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Kevin Gausman deals and Jays offence delivers to blow out Tigers

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Kevin Gausman deals and Jays offence delivers to blow out Tigers

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There are any number of reasons why Kevin Gausman is an invaluable leader for the 2024 Blue Jays.

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He speaks his mind with transparent honesty both in and outside of the clubhouse.

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He is committed to being a major factor in helping the team succeed in the city he signed a long-term contract.

And most importantly on nights like Thursday in Detroit, when he’s at his best Gausman can be one of the most effective starters in the game.

With his team in need of continuing the signs of momentum that have emerged in recent days as it fights to climb out of a vexing poor start to the season, Gausman set the tone in the Jays’ resounding 9-1 win to open a four-game weekend series in the Motor City.

It was the third blow-out victory in four days for the Jays, who improved to 23-26 on the season as the offence is heating up at just the right time.

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On the mound, meanwhile, the veteran right-hander didn’t allow a hit until surrendering back-to-back singles to start the sixth. On this night, Gausman had enough run support to help the Jays cruise to a stress-free victory that will add to the brewing clubhouse confidence.

Gausman would allow one more hit in that frame to get the Tigers their first run of the game but that was it for the home side.

Through six complete innings, the Toronto starter allowed a pair of walks and three hits total, but set down Tigers hitters at a lethal rate, striking out 10.

For a while now, the Jays have been looking for leadership, or a spark, or any means for a rally to fight their way back to .500 and regroup on the season.

Gausman, for one, is taking the challenge personally and not reaching for excuses. He’s not blaming the offence. He’s not blaming his slow start to the season hampered by a spring training injury.

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Instead, he’s doing his part to help establish his team as one with a formidable pitching staff once again.

“I think we really banked on our pitchers and defence continuing to do what we did last year and I think the reality is that our first month and a half, we haven’t been what we were last season,” Gausman said in an interview with the Toronto Sun at the Rogers Centre earlier this week. “I think that’s one of the biggest differences.

“It sucks because as a pitcher on this pitching staff, if there is one thing that hasn’t held their part of the bargain it’s probably the pitching side. That’s supposed to be a strength of ours and last year it was a major strength.

“We just haven’t been consistent. That’s the best I can put it.”

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As everyone around the team waits for the offence to show a sustained run, Gausman believes the strong-armed pitching staff will do its part.

“I’m confident we will get back to that (2023 form),” Gausman said. “We have the staff to do it. We have the bullpen arms to do it. We just got off to a rough start — myself and other guys included. It’s hard to get out of the hole once you are in it.”

HOME-RUN JACKET, REQUIRED

A night after the Jays brought back their symbolic home run jacket, the long ball was once again central to what had to feel like a big win for a Jays group that is starting to look formidable at the plate.

Isaiah Kiner-Falefa was the latest jacket model when he opened the scoring with a solo homer in the third inning and was followed by a two-run Daulton Varsho blast in the seventh to give the Jays a 3-1 lead. Of note, that one was Varsho’s team-leading ninth homer of the season.

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The Jays weren’t done with the long ball, either. The man who perhaps cherishes the jacket more than anyone, Vlad Guerrero Jr., added a two-run shot in the ninth — a 423-foot blast that was just his fifth of the season.

The signs of renewed life from the offence — which banged out 13 hits on Thursday — have to be encouraging on a number of levels, even with the caveat of the more modest opposition of late.

In winning four of their previous five, the Jays have scored five runs or more in each of those victories and scored nine in three of them.

And in the latest outburst, five players had multi-hit nights — including a 3-for-5 outing from the surging Bo Bichette.

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CHASING TIGER(S)

Even though the Jays are clearly in a situation where they cannot take any opponent lightly, it’s imperative that they make up ground against the Tigers.

To that end, Thursday’s win allowed them to move ahead of Detroit in the wildcard table and continued a positive trend against the Tigers. Last season they went 4-2 against their closest geographical rival and held them to three runs or fewer in all six games.

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