TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays dropped an important game to a division rival, but losing all-star shortstop Bo Bichette to injury is more concerning.
Ryan Mountcastle went 2 for 3 at the plate, driving in three runs, and the Baltimore Orioles held off Toronto 4-2 on Monday. Bichette was hurt trying to stretch a single into a double in the third inning.
Bichette hit the ball into right field but when the relay throw beat him to second he put on the brakes, apparently jamming his right knee. He was helped off the field by team trainers and replaced in the lineup by Santiago Espinal.
“We’re still gathering information to see what we’re going to do next. We’ll probably know more tomorrow,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “With a guy like him, you want to be extremely proactive, obviously.
“In terms of what we’ll do going forward, we’ll know more tomorrow. We’re still figuring that out right now.”
A two-time all-star, Bichette leads Toronto with a .321 average this season and 17 home runs. It’s the highest average in the American League and fourth best in Major League Baseball.
“He’s our best player, so we’re waiting a lot more anxiously than you guys are,” said starting pitcher Chris Bassitt. “You have to have the next man up mentality but, overall, it’s not a good thing for us.”
Gunnar Henderson had a solo homer as Baltimore (65-41) opened the critical four-game series between the division rivals with a win. The Orioles are atop the AL East, 1.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay and 6.5 ahead of Toronto.
Kyle Gibson (10-6) allowed one run on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts over six innings. Relievers Danny Coulombe, Yennier Cano and Felix Bautista held off a late comeback bid.
Whit Merrifield had a late home run as Toronto (59-48) threatened to rally. Kevin Kiermaier drove in a run with a fielder’s choice.
Bassitt (10-6) pitched a rocky six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks but also striking out seven. Nate Pearson and Bowden Francis combined for three innings of scoreless relief.
Although Bassitt started the game off strong with back-to-back strikeouts, Baltimore scored early.
Anthony Santander drew a full-count walk and then Ryan O’Hearn singled. Santander narrowly avoided a tag at third to get into scoring position.
Mountcastle stroked a double down the first-base line to cash in Santander and O’Hearn for a 2-0 lead.
Henderson tacked on a run in the third, leading off the inning with his 17th home run of the season.
Mountcastle struck again later in the third, scoring Santander with a sacrifice fly. Santander had doubled then advanced on O’Hearn’s popout before crossing home for a 4-0 Orioles’ lead.
Kiermaier cut into Baltimore’s lead in the fifth when he hit into a fielder’s choice. Although Alejandro Kirk was forced out at second, Daulton Varsho ran home from third to make it 4-1.
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Merrifield brought the 31,122 at Rogers Centre to life with his ninth home run of the season to lead off the eighth inning. His 354-foot bomb into Toronto’s bullpen made it 4-2.
After an Espinal groundout, Brandon Belt and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. both walked to bring Chapman, representing the go-ahead run, to the plate with one out. But a questionable called third strike sent Chapman back to the dugout and then Varsho popped out to end the potential comeback.
Schneider was still unhappy at the strike called on Chapman after the game.
“I don’t think Felix Bautista needs any help,” said Schneider, referring to the AL’s saves leader.
Merrifield had a chance to be the hero in the ninth with Kirk and Kiermaier on first and second. He sent a ball to left-centre field for a likely hit but Baltimore’s Austin Hays laid out for the catch to hold the runners.
RELIEVED — Right-handed reliever Chad Green will continue his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery with an appearance for triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. Blue Jays manager John Schneider said they would look for Green to pitch more than an inning for the Bisons. Right-handed side armer Adam Cimber will continue his rehab from shoulder impingement as he plays catch from 105 feet at Toronto’s minor-league complex in Dunedin, Fla.
ON DECK — Hyun-Jin Ryu (0-0) makes his season debut for the Blue Jays after missing 13 months recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Kyle Bradish (6-6) gets the start for Baltimore.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2023.