Playoff spot inches closer as Chris Bassitt blanks Yankees and Blue Jays hitters unleash some power

The veteran right-hander was brilliant in a big 6-0 Jays win

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Chris Bassitt wanted it bad — all of it.

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He wanted to reach 200 innings to put a massive exclamation on his stellar first season as a Blue Jays pitcher, the clear benchmark of a modern day big league starter.

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He wanted the strikeout of Yankees slugger Aaron Judge to finish off his 7.2 innings of shutout brilliance on Thursday night to add another vivid image to the memory bank.

And most of all, he wanted the win to get his team one step closer to clinching an American League wild-card spot, a feat that can be accomplished as early as Friday night.

When he finished his night, scattering five hits and a walk and a career-high 12 strikeouts to punctuate an important 6-0 victory, the 34-year-old became the first Jays pitcher to reach 200 innings since Marcus Stroman did so in 2017.

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“I think the benchmark for elite pitchers is 200 innings,” an emotional Bassitt said afterwards. “I get throwing 160, I’ve done it. I get throwing 180, I’ve done it. But to get to 200 innings, you have to have so many people to trust you, so much work behind the scenes.

“It’s been my only goal forever. To get it and have this organization believe in me, it means the world to me.”

Bassitt’s thirst for the milestone was quenched by one of his strongest outings of the season, his ninth outing in which he threw at least six scoreless innings.

Brandon Belt of the Blue Jays celebrates after hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on Sept. 28, 2023 in Toronto. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Brandon Belt of the Blue Jays celebrates after hitting a three-run home run in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre on Sept. 28, 2023 in Toronto. Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

As a chaser, a dormant Jays offence powered up with three homers — solo shots from Daulton Varsho and Matt Chapman early and a three-run bomb from Brandon Belt in the sixth.

With that lead, manager John Schneider was more than willing to let Bassitt finish off his quest, striking out Judge and strolling off the field to a robust standing ovation from the crowd of 36,657.

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The win allowed the Jays to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Yankees, a buoyant lead-in to a three-game weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays that all involved hope will be stress-free in the pursuit of the second AL wild-card spot.

Getting the win on Thursday certainly helped ease the potential stress level and afforded the opportunity for those around Bassitt to facilitate the milestone and celebrate a regular season of excellence.

“Intense but relaxed, if that makes any sense,” Schneider said when asked to describe the fiery personality of his right hander. “He’s a little big quirky. He’s as good a competitor as I’ve ever seen.

“When we signed him, everyone I knew from New York (where Bassitt pitched with the Mets) said you’re getting an unbelievable competitor and an unbelievable teammate. He delivered on both of those and he’s also delivered on his performance.”

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A significant upgrade on the starter he replaced, Ross Stripling, Bassitt has been a key figure in the outstanding Jays rotation, a group that has thrived on a heavy workload and got the team to this spot. And next up, should all go to plan, will be a start in a wild-card game right behind the top man in the rotation, Kevin Gausman.

Meanwhile, as encouraging as the pitching staff has been, some boom in the bats was a welcome addition on Thursday, was the Jays improved to 88-71. Prior to the game, Schneider shuffled his batting order, moving Bo Bichette from second to fourth and elevating Belt from sixth to the two-hole.

It was a notable output for a hitting group looking to gather some momentum for a possible

“I think that’s something we can do more and more. We were able to pick it up today, knowing we are pretty close to getting into the playoffs. I think it’s something that hopefully we’ll see as we go throughout the playoffs.

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“There’s not a lot of panic in this locker room. We faced two really good pitchers the last couple of nights. Obviously it’s not ideal to have to do that at the end of the season when we’re trying to make the playoffs, but it happens. It’s baseball.”

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The Jays finished the season series with a 6-7 record against the Yankees and are now 20-29 against AL East foes … The Jays love the idea of Belt high in the order and the potential that exists from a guy who has a great track record of post-season experience and has hit .286 in his past 27 games with nine homers and 15 RBI … Chapman’s homer was his first since Aug. 4 at Boston and his first at the dome since way back on July 28 against the Angels … New cleanup man Bichette singled twice, stole a base and scored a run in his 51st multi-hit game of the season.

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