BOSTON – Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo is always on the lookout for a new addition to his collection of motivational t-shirts.
The latest candidate: Hitting is contagious.
If we’ve heard Montoyo deliver that bit once, we’ve heard it a couple hundred times, but for a sleepy Jays attack of late the manager is hoping the mantra might stick.
The Jays busted out for one big inning on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, beating up on the Red Sox Canadian starter, Nick Pivetta on their way to an easy 6-1 victory.
“Everybody expects so much from this line-up that if we don’t hit like we are doing right now, everybody is like ‘oh, what’s going on,'” Montoyo said prior to the middle date of a three-game series here in Beantown. “It happens. We’re going to be all right. ”
They’ll be closer to all right when Teoscar Hernandez returns and if the pitch that drilled the right arm that ended George Springer’s night on Wednesday and sent him to the X-ray machine is not a lingering problem. But more on that later.
If the Jays can channel something from the second inning of their latest win, the doldrums may be set aside for the time being.
The visiting side sent 10 hitters to the plate in a five-run outburst that featured Raimel Tapia’s first homer as a Jay and Cavan Biggio’s first hit of the season – a broken bat number in what was his 13th plate appearance.
The six runs were the most the Jays had put up in a week and were accomplished by scattering nine hits on the night.
Even with the reduced output in recent contests, there was a hint of panic among Jays hitters, largely because they are reasonable baseball men who recognize the depth of talent in the lineup and that they only a dozen games into the season.
But after being shut out twice and scoring just one run over their previous seven games, the attack had been very un-Jays like.
While there have been some cold bats, it also becomes clear just how much the team misses the presence of Hernandez in the cleanup spot.
“Nothing against (Lourdes Gurriel Jr.) but you’re talking about the silver slugger the last two years,” Montoyo said. “If you do not want to pitch to (Vlad Guerrero Jr.), good luck pitching to Teo.”
The Jays will be without their cleanup man – and frankly one of the more underrated hitters in the American League – at least for the short term as Hernandez remains on the injured list with an oblique strain.
His absence and a few games with some sketchy interpretations of the strike zone by various members of the umpires union may have altered the Jays approach at the plate.
And perhaps some of their confidence.
Guerrero might be the best example of that as once again he was openly frustrated at a couple of close strike calls from home plate umpire Angel Hernandez. Guerrero isn’t getting much to hit these days as his five latest plate appearances showed – three walks and two strikeouts looking.
The Jays would certainly prefer more consistency from the attack but on a frigid night at Fenway at least there were some signs of warming. And in improving to 7-5, they have a chance to take another series in Thursday’s matinee rubber match.
There will be some concern overnight for the Jays regarding the condition of center fielder George Springer’s right arm.
The center fielder went down in a heap after being hit by a Phillips Valdez pitch in the sixth inning. Though he remained in the game to take the hit by pitch base, Springer did not return to his spot in the center for the bottom half of the inning and was replaced by Bradley Zimmer.
The early diagnosis of the Springer injury, per the team, is right forearm contusion. Precautionary X-rays on the arm came back negative. The veteran leadoff man will undergo further evaluation on Thursday.
The presence of Springer in the Jays lineup, cannot be understated. In the 78 games he was in the lineup, the Jays compiled a record of 48-30.
BERRIOS HOLDS FORT
It was not the most impressive effort from Jays starter Jose Berrios, but he certainly battled in giving his team six complete and allowing just one run.
But Berrios was hit hard at times, including the three hits he surrendered in the first inning, and allowed eight hits. The righty also struck out six and his 96 pitches was the most from a Toronto starter thus far.
Frightening moment in the third inning when Berrios clocked the Red Sox Trevor Story square on the helmet with a 93 miles per hour pitch. Story went down in a heap and Berrios looked aghast at the pitch that got way. After getting some medical attention, Story reports to first where Berrios caught his attention from the mound to apologize… Alejandro Kirk is heating up. A night after a pair of infield singles – yes, you read that correctly – the Jays catcher had a pair of more conventional singles and a walk in his first three plate appearances… After belting out a double leadoff in the third, Red Sox DH JD Martinez pulled up on his way to second then exited the game with what the team called left adductor tightness.