ST. LOUIS — There are dry spells that can be anticipated, others that can be dreaded and still others that have no explanation at all.
Put what happened to the Blue Jays over the past few weeks in the latter category.
So with a late-night flight waiting looming and an off day in California enticing at the other end, what happened in the fourth inning Tuesday night at Busch Stadium was a welcome, if overdue, development for the offensively struggling team.
When Jays catcher Danny Jansen launched a ball off the left-field foul pole, the resulting three-run homer was not only long released the shackles of a slump, but ended a remarkable stretch for the slugger-happy team.
Jansen’s fourth homer of the season was the team’s first with more than one-runner on base since April 29.
Combined with yet another stellar starting pitching effort from Kevin Gausman, it also propelled the Jays to an 8-1 win over the Cards allowing them to split the two-game series against an inter-league opponent.
Jansen’s blast, his fourth of the season, opened up a four-run lead for the Jays, a rare bit of production given that in their six previous games they had scored three runs or fewer.
And for good measure, the suddenly sharp-hitting catcher added a second over the fence, a solo blast in the seventh to make it five on the year in just 11 games. Considering Jansen has just 11 in his 70 games last season, the production is encouraging.
Perhaps the best part for the struggling Jays was that the Jansen belt further unlocked the offence as Jays hitters added three more runs, in the sixth, the first two coming on a George Springer triple.
Then came the long-awaited return of long ball action of Vlad Guerrero Jr. When the Jays first baseman launched a towering, 438-foot homer to centre, it was his eighth of the season but first in 16 games.
It couldn’t have rained on a drier spot for a Jays offence that had scored more runs just once in its previous 21 games. The final margin was their biggest of the season, another potential confidence boost, as their record improved to 23-20.
The troubles had been more noticeable on the road where manager Charlie Montoyo’s had dropped eight of their previous 10.
“I think everybody’s pressing at the same time,” Montoyo said prior to the game. “When your team is pressing, everyone is trying harder and even more with runners in scoring position.
“And that’s what’s happening with us right now.”
For one night, anyway, the seal was broken in a blowout win that was welcome on multiple levels. After starter Gausman delivered six shutout innings, the bullpen was afforded a well-deserved break.
All along, Montoyo and the Jays have maintained that the bats would break out at some point and perhaps this was the start.
It certainly would have made for an enjoyable night flight to California where the Jays will enjoy an off day on Wednesday in advance of a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
GLAD FOR VLAD
Guerrero’s struggles have been well documented and surely a test to his patience.
His homer on Tuesday tied him with Springer for the team lead at eight, but was his first since May 5 at Cleveland. In other words, it’s been a long month for the big first baseman.
“Whenever Vladdy gets going, he’s going to get going,” Montoyo said. “The one thing about him, for being a young guy, he stays very even keeled and that’s not easy to do.”
Entering Tuesday’s game, Guerrero was tied for 16th in homers among American League hitters. And this from a guy who hit 48 last season, tied for the most in the majors.
FIELD OF DREAMS
Watching the defensive work at the hot corner the past couple of days has been a treat with two of the best in the business.
What makes the story even greater, however, is that the Jays’ Matt Chapman and the Cards’ Nolan Arenado were high school teammates at El Toro High in Lake Forest, Calif. back in 2009.
Between them, the pair have won multiple Gold Gloves at their position and continue to dazzle.
“It’s fun to watch both of them,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said “If you like baseball … it’s not that easy to do what they do but they make it look easy.”
Of course, the pair had a moment in the sixth inning on Tuesday when Arenado leapt to snag a line drive from his former teammate.
AROUND THE BASES
With the scoring outburst, the Jays easily cashed as road favourites but also went over the total of seven for the second consecutive night … Gausman allowed four hits over his six innings, walking two while striking out eight. In improving to 4-3 on the season, the righty lowered his ERA to a nifty 2.25 … Monday’s loss – on the 10th inning grand slam by the Cards’ Paul Goldschmidt – was the Jays third walkout loss of the season. It also pushed the Jays record to 3-7 in games decided in the final at bat … With the win, the Jays improved to 3-2 in inter-league play … As much as the offence has struggled, the Jays have been strong defensively. In Monday’s first of two here, the Jays turned four double plays, tied for their most in a game since 2012. The Jays .989 fielding percentage (entering Tuesday’s action) was a tied with the Royals for the best mark in the AL.