ANAHEIM, Calif. – The drive by Matt Chapman, like what must be about a dozen others he’s hit this season, looked gone off the bat. Struck at 95.7 m.p.h. at a 30-degree launch angle, the ball sailed 382 feet to left field and took Brandon Marsh to the wall before it settled into his glove.
Such frustration has been all-too-familiar for the soft-handed and hard-hitting third baseman, who more often than not has gotten precious little reward despite his 96th percentile average exit velocity and 98th percentile hard-hit rate.
Facing Aaron Loup, Chapman reached out for a sinker and poked an 82.9 m.p.h flare into short right field, touching green inches ahead of a sliding Juan Lagares. The right-fielder couldn’t pick it up cleanly from there, and once he did, he bounced a throw to second baseman Luis Rengifo, who was charged with an error for deflecting the ball away, allowing Chapman to take third.
In the interim, both Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez, each of whom had walked, came around to score, putting the Blue Jays up 5-4 immediately after Mike Trout’s two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh had erased a 3-2 Toronto lead.
Trevor Richards followed with a lockdown eighth that included two broken bats for Shohei Ohtani, who on the second still managed to send a fly ball 308 feet at 87.6 m.p.h. to right field for the inning’s third out.
Jordan Romano, pitching on three straight days for the first time this season, recorded two outs, allowed a Marsh RBI single and left the bases loaded in the ninth before Ross Stripling came on to retire Andrew Velazquez for the save.
The wild ending made it four straight wins and eight of 11 for the Blue Jays.
Chapman’s pivotal double came on another night of timely machinations by the Blue Jays, who had seemingly taken control of the game in the seventh when Cavan Biggio ripped an RBI double that tied the game 2-2 and then scored on Alejandro Kirk’s pinch-hit RBI single.
The Blue Jays used Kirk the way they did Danny Jansen a night earlier, a risky move given that they’re no longer carrying Zack Collins as a third catcher. Before making the move Friday, manager Charlie Montoyo asked Santiago Espinal if he’d be willing to don the catcher’s gear and finish out the game behind the plate if something happened to Kirk
Of course, Espinal told him, as back in 2020 he’d taken some reps off a pitching machine in preparation for just such a scenario. “I don’t know about my blocking, but I think my framing would be pretty good,” he quipped.
Espinal’s willingness to serve as an emergency catcher allowed Montoyo the freedom to repeat the move Saturday and given the way both backstops are hitting, expect there to be days where one is catching and the other is at DH, perhaps as soon as Tuesday.
“It is scary because the moment I do that now, I’ve only got one catcher,” conceded Montoyo. “That’s why sometimes it’s tough to do. You want to keep both in the game because they’re both swinging the bat well. But you’re going to see Kirk DH while Danny is catching or the other way around because both are swinging the bat well.”
That rally in the seventh took Yusei Kikuchi off the hoof after the lefty battled traffic for five innings but kept the Angels from scoring big, allowing only two runs. He also won the latest clash between Hanamaki Higashi High School’s two most famous baseball graduates, getting Ohtani on a groundball in the first, a strikeout in the third and a long fly ball to centre field in the fifth.