Forget about the brooms, the Blue Jays have their shovels out. With a 6-3 win on Saturday, the Jays enter the series finale ready to bury the Orioles.
With a 6-3 victory, the Jays move seven games up over the Orioles in the playoff race, extending their series win streak to six, and staying alone atop the Wild Card standings.
"We're playing tough teams," manager John Schneider said. "But I think we're playing really good baseball right now."
Here are three takeaways from the Blue Jays' win over Baltimore:
Berrios Changing Speeds
José Berríos has been adapting, adjusting, tweaking, and refining all season, trying to find a release point and pitch mix to right his rollercoaster season.
On Saturday, the tweaking came in the form of increased changeup usage. He tossed the pitch 21 times (up 7% from his usual rate), including five changeups in the first inning. After Adley Rutchsman stroked an early single in the first, Berríos immediately went to the changeup, placing one at the bottom of the zone against Anthony Santander to induce a tone-setting double play.
As Nick Ashbourne pointed out, the increased changeup usage has been a Berríos trend this month. Mixing in more changes allows him to keep hitters off his fastball and counter the many left-handed batters teams are stacking against him this season. The righty finished Saturday's outing with a quality start—six innings pitched, two earned runs.
"I thought his outing after a bullpen day was gutsy," Schneider said. "And it was very much needed."
Springer Powering Up
Everyone's banged up this time of year, but there's no question George Springer is playing hurt. He went on the IL in early August with elbow inflammation, returned with a hefty brace on his arm, and the Jays have been careful to give him days off since.
In the 20 games following his IL stint, Springer was a productive, albeit somewhat different, hitter. He hit .321 with a .382 OBP in that time, but had just one homer and five extra-base hits. In the last few games, that expected Springer power has come back in a big way, with three extra-base hits in his last five games.
"He's had a tendency to step up this time of year and beyond, his entire career," Schneider said. "And he's kind of just doing more of the same."
In the second inning on Saturday, Springer drove a ball into the left-center gap, smashing a liner against the wall to drive in two Toronto runs. The elbow didn't seem to bother him much in the field much, either, uncorking a rope to home plate in the third inning and laying out for a diving snag in center an inning later
The Bases-Loaded Big Shot
After Teoscar Hernández worked a fifth-inning walk, the pressure fell to Raimel Tapia with two outs and the bases loaded. The Jays needed some insurance, up one at the time, and Tapia was just the guy to do it.
The left fielder has been one of baseball's best with the bases loaded throughout his career, entering Saturday with a .406 batting average with full bags. His OPS with the bases loaded since 2018 ranks best in baseball, just ahead of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Mike Trout.
"To be honest with you I love those moments," Tapia said after the game. "I feed off the energy of the moment."
So, it should've been no surprise when Tapia jumped a slider at the bottom of the zone and smashed it to the outfield wall. The double cleared the bases, built on Tapia's already impressive bases-loaded resume, and gave the Blue Jays a cushion in their win.