The brooms were ready Wednesday on Star Wars Night at the Rogers Centre.
But the star on this night would be Jays lefty Yusei Kikuchi.
Six innings of solid work did the trick as Kikuchi helped spearhead the Jays to a 2-1 win to end an 11-game winning streak by the New York Yankees, who were looking to sweep Toronto after taking the first two games of a three-game series.
And so ends the Jays’ 10-game homestand, which saw them post a 6-4 record.
In their past four wins, the Jays scored a combined eight runs. Offence remains a concern, but Toronto’s pitching, other than Tuesday’s blunder by the bullpen, and defence have been good.
Jordan Romano picked up his 12th save as Kikuchi recorded his first win as a Blue Jay.
Romano gave up successive hits with one out and ultimately loaded the bases with two outs.
The game ended in dramatic style when Matt Chapman made a seldom seen bad throw to first on an Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounder. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went to full stretch mode to scoop the ball.
First base umpire Chris Conroy ruled Kiner-Falefa out, but video review would be required to confirm the play.
Kikuchi’s night began on the wrong foot when he surrendered a leadoff hit to DJ LeMahieu.
He then pitched like a staff ace in striking out Aaron Judge and then getting Anthony Rizzo into hitting an inning-ending double play.
Two more strikeouts would follow as Kikuchi retired the Yankees in order in the second inning.
The third inning began with Kikuchi serving up a homer to Joey Gallo. It was one of the very few mistakes Kikuchi made.
He entered the night with an ERA of 5.52 in his previous four starts. His biggest issue was command, giving up almost as many walks in as many innings pitched. On Wednesday, though, he walked just one for his first quality start of the season, inducing 15 swings and misses.
Post-game, Kikuchi tried to answer questions in English and even uttered a few words before deferring to his interpreter. The gist of his availability involved the tweak in delivery he made with pitching coach Pete Walker. He went with a kicking motion using his right foot before releasing the ball.
It worked because there wasn’t much to quibble when sizing up his outing. When he’s throwing strikes, the lefty is good.
“We know he has the stuff,’’ said manager Charlie Montoyo of Kikuchi. “If he continues to throw strike it will be great for us because he has a chance to win each time he takes to the mound.”
The Jays were limited to only four hits, including three in a row that led to the game-winning run. The other run came on a Chapman homer.
It was quite the day of pre-game news, minutiae and moves by the club well before opening pitch.
The feel-good story that was Gosuke Katoh after he made the opening-day roster may not necessary have a storybook ending.
For now, the infielder has been designated for assignment, which means he’s no longer on the club’s 40-man roster.
What the immediate future holds for Katoh is anyone’s guess.
Within the next seven days, the club can return him to the 40-man roster, put him on waivers, trade him, release him or send him to triple-A.
The DFA move was precipitated by the Jays’ decision to activate RHP Casey Lawrence.
LHP Andrew Vasquez was sent to Buffalo.
In other news, Cavan Biggio will shuffle off to Buffalo as he works his way back from the COVID injury list.
He took live BP Wednesday.
Ryan Borucki (middle-finger blister) threw 23 pitches in the live BP.
WHAT A HOMER
Chapman stroked his fifth long ball of the season to lead off the second inning.
All five of Chapman’s belts have been at home.
It was his third during the team’s homestand, which also featured visits by Boston and Houston.
Chapman hit a homer in each series.
Chapman played in his 25th game as a Blue Jay in Wednesday’s series final.
He has yet to commit an error and continues to be stellar at third.
Out since exiting Saturday’s game in Kansas City because of groin tightness, Gallo was back in the lineup Wednesday.
On the first pitch Gallo saw, he drilled it for his third home run of the season.
One of the players who filled Gallo’s void was Marwin Gonzalez, who recorded two doubles in the Yankees’ 9-1 rout Tuesday night.
Gonzalez was at the centre of a controversy when he got caught in a run down in the infamous seventh inning.
Video replays clearly showed Vlad Jr. applying the tag.
The Jays were out of challenges and Gonzalez scored, one of six runs the visitors would plate.
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The mixing and matching of the Jays’ starting lineup continued Wednesday.
The new wrinkle in the outfield saw Vinny Capra start in right field.
Capra, who made his big-league debut in left field last week, was joined by Bradley Zimmer in centre and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in left.
The Bradley-Gurriel Jr.-Capro look was a first for the Blue Jays and likely last.
Gallo’s blast was the Bronx Bombers’ 35th of the season, an MLB high. It was also the 24th home run hit by New York in its past 12 games … Judge had homered five times in his past five games heading into the series finale, which would see Judge strike out three times … Toronto strung together three hits in succession in the third inning to score the winning run … Solid glove work and an even stronger arm by Santiago Espinal prevented the Yankees from recording three hits, including one great throw from shallow left field … Yankees manager Aaron Boone took exception to the strike zone and got tossed in the eighth inning by home plate umpire Marty Foster.