Bolstered by the return of Bo Bichette, the Toronto Blue Jays aim to clinch their three-game series with the visiting Kansas City Royals on Saturday afternoon and improve their hold on an American League wild-card spot.
Bichette returned from the injured list Friday night and had two hits and two RBIs as the Blue Jays held on to defeat the Royals 5-4 in the series opener.
The shortstop had been out with a quadriceps injury that followed closely an IL stint caused by a knee issue.
Bichette played in the field and batted second on Friday. He had an RBI double in the sixth and an RBI single in Toronto’s four-run seventh. He could see some time at DH.
“Huge addition at the top of the order. We all know what he can do,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “I think we’re still going to have to ease him in a little bit in terms of just watching his workload the first handful of games. If it’s a DH day or an off day even, we don’t want to take a step back from this injury.”
Bichette said, “I think initially there might be a bit of that. We have a little bit of a plan mapped out, but I hope it’s finished by the time Texas comes around.”
He was referring to the four-game home series that starts Monday against the Texas Rangers (76-64), who lost 6-3 to the Oakland Athletics on Friday to drop 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays (78-63) in the race for the third American League wild-card spot.
At the end of the game, Bichette ranked third in the AL in batting average (.315) and was tied for third in hits (154).
“I would have been a lot happier if he had a few more days off,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro quipped.
Infielder Mason McCoy was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo with the return of Bichette.
The Blue Jays announced on Friday that catcher Danny Jansen had surgery on his fractured right middle finger and is out for the rest of the regular season.
“It was bad timing,” Schneider said. “He was playing well. I felt like he was a magnet, whether he was at the plate or behind the plate, getting hit by pitches and things like that. He battled through it, but you feel for him. He’s a big part of our team. The guys respect him. He’s kind of a very quiet leader amongst the whole group. Yeah, bad timing for him.”
The Blue Jays are scheduled to start right-hander Kevin Gausman (10-8, 3.39 ERA) on Saturday. In three career starts against the Royals, he is 1-1 with a 4.11 ERA. He got a victory at Kansas City on April 6 after striking out seven in six scoreless innings.
The Royals are scheduled to start right-hander James McArthur (0-0, 10.13 ERA) on Saturday. The 26-year-old rookie has not faced the Blue Jays. Right-hander Zack Greinke is expected to follow him.
The Royals lost left-handed reliever Austin Cox when he injured his left knee in the seventh inning while covering first base on an infield hit.
Quatraro said Cox was “in some pain” and that the club would know more after diagnostic testing.
The Royals reinstated first baseman Nick Pratto (left groin strain) from IL on Friday and optioned first baseman Matt Beaty to Triple-A Omaha.
–Field Level Media