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Jun 2, 2024 8:28 am

Blue Jays meet Pirates, strive for rare fast start

bo bichette

The Toronto Blue Jays could help themselves in the rubber match of their three-game series with the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon by ending their first-inning drought.

The Blue Jays failed to score in the first inning Saturday for the 23rd consecutive game in their 8-1 loss to the Pirates.

Pittsburgh scored three runs in the top of the first. The Blue Jays had a chance to answer in the bottom of the inning when they had runners at first and third with one out, but Pirates right-hander Mitch Keller struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

The first-inning drought is the longest in Blue Jays history, surpassing 20 games in 1977, the team’s first season.

“It’s about every single person being on board with their plan and with their approach from pitch one,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “If the first guy gets out, it’s on to the next guy. If he does, it’s on to the next guy. Hopefully that turns.”

The Pirates had two-run home runs from Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds on Saturday. They also executed small ball with two successful sacrifice bunts as they rebounded from a 5-3 loss in 14 innings on Friday.

“Really good,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “I think even (Friday) night, we didn’t score, but situationally we played pretty good baseball. We got some guys over, we got some guys in. Today, we got two bunts down. We continued to get guys in. We made some good baserunning moves. It was just a well-played baseball game.”

Edward Olivares started the scoring in the first with a sacrifice fly. Hayes followed with his first home run since April 27.

“Yeah, it felt good. It’s just one game, though,” Hayes said. “It’s a good feeling, though, to be able to put a swing on a ball like that.”

Keller tossed his fifth consecutive quality start, allowing one run, five hits and one walk while striking out eight in six innings.

“That was a gritty performance by him,” Shelton said. “I thought the first three or four innings he really struggled with his command. A lot of credit to Mitch.”

The Pirates are 2-2 with one game remaining on their five-game trip. The Blue Jays are 1-1 to start their seven-game homestand.

Toronto is scheduled to start right-hander Chris Bassitt (5-6, 4.03 ERA) on Sunday. In four career starts against Pittsburgh, he is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA.

Pittsburgh intends to recall right-hander Quinn Priester (0-4, 4.33) from Triple-A Indianapolis to start Sunday for his second stint of the season in the major leagues. He has not faced Toronto.

The 23-year-old will take the rotation spot of left-hander Martin Perez (left groin strain), who is on the injured list.

“We’re in a situation where we obviously need a starter with Martin on the IL,” Shelton said. “For Quinn, it’s just a matter of making sure that he keeps the ball on the plate and he stays in attack mode.”

Toronto put right-hander Jordan Romano (right elbow inflammation) on the injured list Saturday and recalled left-hander Brendon Little from Triple-A Buffalo. Little allowed the homer by Reynolds in the ninth on Saturday.

In Romano’s absence, Yimi Garcia is expected to be Toronto’s closer.

–Field Level Media

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