Kevin Gausman is putting together another elite season for the Toronto Blue Jays but the run support hasn’t been there for him for most of his starts.
But Bo Bichette had a solo shot and Matt Chapman a two-run homer in the first inning to give Gausman all the scoring he needed as Toronto held off the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Thursday afternoon. Chapman said it was nice to jump out to an early lead for the team’s ace after the Blue Jays mustered only 10 runs for Gausman over his previous four starts.
“I feel like a lot of times we’re not giving Gasman that much support,” said Chapman. “You never know when you’re going to get a run so it was good to get those runs and then Gaus, he shut it down.”
Gausman (4-3) was superb, allowing five hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to drop his earned-run average from 3.03 to 2.76.
He struck out 11 batters to bring his season total up to 100, surpassing Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani (90) for most in the American League. Ohtani is scheduled to take the mound against the Houston Astros on Friday.
“I think we’re just doing a good job of mixing fastballs and splits and sliders,” said Gausman on his strikeout rate. “We’re doing a good job of keeping guys off balance.
“It’s always a grind and you can never be satisfied, y’know? I’ve got another start in five days.”
Blue Jays manager John Schneider was more effusive.
“It’s a testament to him, how he takes care of himself,” said Schneider. “It’s his demeanour, it’s just very consistent. Day in, day out and every time he gets on the mound.”
Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., came out of the bullpen for Toronto (30-27), with Romano earning his 13th save of the season.
Freddy Peralta (5-5) allowed three runs over six innings for Milwaukee (29-27) with three Ks. Trevor Megill and Elvis Peguero came on in relief. Brian Anderson added a late RBI for the Brewers.
Bichette got Toronto on the board in the first, launching the ball 414 feet to centre field. The 42,059 in attendance at Rogers Centre — mainly school groups for the weekday matinee — went wild as Bichette rounded the bases for his 12th homer of the season.
The 25-year-old shortstop has been red hot over the past 11 games, going 19-for-49 with a double, a triple, three home runs, and nine RBIs in that span. He entered Thursday’s game leading all MLB hitters with 80 hits.
Three hitters later, Toronto struck again.
Chapman got a hold of a 96.4 m.p.h. four-seam Peralta fastball for his eighth homer of the season. It also scored Daulton Varsho to give the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead.
Kevin Kiermaier made a highlight-reel catch in centre-field in the second, diving almost parallel to the ground to get his glove on a possible double from Andruw Monasterio. Right-fielder George Springer threw his hands up in surprise when he saw Kiermaier make the inning-ending play a few feet away.
“That was as good as I’ve seen,” said Schneider. “(Kiermaier) came in to the dugout and said he didn’t think he was going to get there but he did and it was absolutely phenomenal.”
As impressive as Kiermaier’s defence was, Gausman’s pitching did the most work to keep the Brewers scoreless. He struck out eight in the first four innings.
After surrendering a single to Owen Miller to lead off the sixth, Gausman struck out Rowdy Tellez, William Contreras and Anderson to end the inning and reach double digits on Ks for the day.
Gausman’s 99.3 m.p.h. four-seamer to strike out Anderson was the hardest pitch he has thrown since 2016. He gave credit to the 31-degree heat in downtown Toronto for the extra zip in his fastball.
“I feel like it’s got to be the hottest day of the year so far today,” said Gausman. “Those powder blues, maybe not the best decision for me. I was sweating a lot out there.
“I was just trying to get through that inning and, obviously, I was pretty fired up.”
Tellez led off the ninth for Milwaukee with a triple off Romano when Kiermaier couldn’t reach his well-hit ball to centre-right field. Contreras followed that with a walk and Anderson hit into a 6-4-3 double play, allowing Tellez to score.
Romano bore down to strike out Monasterio to earn the save and seal the Toronto win.
HEIN-TIME — Tyler Heineman made only his second start behind the plate for Toronto, starting at catcher as Alejandro Kirk took the day off and Danny Jansen continues to recover from a left groin strain.
“He knows how I like to pitch,” said Gausman on being paired with Heineman, who he also played with in San Francisco. “He knows what I’m capable of and he called a great game and made some unbelievable blocks.”
ON DECK — Chris Bassitt (5-4) gets the start as the Blue Jays travel to New York to face the Mets in another interleague series.
Justin Verlander (2-2) will take the mound for New York.