BOSTON – The last time the Blue Jays opened a series against the Red Sox in Boston, they set numerous offensive franchise records with an all-time 28-run output. By the end of the three-game series, the Blue Jays had outscored the Red Sox 40–10 in what appeared to be the nail in the coffin of the Red Sox’s season.
Toronto’s offense wasn’t as impressive as it was on Tuesday, but they beat the Red Sox 9-3 to open the three-game series. The Blue Jays did their most damage in the third inning as they batted around their lineup, scoring eight runs, all with two outs. Meanwhile, on the mound, Ross Stripling was efficient again, pitching six innings of one-run baseball. It was their fifth win in the last six games, a good rebound after losing eight of their previous 10 games.
With the Red Sox this week, the Blue Jays begin a stretch against opponents below -.500, representing the optimal time to feast on non-contending teams to boost their win column. Following three games in Boston, the Blue Jays return 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 the Blue Jays can win before four potentially decisive games in Baltimore against the Orioles, who remain in the playoff picture and loom as a major obstacle.
The Blue Jays are advantageous against weaker opponents, going 31-12 against teams below .500 before Tuesday’s game. They’ll look to continue that trend in this upcoming stretch and, if possible, hope it can take them to the tougher end of their schedule and break them out of the streaky pattern that has plagued them for most of this season.
“There’s really no rhyme or reason to it, you know? That’s the way our season has gone this year,” said Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman, who went 2-for-4 with a triple. “We’ve been a little resilient, I think. That we haven’t been able to put together a big, big month—it’s been like a good 10 days, maybe a good 10 days and so on, so we’ve been able to be where we want to be, but we’ve been kind of streaky. So I think if we continue to play like this and stay on trend for the rest of the season, there’s no question that we’re going to be able to put together a whole month. “
The Blue Jays showed this dangerous offense in the third inning. Trailing 1-0, Jackie Bradley Jr. got things going with a leadoff double in his first at-bat 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. grounded out, but the Blue Jays sent nine more batters before the Red Sox made the third out.
welcome back, @JackieBradleyJr!
Spoiler alert: He scored in this inning. Many did. pic.twitter.com/CIedxAg2ua
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 24, 2022
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. It started when he singled in Bradley with an RBI single up the middle. Crum then went walk-single-single-walk-single-walk-triple, driving in eight runs on six hits in the inning.
“I think don’t get too big, sit in the middle of the field and work the other way,” Blue Jays interim manager John Snyder said of the approach. “It was a quick eight runs with two outs, which, really, up and down the line is really impressive. It’s not often you see Vlady get eight runs and two outs in one inning, so that was a really impressive inning.
Although three runs short, the inning felt like their last crude-numbered inning at Fenway, when they scored 11 runs in the fifth inning of a 28-5 rout — all of which came with two outs.
On the mound, Stripling was effective again, holding the Red Sox to one run on six hits in six innings with six strikeouts and a walk. He battled base traffic through his first four innings. He also had a good defense behind him. In the first inning, Bradley made a great save for the Green Monsters on a single by Rafael Devers that prevented a run. Stripling eventually settled in, realizing the Red Sox were hitting his pitches well, so he proceeded to attack inside. It’s that in-game adjustment that has been crucial for Stripling this year, en route to his 2.84 ERA.
“I think he’s come into his own a little bit, and is reliable every time,” Snyder said.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s return to Fenway
Bradley had to be directed to the visitors’ clubhouse. He even had to ask his Blue Jays teammates where the batting cages were, which prompted some laughs. Bradley has spent parts of nine seasons playing for the Red Sox at Fenway Park — but he’s never been on the visiting side.
The center fielder made his first return to Fenway since joining the Blue Jays after being released by the Red Sox on Aug. 4. Bradley said being back in Boston with the Blue Jays was an “adjustment,” but it was good.
“I parked in the same parking lot that I always park here with my friends. It was great,” he said. “I’m glad to be back here. I’ve got a lot of memories here.”
Bradley went 2-for-3 with a walk while making some key defensive plays in a familiar center field.
“I always love watching him play when I play against him, but it’s great to have him on our team. He’s just got a lot of confidence,” Chapman said. “He always seems to be in the right place. He’s making all the plays, and obviously he’s got some experience in this area. “
Tim Meza’s quick return boosts the bullpen
Just 2 1/2 weeks ago, Tim Maiza was in Minneapolis, clutching his right shoulder in pain when he dislocated it on a play at the plate after colliding 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 wasn’t his throwing arm, he’d be able to return before the end of the season.
Not only was Meza reinstated from the 15-day injured list on Tuesday, but he’s also back on the most optimistic timeline of two to three weeks.
For days after the injury, Meza had pain in his right shoulder joint, but imaging showed no serious damage to the area, giving him an optimistic prognosis.
Within a few days, Maija was returning, albeit unable to catch the ball with his right hand. Typically, a member of the Blue Jays’ medical staff held him, while Meza placed a soft, medium-sized ball on his right arm to prevent him from putting too much stress on the joint.
Ten days after the injury, Maiza threw a bullpen with intensity. He almost felt ready to go back. He pitched 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 pitched a scoreless innings and checked all the boxes he needed to. After there was no effect on Sunday, he was ready to return.
Meza will have no restrictions when it comes to fielding balls.
“Just go out and pitch,” Snyder said was the message.
This was Maija’s second time in IL this year. When he returned about 3 1/2 weeks later in June, it took time to get back into a good rhythm with his mechanics. In Minnesota, he was feeling really good 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 some things while in IL briefly.
“If the ball (under my arm) and being able to stay compact around my delivery is something I probably took away from it,” he said. “But at the time, I never wanted to go to IL and you didn’t want to see that happen either.”
Mayza has a 2.88 ERA in 34 1/3 innings. His absence was felt by the Blue Jays, especially in the last innings. He gives them another arm in high-advantage situations or when they need a lefty.
(Photo by Jackie Bradley Jr., Cavan Biggio and Matt Chapman: David Butler II / USA TODAY)