BOSTON — One of manager John Schneider’s messages to his Blue Jays players upon arrival at Fenway Park this weekend: Have fun.
You want fun?
How about scoring runs in bunches, running up one of the longest winning streaks of the season and, for good measure, beating down a nose-diving division opponent in humiliating fashion.
Producing at a sizzling rate to match the 38C temperatures here, the Jays finished off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox that, in totality, was pure dominance.
In Sunday’s finale, a five-run first inning sent the Jays off to a cruise-control 8-4 win as they essentially kicked the collective backside of the Sox, who are careening out of playoff contention.
“I feel like we did what good teams do when they see and feel a weakness in a team,” said starting pitcher Ross Stripling, who gave up two runs on five hits over four innings. “That Red Sox team is riddled with injuries and not playing as good as they can, but we took advantage of it and we swept them here in Fenway.
“When good teams smell blood in the water, they get after it. It’s just a really good way to start off the second half.”
There is certainly some big momentum with the Jays now. Winners of six in a row — their second-longest streak of the season — the Jays are 7-1 under manager John Schneider and return home for a six-game homestand beginning Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Even better, with the Rays losing in KC, the Jays moved into second place in the AL East and are now atop the AL wild-card race.
Pushing the right buttons on the field and off of it, Schneider is getting the most of his players
“I love having fun because baseball is hard,” said Schneider, who capped off his first road trip as manager with three wins and an aggregate margin of 40-10. “I respect what (the players) do every day — playing and grinding and traveling and the heat and all the stuff that goes with it.
“So you’ve got to try to keep it light. But at the same time, you’ve got to understand what you’re here for.”
It would appear that the Jays players are well aware of the mission. The managerial bump is alive, for sure, as the Jays have clearly responded to Schneider’s verbal and tactical initiatives.
The aggression was in evidence yet again when leadoff man George Springer singled to lead off the second inning, stole second base and advanced to third on the first installment of what would be a sloppy defensive effort by the Sox.
Springer also was the first across the plate in a nine-batter, five-run first.
What may be most impressive about the weekend was the one-sidedness of it all.
On Friday, it was putting up 28 runs and Saturday starter Alek Manoah mowing down a Boston hitter then letting the Red Sox dugout know about it. The 40 combined runs are a club record for a three-game series.
The Jays improved to 10-3 against the Sox this season and have won five of six at Fenway. Toronto has also clinched a season series win over the Sox (the first since 2016) and swept them for the first time at Fenway since 2015.
“We’ve been through some tough spots and right now is more of what we’re expecting and more of what we’re hoping for going forward,” Schneider said. “All the respect in the world for (the Red Sox) but to come in here and play like this… that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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The Jays sent nine to the plate in the first inning and five of them came home, the biggest shot a bases-loaded triple from left fielder Raimel Tapia. All five runs came with two outs, which is becoming a thing with the Jays these days… The five-run first was the fourth inning in the series in which the Jays scored four runs for more… Matt Chapman, who had a pair of doubles. on the day, scored a run the hard way in the fifth, taking a 92 mile-per-hour throw from Jeter Downs on his back as he was running from third to home… Tapia’s four RBIs on Sunday gave him 10 for the weekend, one short of the franchise record for a series at Fenway. Junior Felix, who also had an inside-the-park grand slam, had 11 back in June of 1989… Vlad Guerrero Jr. is heating up at the plate with a four-hit day. It was the fourth four-hit outing of his career and third this season… Sunday’s victory capped the Jays’ fourth sweep of the season.
Looks like it will be a spartan St. Louis Cardinals team shipping in to Toronto for games against the Jays on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Cards announced on Sunday that two of their all-stars will not make the trip because they’ve yet to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Infielders Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt will be the biggest impact absentees, but backup catcher Austin Romine is also ineligible.
Goldschmidt (who leads the National League in batting average at .333) and Arenado are the heart of the Cardinals batting lineup. Combined, they have 133 RBIs and 40 home runs.