Toronto – One by one, the Blue Jays appear.
We haven’t quite gotten to the point of “Avengers, Gather,” but the stars are finally aligning themselves for a lineup that requires more patience than it should. This was slow, steady and faltering at times, but with Tuesday’s 6-5 win over the White Sox, the Blue Jays won six seasons in a row.
Alejandro Kirk represented the first wave of reinforcements in May and continued into that Tuesday, firing twice in one of the best performances of his young career. More importantly, Kirk had Tuscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gueriel Jr. producing on both sides, extending the lineup behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Earlier this season, Charlie Montoyo saw Kirk do something that everyone else was doing. He was pressing the board, trying to be the only player to break the drought. Now, he and the Blue Jays are playing loose.
“That’s impressive for his age, to be good and to hit everything he’s been up to the last two weeks,” said Montoyo. “He doesn’t cross out. He puts the ball into play. It doesn’t surprise me, because I’ve already seen him do this and I’ve seen him do it again.”
Kirk’s transformation was surprising but predictable. The 23-year-old has always been gifted with an approach to the plate well beyond his years, allowing him to call at a very high rate, but he hasn’t scored an extra base stroke until May 3 this season.
Kirk said through an interpreter: “There was a bit of frustration at first because you want to drive the ball, but I kept coming here early and working hard with the coaches. They trusted me and that’s why I showed what I can do.”
This is where we come back to the idea that infections are contagious. If you had a dollar for every time Montoyo said that this season, you could turn up the top five payrolls in MLB.
Kirk is the perfect hitter to start falling dominoes, too. His style allows him to be calm and comfortable in any situation facing any bowler. He’s the type of hitter that fellow hitters appreciate, and he earned some praise from his starter after Kevin Gossman gave the Blue Jays five runs of three-ball for the win.
“He can hit the high ball and he can hit the low ball. As a bowler, you kind of wonder where you’re supposed to go,” said Gusman. “He’s a guy who doesn’t chase much. It will make you enter the strike zone and chase after him. He does a good job of getting his favorable charges. We all knew he was there.”
Before Kirk was Hernandez in the cleaning spot, who got into play with .501 OPS despite winning back-to-back Silver Slugger Awards. Hernandez hit a rowdy double as he drove in a pair of sprints, and his transformation may be what makes this squad go from a “good” comeback to being one of the best players in baseball.
Behind Kirk was Gurriel, who was struggling in his own way, but was walking and walking as he continued to build on some recent momentum. The Gurriel usually warms up with the weather and sheds tears at the heart of the season, so his time is close too.
“This is huge,” said Montoyo. “I was saying [earlier] We play baseball well, but it’s going to be hard to sweep people up if we don’t start swinging the bats. We are swinging now. We did that on the road trip and scored six more runs today. We throw the ball and we catch the ball too.”
Together, these three have such potential behind George Springer, Beau Pechet and Guerrero. These top three are special, with a legitimate potential to be the best in the league when they all click, but the beauty of this squad has always been in its quantity, not just its quality. When you think of Matt Chapman, Santiago Espinal, and Danny Janssen, there shouldn’t be any black holes from one through nine.
It’s easy to see this team slack off as well. Even the group of dancing, loving, and cheerful young stars have their frustrations, and rightly so. Playing 162 games a season is hard enough, but when all of those games are close together, and scenarios high on tension, the days get especially stressful.
This lineup hasn’t peaked yet, but that doesn’t matter until October. For now, it’s all about getting there, which will require six other players to live up to their potential. It’s Kirk’s turn, and if spanking is really contagious, he’s starting to convey that.