Bo Bichette’s Homer Lifts Blue Jays Over Rays 3-2
TORONTO — Bo Bichette fell to his knees and slammed his bat to the ground in anger after a 97.1 mph throw hit his forearm and narrowly missed his head on Monday.
However, all that emotion was gone in his next at bat, as Bichette hit a two-run homerun in the eighth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays passed the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2.
Bichette joked that his life flashed before his eyes when the ball nearly 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 mild-mannered Bichette. “I’m not worried about that, I’m just trying to get a winner for the team.”
Bichette also had an RBI-single for Toronto (79-61) hours after being named Player of the Week in the American League. The 24-year old Bichette last week hit .500 (16-for-32) with 11 runs scored, four doubles, one triple, five homeruns and 13 runs batted in when the Blue Jays set a 5-2 record. Toronto was 8-2 on 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’ closest league 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 play, every game gets a little bit magnified, every game becomes important.”
The win put Toronto ahead of the Rays in the AL standings, which tied with the Seattle Mariners for the top spot by wildcard. Baltimore is 5 1/2 games back from the Jays and Mariners.
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“Yes, it’s big. We have four games left (against Tampa), so we have a series to finish,” said Bichette. “You have to stay locked up.”
José Berríos earned a good start, gave up six hits, but limited the Rays to only two runs with four strikeouts. Yimi Garcia, Tim Mayza (7-0), and closer Jordan Romano from Markham, Ontario, came from 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 struckout four batters and gave up one run on two hits and a 3 1/3 innings walk for the no-decision. JT Chargois, Javy Guerra, Colin Poche and Jason Adam (2-3) came in relief, with Adam taking the defeat.
Bichette made it 1-1 in the fourth inning when his single George Springer scored from third base. Criswell had a perfect game through three innings in his second-ever Major League Baseball-start, until Springer reached base with a walk.
Manuel Margot helped the Rays regain the lead in the sixth. He hit 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 led off the next inning with a fastball to the hip of Rays leadoff hitter Francisco Mejia.
“Obviously I hit the batter, but I don’t want that guy on base in that inning,” Berríos said. “I don’t know why (the umpires) gave me the warning, but I want to keep playing my game, you know? Try to attack the batter.”
With two outs in the eighth, Bichette sent a 3-2 delivery from Adam just over the wall. His 24th homerun of the season also scored Raimel Tapia to make it 3-2.
“It’s going to be a long series,” Schneider said. “Obviously it’s a good team, a division rival and there’s no better man at the plate than Bo there with two outs.
“Every game is big. Every game is important.”
QUIET AT THE HOUSE FRONT — The crowd of 23,002 at Rogers Center on Monday night was the smallest for the Blue Jays since June 30, a run of 29 home games with better attendance.
ON DECK — Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah (14-7) will start on Tuesday in the first game of Toronto’s doubleheader against the Rays. Schneider said Mitch White (1-6) would likely be the Blue Jays’ 29th man for the doubleheader and the likely starter for the evening game. Jeffrey Springs (7-4) takes the mound for Tampa in the first game, with the second starting pitcher yet to be determined.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 12, 2022.