Gausman opens up about struggles as Blue Jays split series with Yankees

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An otherwise positive weekend for the Jays ended on a negative note Sunday.

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Despite that, given the opponent, a series split still has to be considered progress in a year where .500 has been mostly out of reach for the team.

But you would have a tough time convincing Kevin Gausman of that after Sunday’s game.

Gausman wasn’t in the mood for any progress reports or moral victory updates, not after he gave up seven runs in just 5 1/3 innings which included five uncharacteristic walks for him in an eventual 8-1 loss to the Yankees.

A Cy Young candidate a year ago, Gausman is not in that conversation this year for a few reasons, some of them obvious and ones Gausman is willing to talk openly about, others not quite as obvious and those are the ones he talks only guardedly about.

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First the obvious: The splitter, his primary weapon against opposing hitters, is not the splitter he had a year ago.

Not to get too technical about it, but the horizontal movement he is getting on the pitch is about the same as it was a year ago, but the vertical drop to the pitch just isn’t there this year, so it’s not carrying the zone long enough and hitters are able to lay off it more. No swings at the splitter takes a huge chunk of strikeouts away that Gausman would normally have.

But then there’s the other issue that seemed to be a big part of Sunday’s game for Gausman and that was the Yankee approach to or game plan for him.

Gausman didn’t come right out and say it, but it certainly sounded like he believes they knew what was coming before the ball left his hand.

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“This game has changed a lot over the last couple of years, I’ll say that,” Gausman said. “There’s ways teams are trying to find a way to beat you and you got to kind of tie every knot that you can. I kind of had to switch up some things today and that worked out for me in that aspect, but I still gave up seven runs today, so not great.”

Prompted further about what he meant by “the game has changed,” Gausman expanded on that, but only to a degree.

“Look at the game,” he said. “We got the (pitch) clock (to move the game along). We got the pitch communicator or whatever you want to call it. Disengagements, you know, everything. So I think because of that teams are looking for other ways to find a tip on you or relay (a signal) from wherever they can, so you really have to be on top of your game.”

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This isn’t the first time it has felt like teams have figured out a way to predict his pitch choice ahead of the actual pitch or, put another way, discovered a tip, but it’s happening more this year.

“I didn’t really deal with it as much last year,” he said. “I don’t know. Yeah, I wish I had a better answer for you, but I don’t.”

As for the splitter, Gausman seems to have a much firmer idea on how to deal with that.

“I think it needs to carry the zone a little bit more,” he said. “The metrics on it are really good right now. It’s moving 20 inches. But you know, it might be moving a little too much and not having the kind of vertical break and that’s what I need to carry the zone. For whatever reason, it hasn’t carried the zone as much this year as it did last year.

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“I think I need to throw it harder. Throwing it harder will give it that. Throughout my career, the splits that are slow are usually hit pretty hard, so I got to get back to throwing that 86-88 (m.p.h.)”

If only the other issue could be tackled head-on like that.

New York starter Gerrit Cole, making just his third start since a long stint on the injured list, got through five innings on 90 pitches to earn the win, holding the Jays to a single run.

The Jays are right back at it on Monday afternoon for the annual Canada Day game with Houston arriving in town for its own four-game series with Toronto. First pitch goes at 3:07 p.m.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays looks at his hand.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays looks at his hand after taking a pitch to his right hand in the third inning of their MLB game against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on Sunday, June 30, 2024 in Toronto. Photo by Cole Burston /Getty Images


Red-hot Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took a Cole fastball off the two smaller fingers on his right hand in the third inning. X-rays came back negative and manager John Schneider expects he’ll be in the lineup for Monday’s game with Houston.

Guerrero took one more at-bat in the game before John Schneider sent Davis Schneider up in his place for his final at-bat of the day after Guerrero complained of some discomfort swinging the bat in his sixth-inning plate appearance.

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