BOSTON — Three games and a marathon later, the Blue Jays have officially claimed Fenway Park as Canadian territory.
Thursday’s 6-5 win, with 10 innings slowly spread across four hours and 22 minutes, capped the Blue Jays’ second consecutive sweep of the Red Sox in Boston, making them 8-1 at Fenway this season and 13-3 against Boston overall.
This 6-1 road trip through New York and Boston has completely changed the trajectory of Toronto's season after a dreadful start to August brought clouds of worry.
“They’re tough. They’re competitive as hell,” interim manager John Schneider said. “They’re not backing down from anyone, and they’re playing really good at the right time.”
A battle of stamina as much as skill, the Red Sox stared at glaring opportunities to win in the eighth and ninth innings, botching both. Much of that credit goes to third baseman Matt Chapman, who spent this week playing like the best defender on the planet as balls found him over and over again.
Closer Jordan Romano shut it all down, though, in the ninth and 10th, offering a preview of how dominant he can look on the biggest stages.
“I just said to myself, ‘Don’t stop competing. No matter what. Don’t stop competing,’” Romano said. “I left it out there, and whatever happens, happens. I was OK giving up a hit. I was OK giving up a homer. I was not going to stop competing.”
On a night where neither team was at its best, the Blue Jays got the individual performances they needed in the moments that mattered, something that the Red Sox have lost sight of altogether.
The Blue Jays won’t reach their beds until sunrise in Toronto, but they’ll sleep through the morning knowing that this road trip was a mission accomplished. With a softer spot of the schedule coming up against the Angels, Cubs and Pirates, there’s an opportunity to turn this hot streak into a true stretch run.
Trouble was Bruin in Boston.
His name: Jordan Romano 🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/uaEDeJT8c7
The summer of George returns
George Springer is playing his best baseball as a Blue Jay, even if it’s coming as a DH.
Since Springer returned from the IL against the Orioles on Aug. 15, he’s gone 16-for-28 (.571). On this road trip, he was even better, going 12-for-19 (.632). He just keeps finding the biggest moments in ballgames and making them his own.
“He’s really good at them, going back to his time at the World Series,” Schneider said. “The definition of ‘clutch,’ what is it? It’s doing the same things you’ve always done, but in big moments. At least that’s my definition. It’s just not letting the moment get too big, staying with your approach, trusting your ability and preparation. He’s been that way for a long time.”
Short of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at his peak, no player changes the look of this lineup in the way Springer does. He’s an elite player, but the Blue Jays gave him six years and $150 million for the big moments they expect to play in. Each and every preview of those moments has instilled confidence he’ll show up on the big stage.
It starts with the starters
This road trip was the most encouraging snapshot of the Blue Jays’ rotation we’ve seen in ages. Kevin Gausman’s performance Thursday was the low point of the seven games, but the veteran still managed to grind through five innings of four-run ball without his best stuff, best velocity or any semblance of batted-ball luck. Back in New York, he shut out the Yankees for seven innings.
With José Berríos finally rolling and Mitch White providing the steady hand that Yusei Kikuchi couldn’t, this group is exactly where the Blue Jays need it to be.
Road trip (7 games)
Innings: 40 2/3
At the most basic level, this gives the Blue Jays a chance each game, and they’ll happily take their lineup against most others. Next, it’s a question of how good the top end of this rotation can be in October, when it’s ace on ace nearly every night in the postseason.
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A new look for September
When this road trip began, the Blue Jays sat 10 games back of the Yankees in the AL East and were tied with the Rays for the second and third Wild Card spots, back of the Mariners.
The Blue Jays are 7 1/2 back in the East — not an impossible number to make up — and in sole possession of that second Wild Card spot, just a half-game back of the Rays for the top spot.
From this moment on, every pitch is the most important pitch of the season.