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Bichette, Chapman lift Blue Jays over Brewers 3-1; Gausman strikes out 11

TORONTO — Bo Bichette had a solo shot and Matt Chapman a two-run homer in the first inning as the Toronto Blue Jays held off the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Thursday afternoon.

Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman (4-3) was superb, allowing five hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball to drop his earned-run average from 3.03 to 2.76.

He struck out 11 batters to bring his season total up to 100, surpassing Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani (90) for most in the American League. 

Ohtani is scheduled to take the mound against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Erik Swanson and Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., came out of the bullpen for Toronto (30-27), with Romano earning his 13th save of the season.

Freddy Peralta (5-5) allowed three runs on six hits and two walks over six innings for Milwaukee (29-27) with three Ks. Trevor Megill and Elvis Peguero came on in relief. Brian Anderson added a late RBI for the Brewers.

Bichette got Toronto on the board early, launching a 2-0 pitch from Peralta 414 feet to deep centre field in the first inning. The 42,059 in attendance at Rogers Centre — mainly school groups for the weekday matinee — went wild as Bichette rounded the bases for his 12th homer of the season.

The 25-year-old shortstop has been red hot over the past 11 games, going 19-for-49 with a double, a triple, three home runs, and nine RBIs in that span. He entered Thursday’s game leading all MLB hitters with 80 hits.

Three hitters later, Toronto struck again. 

Chapman got a hold of a 96.4 m.p.h. four-seam Peralta fastball for his eighth homer of the season. It also scored Daulton Varsho to give the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead. 

Kevin Kiermaier made a highlight-reel catch in centre-field in the second, diving almost parallel to the ground to get his glove on a possible double from Andruw Monasterio. Right-fielder George Springer threw his hands up in surprise when he saw Kiermaier make the inning-ending play a few feet away.

Kiermaier made another dynamic catch in the fifth, sliding into shallow centre-field to catch a Tyrone Taylor pop-fly.

As impressive as Kiermaier’s defence was, Gausman’s pitching did the most work to keep the Brewers scoreless. He struck out eight in the first four innings, with the fifth the first frame where he didn’t get a K.

After surrendering a single to Owen Miller to lead off the sixth, Gausman struck out Rowdy Tellez, William Contreras and Anderson to end the inning and reach double digits on Ks for the day.

Gausman returned to the mound for the seventh inning and induced a double play before being pulled in favour of Swanson. Gausman got a standing ovation from the crowd as he trotted to Toronto’s dugout.

Tellez led off the ninth inning for Milwaukee with a triple off Romano when Kiermaier couldn’t reach his well-hit ball to centre-right field. Contreras followed that with a walk and Anderson hit into a 6-4-3 double play, allowing Tellez to score.

Romano bore down to strike out Monasterio to earn the save and seal the Toronto win.

HEIN-TIME — Tyler Heineman made only his second start behind the plate for Toronto, starting at catcher as Alejandro Kirk took the day off and Danny Jansen continues to recover from a left groin strain. Milwaukee tested Heineman early when Christian Yelich tried to steal second but the 31-year-old catcher gunned him down.

DOUBLE TROUBLE — Chapman had a pair of doubles for Toronto in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Milwaukee. That brought his total up to 21 on the season, best in the American League and second only to Canadian Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves.

ON DECK — Chris Bassitt (5-4) gets the start as the Blue Jays travel to New York to face the Mets in another interleague series.

Justin Verlander (2-2) will take the mound for New York.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press