Blue Jays hope to find consistency vs. Astros

One primary disappointment for the Toronto Blue Jays last season was the inconsistent production from a lineup laden with exceptional talent, and, in just the first week of the 2024 campaign, the team continues to be in that rut.

The Blue Jays bracketed a split of their season-opening four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays by scoring a combined 17 runs in the opener and finale. Toronto totaled three runs in the middle two games of that set.

Then, they were no-hit by Houston’s Ronel Blanco in a 10-0 home loss Monday in the opener of the three-game series.

Two outs into the ninth inning on Tuesday, the Blue Jays were poised to absorb a second consecutive shutout loss before left fielder Davis Schneider played hero. He belted a two-run homer off Astros closer Josh Hader, the decisive blow in a 2-1 victory that squared the series.

The Blue Jays again leaned heavily on veteran Justin Turner, who was 3-for-3 and worked the two-out walk against Hader that set the table for Schneider. The vaunted top of the Toronto order — George Springer, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette — finished a combined 2-for-12.

The group effort worked wonders for a team needing contributions up and down the lineup.

“I didn’t really contribute at all for the first 8 2/3 innings,” Schneider said. “I kind of misplayed that ball (Jose) Altuve hit (a double in the eighth inning) a little bit. With that wall out there it’s kind of tough. But I’m glad I got one back right there.”

Right-hander Chris Bassitt (0-1, 7.20 ERA) will start the series finale for the Blue Jays on Wednesday. He was saddled with the loss in his season debut on Friday, allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts over five innings in an 8-2 setback to the Rays.

He is 5-3 with a 3.72 ERA over 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the Astros, including a pair of victories in two starts against Houston last season.

Right-hander Cristian Javier (0-0, 0.00) is the scheduled starter for the Astros in the rubber match. He twirled six shutout innings at the New York Yankees on Friday, surrendering four hits and one walk while notching six strikeouts yet not factoring into the decision of a 7-1 loss.

Javier is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA in two career starts against the Blue Jays. He earned a 9-2 win over Toronto on April 17, 2023, after allowing one run, three hits and two walks with five strikeouts over five innings.

Before the bullpen suffered a fifth loss in six games, the Astros continued to revel in the no-hitter tossed by Blanco in the series opener. That victory was the first for Astros manager Joe Espada, previously the bench coach alongside Dusty Baker and A.J. Hinch.

With Blanco deserving of the hoopla on Monday, Espada enjoyed a reserved celebration of his pitcher’s milestone.

“We had a toast,” said Espada, who was named the 20th manager in franchise history on Nov. 13, 2023.

“The coaches had a nice bottle of champagne so we all celebrated. Overshadowed by Ronel Blanco’s performance, and that’s completely fine with me.”

–Field Level Media