As the Blue Jays search for a Mr. September to lead them into October, there may be no need to look any further than their sweet-swinging shortstop.
For one night, anyway, Bichette was back on Tuesday night, leading the Jays to a blowout 7-1 win over the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
A homer, single and a walk in five plate appearances certainly showed Bichette at his pre-injury best in the opener off a three-game series as the starting gate sprung open for the sprint to the post-season.
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This is a Jays offence that has sputtered and stalled for far too much of the season, a shortfall that frankly has made the quest for a playoff spot far more challenging than it needs to be.
The only constant throughout the majority of the season had been the versatile and dangerous bat of Bichette, though even that was hushed somewhat of late as he worked his way back from an injury.
His home run on Tuesday, a two-run shot in the fifth, was Bichette’s 19th of the season, but first since Aug. 20. If that feels like an eternity, the excuses are valid. Bichette endured a pair of visits to the injured list to nurse his right knee back to health, a setback that cost him 25 games.
Since exiting the IL on Sept. 7, there was always going to be some time getting the bat back to speed and if it has arrived, the timing couldn’t be better.
With the Jays firmly in control of their destiny, each win gives them an opportunity to further get their claws into the second American League wild card spot while putting distance from their pursuers.
Bichette has certainly been the leading man for the Jays as Vlad Guerrero Jr. and George Springer — to name the two with the heftiest expectations — have lagged in form. Quietly, the 25-year-old has had an excellent season defensively, the latest example being the nifty double play he triggered to squelch a potential Yankees rally in the sixth.
His homer, a 390-foot opposite-field number to right centre, opened up a 4-1 Jays lead, extracting some of the stress out of an important game against a Yankees team that had won six of their previous eight games.
With Bichette leading the way, the Jays put up seven runs on 10 hits, a definite warming up of the tepid attack. It was the first time in 12 games that the Jays scored seven runs, as the pitching staff has carried the freight.
Yep, it was a that’s-more-like-it night for a Jays attack that needed a cruise-control game to set the stage for a big two weeks. And the spotlight found Bichette with a performance worthy of rave reviews.
While Bichette has the starring role, the Jays may have a candidate for best supporting actor in the team’s ultimate utility man.
It’s certainly feeling that way as Cavan Biggio kept up his torrid month on Tuesday, driving in a run and banging out a couple of singles.
It was a notable night for Biggio on a number of counts, starting with the fact that he was playing in his 100th game, matching the career high he set back in his rookie season in 2019.
If that isn’t a reflection of the trust manager John Schneider and the front office has in Biggio, how about the fact that he was hitting in the four spot? Sure, the Jays are without a true cleanup hitter — a flaw in the team’s attack, for sure — but Biggio has earned that spot based on his recent play.
Before Tuesday’s opener of the three-game set at Yankee Stadium, Biggio was 12-for-36 in his previous 12 games with three doubles, a homer and eight RBIs. Over that time, he has become the closest thing Schneider has to a reliable bat at the most critical time of the season.
AROUND THE BASES
It remains to be seen what role Tuesday’s starter Yusei Kikuchi will have come post-season — should his team qualify — but he rebounded from a couple of sketchy recent outings with five-plus innings before exiting with a cramp in a neck/back muscle. Making his 30th start, Kikuchi held the Yankees to four hits and one earned run, striking out seven while unleashing a career-high 32 curveballs. It was certainly a nice bounce-back for the Japanese lefty, who equalled a season-high six runs allowed in his previous outing … The Jays got off to a running start in the Bronx when birthday boy Springer slashed his 20th homer out to right field in the first. It was the 57th leadoff long ball of Springer’s career … An 0-for-4 night for Guerrero didn’t look particularly fresh for the DH, who certainly seemed to be labouring on a couple of slower jaunts to first base … Jays homer No. 3 on the night came in the ninth, a two-run belt from catcher Alejandro Kirk, his seventh of the season … With the win, the Jays improved to 3-4 against the Bronx Bombers this year and are a dominating 16-8 at Yankee Stadium since the start of the 2021 season.