TORONTO — For two innings Sunday afternoon, it looked like another pitcher was wearing a Kevin Gausman jersey.
Gausman’s trademark splitter nearly disappeared in the third and fourth innings of the Blue Jays’ 8-6 loss to the Twins. Minnesota didn’t wobble much on the field in the first two frames, especially on a handful that Gausman really liked, which caused him and receiver Danny Jansen to adjust the game plan.
The right-handed veteran only said he would need to assess the video after the loss to see if there was anything he could take away. Was he rocking his pitch, allowing the Twins to fire some splitters they would have otherwise tipped over, or was the Twins’ wider approach just kryptonite to one of baseball’s best weapons for a daytime?
“It’s a bit frustrating, obviously. I’m trying to win a series,” Gausman said. “To be honest, going out there and doing that is unacceptable. We have another one in five days, so we’ll take a look at some things and go from there.
The change in strategy forced Gausman to rely heavily on his fastball and four-seam slider. Both of these arguments are strong for Gausman, but everything in his arsenal plays on this divider. When his fastball gets a swing and misses, for example, it’s often due to the hesitation in a batter’s mind caused by that devastating split.
“You have to tip your cap sometimes when they just don’t swing,” Gausman said. “Some of their guys fired some really good splitters that I was a little flabbergasted that they didn’t touch. You have to keep competing and pitching. We made an adjustment, and unfortunately I I threw a lot of pitches. It was tough all day and obviously my worst outing of the year. I’m going to take a look at some things and see what I can find.
Of course, Gausman’s performance cannot be entirely attributed to problems with his splitter.
In the first inning alone, the Blue Jays gave the Twins two free outs; first when Teoscar Hernández dropped a routine fly ball into right field, then when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lost a popup in foul territory, falling backwards as the ball fell several yards to his left.
The pair went looking for sunglasses together between the sleeves.
“I’m not defending my players, but this isn’t the first time players have dropped fly balls in baseball,” manager Charlie Montoyo said, noting that the sky quickly changed from cloudy to sunny. “It’s been happening for 100 years, but it sucks when it happens to you and it costs you points, like it did in that first run. That turned out to be a big part of the game.”
The errors led Gausman to 31 pitches in the first inning and left him at 54 after two, uncharacteristic for a pitcher who only walked on May 7. For Gausman, it’s a blow in an otherwise stellar start to the 2022 season. The right-hander still boasts a 2.78 ERA and has looked more than worthy of the five-year, $110 million deal he won. he signed as a free agent last offseason.
That loss was forgettable, made easier by the fact that the Blue Jays recently snapped an eight-game winning streak and had won nine of their last 10 on Sunday. What he does offer, however, is a glimpse of what pitchers have to deal with as the season progresses, especially high-end starters, and especially come playoff time.
Also, any conversation involving this Blue Jays team needs to have an eye on October. It is no longer just the goal, but the full expectation. Gausman is one of baseball’s surest bets to rebound with a very strong outing next weekend in Detroit, so if there’s a little wrinkle he discovers in Sunday’s video that needs ironing out, better done now than in the fall.
Those early defensive errors seemed to only worsen Gausman’s line in a lopsided loss, but the Blue Jays made a late push to close within two runs late in the ninth, at one point bringing the go-ahead to the plate . It only adds to the sting of some missed chances after George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, Matt Chapman and Santiago Espinal all homered.
Toronto’s recent roster allows some losses like these to be lessons, but not tragedies. It’s not something Gausman expects to do twice, and if he finds what he’s looking for when debriefing with pitching coach Pete Walker on video, the batters will come back to this soon enough. separator.