw a no-hitter.
Still, what the Yankees are showing is a more diverse team even though a majority of their runs are scored via home runs. Their pitching was good at various points through last year’s tedious 92-win season but this year it has been better.
Also better is Torres, who is starting to show glimpses of his first two seasons, especially against the Blue Jays. He drove in all five runs Wednesday and last week had the go-ahead RBI that was set up by a stolen base, something the Yankees have 17 of so far.
To this point in the season, we’ve won in a lot of different ways,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s been pitching and defense, maybe some days a base-running play.
“It’s been nice that it’s coming in a lot of different ways. I think that’s built a lot of confidence in that room that we know, we don’t have to lean on one thing on a given night. We have a lot of different ways to beat you.”
The Blue Jays saw numerous ways how to get beat by the Yankees by going 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series against a team whose pitching staff is permitting a .216 average with runners in scoring position so far.
“I know we’ve got the hitters to do it,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters. “We’re just not doing it right now.”
They failed to add on after Luis Severino faltered early Tuesday before finding himself and when they seemingly had Michael King on the ropes, Guerrero hit into an inning-ending double play against Clay Holmes, whom a year ago was in Pittsburgh and now sports a ground ball rate of 81.1 percent.
The latest Yankee win occurred hours after Brian Cashman met with reporters to discuss various things such as the Judge contract extension talks that broke down last month. He also spoke in cautious tones about the quick start after an offseason where all the major free agents signed elsewhere.
“We’ve always felt we’ve had good players,” Cashman said. “We always felt we had the capability of a really good team. Now it’s time to test those theories, and so far in the very early portion of our season it’s going quite well.”
It was the same tone Boone took hours later but being cautious about a strong start through 30 games is a lot better than going through a middling stretch
“I caution that we’re 30 games into this,” Boone said. “I do feel like in every area, we’re strong — and probably more complete than in previous years. I think [we’re] the whole package — we really feel like we can win a game a lot of different ways.”
Just ask the Blue Jays, who experienced the same frustration as the Yankees last September when these teams met at Yankee Stadium
“I think what gets lost on a lot of people is that we just had a long stretch and played some very, very good teams,” Toronto leadoff man George Springer told reporters. “We had some close games, had a lot of mentally draining games and physically draining games. This is not an excuse for why we’re not doing what we expect to do as a team, but it happens. We’ve played 30 out of 31 days to start the year against really good teams. It’s hard to do.”