ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The televisions inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Tropicana Field were all locked on coverage of the trade deadline as Kevin Gausman prepared for his start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.
“Shohei Ohtani to the Toronto Blue Jays,” one player jokingly yelled at his teammates. “Everyone here goes to the Angels.”
Jokes aside, the cutoff is later than usual at 6 p.m. A mix of excitement, anticipation and uncertainty made Gausman’s pre-start routine feel “a little weird”.
“It was like we started this game, something could happen that maybe you didn’t know about,” he explained after going no-hitter into sixth and throwing eight one-hit innings in a 3-1 win over the Rays. “This was the first time I pitched on a day like this, but it was also a really exciting time. A lot of guys out there watching TV wondering now who are we going to get, who (we) are going to quit, that kind of thing. Not giving anyone up in this locker room, I think that was pretty big. We feel good where we are. And even if we didn’t make any moves, we’d still feel pretty confident. But bringing the guys that we did, I think they’re going to help us win.”
The guys they brought in — relievers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop, starter Mitch White and versatile Whit Merrifield — created a no-nonsense if not sexy image. deadline tour. Each one helps strengthen several gaps in the list and protect against injury while building the talent base for next year and beyond.
Moves that were more supportive than transformative for a Blue Jays team that won by 13the time in 16 games, he moved 13 games over .500 for the first time this season going 58-45.
“We’re confident in our group right now,” said shortstop Bo Bichette, who drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single in the first. “Anybody who can come out here and help us out is a plus. We’re excited to see what’s next, just get out there and keep racing.”
Added Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had two hits and scored with Bichette’s single, through interpreter Héctor Lebrón: “This is our group, this is our clubhouse, these are our boys and we are going to go to the end.”
The deadline deal was seen to the end for the Blue Jays, who snuck the Merrifield and White deals just below the line.
Merrifield is particularly interesting given how he fits into the list and because of his uncertain vaccination status. As the final piece plays out, the 33-year-old gives the Blue Jays a reliable and accomplished regular capable of moving around the diamond who deepens a bench that also includes Cavan Biggio and Raimel Tapia and can help cover center field if George Springer is the right. elbow problem leads to longer absence.
It will also force interim manager John Schneider to do more lineup juggling as general manager Ross Atkins has made it clear the Blue Jays view Merrifield as a full-time player.
“It’s about finding the right spot for the guys every day and trying to plan a little bit,” Schneider said. “The way we’re rolling right now and you get contributions from a lot of different people in a lot of different ways, adding a guy like that with his versatility and skill set, that’s a good problem to have. With a full roster, you know, It’s a great thing to have and it’s some tough decisions, but they’re good tough decisions.”
Merrifield, who broke out with the Royals in 2016, a year after they won the World Series, is a two-time All-Star and a three-time AL lead in stolen bases.
“He’s accomplished a lot,” Bichette said. “He’s accomplished some great things, he’s been around. I think it’s important that we all learn as much as we can from him and we’re excited to see what he can bring to the table. For me personally, I’m excited to be around him and talk to him. and play ball with him.
White is expected to pitch both out of the rotation and out of the bullpen, falling into the swingman role vacated by Ross Stripling to cover for Hyun Jin Ryu. Bass, for the later innings, and Pop, early to mid-game, help put more weapons at Schneider’s disposal.
With the way Gausman pitched Tuesday, no relief help was needed. After an initial walk and a pitching hit put up two, the veteran right-hander blocked the Rays, holding the 1-0 lead. He didn’t allow a hit until Taylor Walls singled to lead off the sixth, but it was quickly erased when Randy Arozarena hit a double play.
Gausman finished with 10 strikeouts and was aware on the mound of the fact that he was chasing a no-no.
“You definitely know, it was unfortunate that I couldn’t do it,” he said of going that deep with the no-hitter intact. “But it just goes to show how hard it is to do it at the major league level and that’s why there aren’t a lot of them. Good pitch, but Walls was right and everything. But we did a good job coming back after that, getting a double play and not allowing them to gain any momentum.”
Danny Jansen’s two-run single in the ninth opened up a larger cushion for the Blue Jays and that came in handy when Walls opened the bottom half with a solo shot against closer Jordan Romano, who closed things out with ease from there.
Schneider always appreciates additional races like the ones Jansen provided, “but especially here,” he said. “Usually the hit Jano got seems to be the hits they get late in the game here. A three-run lead is a big difference (from) a one-run lead. But we were operating on a one-run lead.” . I play all day, and we don’t flinch. It’s always good to have a little cushion.”
Bass and Pop will take it upon themselves to help preserve such clues in the future and will join Adam Cimber and Yimi Garcia as members of the 2021 Marlins’ bullpen now with the Blue Jays.
Cimber called them both “electric”.
“It’s nice now to look forward to what the next two months are going to be like for this team and try to get into (the) postseason and dig deep. These guys are going to help us do that,” he said. adding later: “I think we’re all looking for a boost. Everyone is trying to strengthen their teams right now and I think it’s a good move to help us get to where we want to be.”