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Mike Wilner: Blue Jays takeaways: The White Sox take what they’re given, and a little bit more

Mike Wilner: Blue Jays takeaways: The White Sox take what they’re given, and a little bit more
Sports
It doesn’t happen often that two teams play error-free baseball in a game in which every run that scores is a result of a defensive screw-up, but that was almost the case in Chicago on Thursday night.

Not until Adam Engel hit a solo home run off Anthony Castro in the seventh inning, giving the White Sox a 4-2 lead, did either team score a run without serious help — although you could make the argument that Castro’s middle-middle fastball was a gift for Engel, too.

Chicago’s second batter of the game, Yermin Mercedes, hit a fly ball to left field on which Lourdes Gurriel Jr. took a circuitous route, to put it mildly, and butchered what was a very catchable ball into a double. An out later, Jose Abreu doubled in a run and Yasmani Grandal followed with a two-run homer.

Space-time continuum considerations aside, Abreu would never get to the plate if Gurriel catches Mercedes’ fly ball. While Gurriel’s throwing arm is one of the best and most accurate in the business — his eight outfield assists have helped out the Blue Jays a great deal this season — his routes to fly balls have always been somewhat of an adventure.

Gurriel has routinely been subbed out for defence late in games, and it wouldn’t surprise to see him wind up with the lion’s share of DH at-bats once George Springer comes back. The tease of Springer’s pending rehab assignment continues, but the injured outfielder could be back in the big leagues before next weekend.

Gurriel’s misstep wound up costing the Blue Jays three runs, but the White Sox tried their best to give them back with a couple of brain-lock moments later in the game, each leading to a Toronto run.

With the score still 3-0 in the fifth inning, Joe Panik hit a one-out chopper to the first-base side. Abreu moved in to get it while pitcher Dallas Keuchel went to cover the bag, but Abreu didn’t flip the ball to the pitcher covering, choosing instead to take it to the bag himself. Panik beat him easily.

Riley Adams followed with a line drive to right field that was caught for the second out and should have been the third. Santiago Espinal and Marcus Semien followed with singles, the latter scoring Panik.

Chicago’s mistake in the next inning was even worse, as Randal Grichuk hit an inning-ending double-play ball to third that was picked up by Yoan Moncada, who smoothly delivered a perfect throw to first base, eschewing his shot at the lead runner.

Moncada either forgot how many outs there were or forgot that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had singled to lead off the inning and was standing at first base. Given a free out, the Jays scored their second run when Gurriel singled to bring home Guerrero.

That was the end of the generosity of the White Sox, though, as the Blue Jays managed only two hits the rest of the way.

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The 2020 Jays finished 31-29 and grabbed the eighth and final playoff spot; the 2021 Blue Jays are 31-29 and have the eighth-best record in the league. But we’re back to only five teams making the playoffs in each league, and the Jays sit three games behind the Houston Astros, who hold the second wild-card spot.

There’s good news on the horizon, though, with the impending returns from injury of Cavan Biggio and then Springer, as well as the fact that after playing baseball’s toughest schedule to this point, in a week’s time more than 20 per cent of the Jays’ remaining games will be played against the last-place Baltimore Orioles.

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