Sports

Blue Jays down Astros on Bichette’s blast, Gausman’s gem

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The way the Astros and Blue Jays battled with the margin for error so slim and the competition so high, there’s a good chance they will hook up again when baseball’s stakes are much bigger.

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Both teams are good and fans in Toronto were treated to a high-end weekend series, capped off by Sunday’s finale that would see the Jays eke out a 3-2 win.

The six-game season series now in the books, the next time the Jays and Astros can potentially meet again will be in the playoffs.

The series finale was as close to post-season baseball as one can get given it is only the beginning of May, an afternoon highlighted by stellar starting pitching.

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Hits were aplenty in Friday’s series opener when Houston survived an 11-7 slugfest.

Saturday and Sunday would see the Jays emerge with one-run wins with the teams combining to score eight runs.

Pitching, defence and timely hitting vaulted the Jays to their series win, the tenets of playoff baseball.

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Bo Bichette’s two-run blast and Santiago Espinal’s game-winning single were the only hits of consequence for the Jays, but that’s all they needed.

Jordan Romano gave up a one-out double in the ninth and was the beneficiary of a remarkable highlight-reel catch by George Springer to record the save.

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The first real scoring opportunity would arrive in the sixth inning when Chas McCormick hit a ball to right that nearly went for a homer. He would end up at third on a one-out triple then scored on a two-out single by Aledmys Diaz.

With Kevin Gausman and Framber Valdez wheeling and dealing, base-runners were few and far between.

Valdez walked two and hit Bradley Zimmer with one out in Toronto’s bottom half of the sixth inning.

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When Springer stepped to the plate, the crowd finally had something to cheer and tried its best to rattle Valdez.

Springer hit a grounder to third on a sequence that would see Zimmer forced out at second with Springer ruled safe at first after he beat the throw.

It turned out to be huge as the next hitter, Bichette, went deep.

Bichette’s third homer of the season was the first hit Valdez surrendered.

The second hit yielded came in the seventh on a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. leadoff single.

Valdez wasn’t helped by an error, his day ultimately coming to an end with one out and runners at first and second in the seventh.

Phil Maton relieved Valdez and gave up the hit to Espinal that scored Matt Chapman.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

In his first game against his former team last week in Houston, Springer went deep.

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In Saturday’s middle of a three-game series, Springer went deep twice, including yet another leadoff blast.

He has started in centre field, asked to move to right field and even DH, a role he served Saturday when Springer also drew a walk and stole a base.

In Sunday’s series finale, Springer started in right field.

He led the game off by drawing a free pass in his first at-bat.

Going into Sunday’s game against his former team, Springer had hit safely in each of his four-career meetings, going a combined 5-for-15.

He went 0-for-3 with a walk Sunday.

HOLD THAT THOUGHT

Gausman could have done a much better job of holding Kyle Tucker on first base after the right-fielder got on base with a two-out single in the second inning.

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With Niko Goodrum at the plate, Gausman didn’t give catcher Alejandro Kirk much of a chance of throwing Tucker out. Tucker easily stole second, his third swipe of the season.

It didn’t cost the Jays.

Tucker stole his second base of the game after he led off the seventh inning on a grounder down the third-base line.

This time, his stolen base did cost the Jays as Tucker came around to score the tying run on a double by Goodrum.

MY COUSIN VINNY

Vinny Capra, 25, made his big-league debut Sunday in left field.

He was selected by the Blue Jays in the 20th round of the 2018 first-year player draft.

Capra was called up Friday.

In his first at-bat, he hit a soft grounder to third and was thrown out at first.

Capra started in right field. He wore No. 44 and walked to the plate to the sound of Rush’s Tom Sawyer.

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Too bad Geddy Lee wasn’t in his familiar seat behind home plate.

Capra struck out swinging to begin the sixth inning in his second at-bat.

In the seventh, he was replaced in the outfield by Raimel Tapia.

E-6

Bichette made his second error in as many games when he botched a routine grounder hit by Diaz in Houston’s top half of the fourth inning.

It was Bichette’s fifth error of the season and first back-to-back gaffe of the season.

Gausman shrugged it off by retiring Yordan Alvarez on a called third strike and then disposing of Yuli Gurriel on a swinging strikeout.

For those counting at home, through four innings Gausman had struck out seven.

Bichette would later bobble a ball on a grounder before making the out on a strong throw to first and then made a great back-handed play.

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