Berrios dials it in, throws five innings of one-run ball handing Tampa their first loss
FiredUp Network Sports Writer
Saturday, April 15, 2023
Jose Berrios looked to turn things around Friday night, delivering his best start on the season so far as the Blue Jays handed Tampa their first loss of he season.
TORONTO – Jose Berrios sat by himself in the visitors dugout on a Saturday night in Anaheim, wondering once again where he went wrong.
The righty had gone five full innings, but allowed six runs on six hits en-route to his second loss in as many starts.
In the second year of a seven-year $130 million extension, he was reinventing the wheel. 2022 saw him post his worst numbers since becoming a full-time big-leaguer boasting an inflated 5.23 ERA – the worst among qualified starters in all of baseball.
He changed his mechanics, altered his delivery and even dyed his hair. But his first two starts of 2023 picked up right where he left off.
What else could he possibly do?
So it seemed like a daunting task ahead going to the mound Friday night to take on an unbeaten Tampa Bay Rays team with one of the best starts to a season MLB has seen in close to 40 years.
But like the rest of his pesky Toronto team, he seemed to relish in the challenge.
Berrios looked as solid as he has in the past two seasons going five full innings surrendering just one run on four hits while sitting down six as the Blue Jays handed the Rays their first loss of the campaign.
The only shred of concern exhibited in the contest was a sharp ground ball Berrios took off of his knee during his final inning of work. Although diagnosed with a contusion, it’s believed he’ll be ready to go for his next start.
“We wanted to turn that page and I came here with my aggressive mood, and obviously had confidence in myself and from the bullpen,” said Berrios. “I was feeling like we had to be aggressive, we had to be positive and we brought that to the first inning and I think we set the tone.”
And aggressive was exactly what he was.
Berrios’ 77-pitch outing saw him use a healthy mix of the pitches in his arsenal, including his fastball – one he seems to miss all too often with. But Friday night he attacked the zone with a command that seemed to be forgotten. His average velocity sat just south of 94mph, with just seven of his almost 30 fastballs thrown, missing for balls.
That aggression seemingly carried over to the offensive side as well with the Blue Jays jumping out to the early lead in the bottom of the first. Drew Rasmussen – who hadn’t surrendered a single run on the season thus far – served up a fastball up and over the heart of the plate in just his second pitch of the game for George Springer who crushed it 440-feet to the bleachers in left-centre field. The knock was his 53rd career leadoff longball and saw him tie Craig Biggio for third-most all-time giving the Jays the 1-0 lead early.
Bo Bichette picked things up in the following frame with an RBI double – his 500th hit making him the fastest player to reach the milestone in franchise history – before pitching struggles and two fielding errors in the fifth saw Toronto pull out a 6-1 lead.
Yimi Garcia was brought in for the seventh, surrendering back-to-back solo shots before escaping the inning, limiting the damage to the two runs.
Romano would get the call in the ninth to officially end the streak and improve the Jays to 9-5 on the season.
But performances aside, Berrios was the star.
“It was nice to see that little bit of fire from him,” John Schneider said of Berrios. “It was nothing out of the ordinary from what we were going to try to do against Randy, but the execution part of it and the conviction in which he did it was what I liked about it.”
Bichette echoed the sentiment: "You could tell you had some fire out there.”
The Blue Jays will go again with the Rays on Saturday afternoon. Another pitcher looking to continue his turn in form this season in Yusei Kikuchi will get the ball for Toronto as the Rays will turn to Calvin Faucher.