Sometimes, a little doink’ll do ya.
In today’s big-league baseball, the emphasis is on exit velocity, barrel rate and launch angle. Hit the ball as hard as you can as often as you can and good things will happen, they say. For the most part they’re right, whoever they are, but that formula hasn’t been working for the Blue Jays this season.
The Jays entered Tuesday with five of the top 58 hitters in the majors in exit velocity, but they were 22nd out of 30 teams with 3.78 runs per game.
Much of that has to do with the fact that they’ve been the worst team in baseball at hitting with runners in scoring position (.190), but they also haven’t been rewarded very often for hitting the ball hard.
They got a little gift from the baseball gods Tuesday, a karmic recompense for all the big hits they’ve missed by hitting rockets into gloves or by balls running out of steam on the warning track.
George Springer, who has hit the ball, on average, 90.3 miles per hour this season (58th in the majors), came up with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the second inning. He got just a piece of a 97-m.p.h. Logan Gilbert fastball and floated a little duck snort, a dying quail, a Texas Leaguer, a doink, whatever you want to call it, into shallow right field.
In charged the Mariners’ Steven Souza Jr. He dove forward and reached out to his left, only to see the ball miss his glove by a few inches. Everybody scored as Springer slid headfirst into third base with the Jays’ first triple of the season.
It came off the bat at 71.5 miles per hour.
“I’ll take it,” said a smiling Springer in a raucous Jays clubhouse after the game. “It’s not always how hard you hit it, you’ve got to just put it in the right place. I’m not going to complain about it. (Gilbert) was nasty tonight, he had great stuff all night and sometimes you just get lucky.”
Sometimes those are the hits that can get a team going, that can diffuse the pressure on a group that has been struggling to score runs all season.
“The whole season, we’ve been hitting the ball pretty good,” outfielder Teoscar Hernandez said. “They’ve been dying at the wall, at the warning track. We’ve been hitting a lot of balls right at people and (Tuesday) it was a little bit of good luck for us. Finally we get something to get going.”
The little looper, combined with outstanding work from starter José Berríos and relievers David Phelps and Adam Cimber, gave the Jays their longest winning streak of the month (two games) and snapped a streak of four consecutive series lost. They’ll go for their first sweep of the season on Wednesday behind Kevin Gausman.
Berríos, who dominated from the mound for seven innings, knows what it’s like to be on the other side of that Springer salvo.
“My (last) outing I was getting hit like that, weak hitting (that led to) damage” Berríos said. “So, tonight, to be able to be on the other side of that hit, it gave us the win and I’m so happy.”
What the blooper didn’t do is magically wake up the Jays’ slumbering offence, since the team managed only two hits the rest of the night, but Springer sees things coming around.
“You’re starting to see the at-bats are starting to be better,” he said. “It’s about small steps, you can’t just make a big splash, and I think you’re starting to see one at-bat spiral into the next and the next guy. You’re not just going to drive everybody home but you’re starting to see hits fall.”
As for Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, don’t tell him how hard that three-run triple came off the bat.
“You never hear me talk about (exit velocity),” Montoyo said. “A base hit is a base hit. I’ll make fun of people who have a bloop single and they’re mad at first base. Man, that’s a hit. To me, that was like 110 (miles per hour), the bloop that Springer hit.”
It wasn’t, of course, and it remains a good idea to hit the ball very hard on a regular basis, but for a team that limped home from a 2-7 road trip and will now get to bring their brooms to the ballpark for the finale of this series, a little duck snort was more than enough.
Three things you should know about the Blue Jays’ 3-0 win over the Mariners at Rogers Centre on Tuesday:
Putting up zeros
José Berríos dragged a 5.82 earned-run average into Tuesday’s game after allowing 11 runs in 10 innings over his last two starts. His ERA dropped almost a full run to 4.83 after he shut out Seattle for seven-plus innings.
Berríos was only in trouble once all night, loading the bases with one out in the second inning on a double, a single and a walk before the 27-year-old got Steven Souza Jr. to bounce into an inning-ending double play. He needed just 10 pitches in the third inning and 11 in the fourth, and allowed just six hits before handing things over to David Phelps.
Dave the Pitcher
Need a reliever to get you out of a jam? Just call Dave The Pitcher! After Berríos started the eighth inning by allowing a walk and a single, the 35-year-old Phelps got a cue shot ground ball for the first out, struck out leadoff man Adam Frazier and got Ty France on an easy fly ball to right. Phelps has inherited nine runners this season and has allowed only one of them to score.
All the runs came on one swing of the bat, a bases-loaded triple to shallow right by George Springer, who got just enough of a 97-m.p.h. fastball from Logan Gilbert to drop it into no man’s land, just out of the reach of a diving Souza. It was the Jays’ first triple of the season; they had been the only team in the majors without one.