Freddy Galvis’ outstretched glove fell short of the scorching Teoscar Hernández liner sent careening into left field.
Bo Bichette had to hold up at second to watch the first inning’s 22nd pitch fall fair, but he soon advanced as Marcus Semien trotted home with the game’s first run.
Last weekend, Baltimore’s Dean Kremer delivered six innings of two-run baseball against a diffused Blue Jay lineup. He earned a quality start, holding Toronto to just three hits and striking out six, but Thursday night was different. The Blue Jays jumped Kremer early, loading the bases and pushing a few runs across before Lourdes Gurriel Jr. cleared the bags with a single swing.
“We took advantage of the situation," Gurriel Jr. said. "Our lineup is very aggressive from top to bottom, we got everyone back and we’re healthy right now.”
Baltimore’s starter lasted just one out. The Blue Jays put early distance between themselves and the Orioles and showed little mercy. They did exactly what they were supposed to do.
Even when Toronto gets a spot start from their seventh starter, and even when their star outfielder receives a day off, the Orioles are a team the Blue Jays need to beat more often than not. Baltimore is one of many weaker opponents in Toronto’s upcoming schedule, and if the Jays plan on vaulting back into playoff contention, they’ll have to take advantage. On Thursday, they did so convincingly.
Over 60 percent of Toronto’s games this year have come against teams over .500, and they’ve won just 19 of them. The Jays have faced the toughest schedule in baseball and are the only team in the league's top 5 most difficult schedules with a winning record. When the Blue Jays dropped five straight and slipped below .500 last week, manager Charlie Montoyo pointed to the calendar.
“We’ve played good baseball,” Montoyo said. “It’s just tough luck, because we’ve played good teams.”
Toronto’s schedule gets easier — second softest remaining slate in the American League — but, when you drop games to the good teams, pressure heightens to punish the bad ones. Toronto's 89 remaining games will not all be rompings like tonight, as even the league's weakest opponents are never free wins. The Arizona Diamondbacks, the worst team in Major League Baseball, are still on pace for 45 wins and will likely finish with more.
But with an upcoming schedule featuring 15 more games against Baltimore, seven against Minnesota, and six verse Detroit, the path to a meaningful run is there for the Blue Jays. Baltimore came to Buffalo on the heels of a 13-0 loss to cap off a series sweep by the Houston Astros. The wins vaulted Houston atop the AL West, and these winnable series can provide Toronto the same opportunity.
The Blue Jays won’t sweep the remaining 15 against the Orioles and win out against bottom feeders. But they fulfilled their duties tonight, and they must continue to do so.