TORONTO — A middling August marked by underperformance and a slip in the standings ended with a shutout victory for the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
The 7-0 win over the Washington Nationals left the team on a high with an off-day Thursday ahead of a six-game road trip starting Friday in Colorado.
The opener against the Rockies marks the arrival of September baseball. The Blue Jays will soon find out if they have what it takes to get to the post-season.
"If we put it all together, I don't think there's a team that's better in the big leagues, I really don't," said Blue Jays starter Chris Bassitt, who threw eight shutout innings.
"It's just a matter of if we can put it together at the right time."
Toronto posted a 14-13 record in August and is now 73-61 on the season. Only 28 games remain.
The good news for the Blue Jays is the soft part of the schedule is at hand.
Toronto will play three-game series against the Rockies, Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals — all in the basement of their respective divisions — before a four-game set against Texas.
The Rangers are one of three teams that Toronto is chasing in the American League wild-card race.
The Blue Jays began the day 3 1/2 games behind Texas, the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners, who were in a virtual tie for the West Division lead and the last two wild-card spots.
"We know that our best baseball has yet to be played consistently," said Toronto manager John Schneider. "I loved the way that they came and competed this series in particular.
"They're going to be all in going forward."
Bassitt allowed just three hits and a walk. He had three strikeouts over the 110-pitch outing.
Alejandro Kirk drove in three runs as Toronto was in full control of the rubber game in the three-game series.
Kirk scored twice and had three of Toronto's 12 hits. Santiago Espinal had two RBIs and Davis Schneider had two runs.
Toronto's skipper called it a "complete game."
"It starts on the mound with Chris, he was awesome," he said. "We played good defence and we hit. It sounds really easy but (solid) at-bats up and down (the order), a couple (sacrifice) flies, contact with guys on.
"We did everything really well today."
It was Toronto's 13th shutout win of the season. The Blue Jays improved their interleague record this year to an MLB-best 28-15.
Toronto was aggressive from the outset in the mid-afternoon matchup and it paid off with an early lead.
Nationals starter Patrick Corbin (9-12) walked Schneider and gave up a single to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. They completed a double-steal before both players scored on a Kirk double.
Toronto tacked on two runs apiece in the fourth and sixth innings. Kirk added another RBI with a sacrifice fly in the seventh that brought home Schneider.
Corbin allowed six earned runs and 10 hits over five innings. He walked a batter and had five strikeouts.
"Overall, just a tough day for all of us," he said.
Bassitt (13-7), who entered with losses in four of his last six decisions, held the Nationals to two singles over the first four frames.
He gave up a two-out double to Jacob Young in the fifth but picked him off to erase the threat.
Right-hander Jay Jackson recorded the final three outs.
Bassitt leads the major leagues with eight starts of at least six scoreless innings. Roger Clemens set the team record of nine in 1997.
Announced attendance was 39,303 and the game took two hours 23 minutes to play.
Toronto's Brandon Belt was still nursing a minor back issue Wednesday that prevented him from a potential pinch-hitting assignment a night earlier.
Belt was getting loose late in Tuesday's game when back spasms left him unavailable.
Manager John Schneider said Belt was "feeling a little bit better" for the series finale but he was not in the starting lineup.
Recent Triple-A call-up Mason McCoy made his big-league debut for Toronto in the eighth inning.
He came on as a pinch-hitter for Clement and struck out in his lone plate appearance.
The Nationals will return home for a four-game series against the Miami Marlins starting Thursday evening.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 30, 2023.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press