It took 40 games for Bo Bichette to reach five home runs last season. This year, it took him just 24.
Bichette had a homer and two RBI singles as the Toronto Blue Jays swept the Chicago White Sox with an 8-0 victory on Wednesday afternoon. The three-hit game brought Bichette up to a .340 batting average on the young season and got him to the five-homer mark nearly a full month earlier than last year.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day, pitch-by-pitch, even,” said Bichette, who also has 15 RBIs. “I’m just trying to make adjustments as quick as I can and pay attention to the game, pay attention to myself.
“But at the same time, I’m not too worried about homers.”
Whit Merrifield stretched his on-base streak to 19 games with a hit in the fourth and a two-run single in the seventh for Toronto (16-9). Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove in two runs with a double and Santiago Espinal added an RBI single.
The Blue Jays have won four straight, including the three-game sweep of Chicago, to sit third in the hyper-competitive American League East.
“I think we’re playing well. I mean, this series in particular, everything was clicking: offence, defence, pitching,” said Bichette. “When everything’s going like that, good things are going to happen but we’ve got to keep on competing every day and keep on getting after it.”
Yusei Kikuchi (4-0) struck out eight and held the White Sox to just four hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings. Relievers Erik Swanson, Yimi Garcia, and Trevor Richards preserved his win.
Toronto’s rotation has been on a tear the past eight games, with no starting pitcher surrendering more than two runs in a game during that span. That includes back-to-back scoreless starts from José Berríos and Kikuchi in the final games of the Blue Jays’ sweep of Chicago.
“All five of us have really bonded, we’ve been eating together,” said Kikuchi through translator Keito Ebino. “Even in bullpens, we’ve been giving each other advice.
“It’s really good to see each and every one of us succeeding so far.”
Michael Kopech (0-3) gave up four runs on six hits and two walks, striking out four, in five innings of work as Chicago (7-18) dropped its seventh in a row. Jimmy Lambert, Keynan Middleton and Gregory Santos came out of the White Sox bullpen.
“We’ve got to be able to put runs on the board if we want to compete at this level,” said Chicago manager Pedro Grifol. “We’re not doing that right now.”
Kikuchi struck out the first two batters he faced and then caught a break when Luis Robert Jr. tried to stretch a single into a double. Right-fielder George Springer got the throw into second just in time for Bichette to apply the tag and end the inning.
Bichette opened the scoring in the third when he bounced a single into right, giving Espinal plenty of time to run home from second and advance Springer to third.
Guerrero followed that up with a double down the first-base line, scoring Springer and Bichette for a 3-0 Toronto lead.
Springer had reached based after being hit by a pitch. He was removed from the game in the next inning.
“X-rays are negative, just a right-hand contusion,” said manager John Schneider, who noted it was fortunate the Blue Jays have no game on Thursday. “Off day comes at a good time for him.
“We’ll just wait and see how he feels tomorrow.”
Espinal tacked on a run in the fourth, driving in Daulton Varsho with a base hit. It was Espinal’s first game back in the lineup after the second baseman was struck on his wrist by a fastball from New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole on Saturday.
Bichette sailed his fifth home run of the season into the left-field foul netting in the seventh. He watched the looping shot with a relatively low exit velocity of 95.3 m.p.h. for a moment before trotting around the bases to the cheers of the 35,069 fans at Rogers Centre.
“‘I thought I got enough of it, I just wasn’t sure if it was fair,” said Bichette.
Guerrero, Matt Chapman and Varsho all reached base after Bichette’s blast and, after Alejandro Kirk struck out, Merrifield came to the plate. His 21st hit of the season scored Guerrero and Chapman for a 7-0 Toronto lead. Merrifield has reached base in every game he has played in this year.
Bichette had his second RBI single of the game in the eighth, scoring Espinal.
GRIFF — Veteran reporter Richard Griffin threw out the ceremonial opening pitch as he celebrated 50 years in baseball. The 68-year-old Griffin worked in communications for both the Montreal Expos and Blue Jays and was also a longtime columnist for the Toronto Star. He said before the game he wouldn’t throw from the rubber because he has too much respect for the mound.
ON DECK — The Blue Jays have Thursday off before opening up a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Rogers Centre.