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Berrios makes strong debut as Blue Jays sweep Royals

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As first impressions go, the new kid on the pitching block will fit in quite nicely.

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Jose Berrios arrived in town Saturday night following Friday’s deadline trade from Minnesota.

His debut was a resounding success as the Jays completed their three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals following their 5-1 win.

The right-hander was off in the first two innings, regained his command and then got out of a bases-loaded predicament before his day would end.

Berrios gave up five hits.

He also hit three batters, but Berrios pitched six scoreless innings, while striking out seven.

The Jays swung the bats well and played exceptionally well defensively.

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Throw in the pitching performance Berrios provided and the winning formula was easily gleaned.

And to think Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was given a rare day off.

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He was available for pinch-hit duties, but the Jays didn’t need Vlad Jr.’s bat.

His presence in the dugout was unmistakable.

It was always felt the team’s return to Toronto would help build momentum and create a true home-field advantage.

Players were sent a decisive message when GM Ross Atkins addressed the team’s pitching by making some key moves.

Berrios is legit.

The fans who weren’t aware of Berrios saw an all-star who competes and is quite adept at making in-game adjustments.

He attacks hitters and isn’t afraid to go inside.

The first batter Berrios faced was Whit Merrifield, who stroked a single to right field.

Ryan O’Hearn led off the second inning with a base hit to centre.

Through two innings, Berrios yielded four hits, but he was aided by solid defensive plays, including a key double play.

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Reese McGuire was behind the plate for Berrios and would score the game’s first run when George Springer hit a double to plate McGuire.

Springer got caught in a run down trying to stretch it into a triple.

The Jays found their groove at the plate and extended their advantage when Marcus Semien went yard for his 25th homer, this one a two-run blast.

McGuire helped ignite the fuse when he led off the third inning with a sharply hit single to centre.

On the mound, Berrios discovered his form and struck out four in a row before he hit Michael Taylor with a two-out pitch.

The Jays have won four in a row and continue their homestand with a four-game series against Cleveland followed by four games against Boston.

The Jays are in a position to finally go on a run based on the roster Atkins has reshaped.

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It begins with pitching and Berrios did his job, even though he barely had time to find his bearings in his new environment.

The Royals scored their first run in two games when Edward Olivares took Tim Mayza deep with two outs in the ninth.

MOVING DAY

With Vlad Jr. not in the lineup, the Jays had Cavan Biggio at first base Sunday and Santiago Espinal at third for the third game in a row.

He got to wear the team’s coveted home run jacket when he went yard for the second time this season to give the Jays a 4-0 lead in the fourth.

Espinal made a highlight reel catch to end Friday’s game with his bare hand with his back to the infield.

In the first inning Sunday, Bichette made a high-end catch in foul territory with the Jays in a shift by going a long way on a play.

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The inning ended when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. took the proper route to secure a fly ball that left two runners on base.

The Jays had Gurriel Jr. in the five hole, which allowed Hernandez to move up in the second slot.

He hit a first-pitch groundout after Springer led off with a swinging strikeout.

Brad Keller needed seven pitches to retire the Jays in order.

Bichette led off the second with a single.

The Jays would leave two runners on in the second when Espinal hit an inning-ending groundout.

ARMED AND READY

All of a sudden, the Jays have an abundance of arms.

The various moves before Friday’s trade deadline and the acquisitions engineered on deadline day have added quality and quantity to the team’s pitching.

Simply put, there are too many arms, at least when it applies to fielding a big-league roster, which is why Thomas Hatch and Tayler Saucedo were optioned to triple-A in the hours leading up to Sunday’s opening pitch.

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The right-handed Hatch no longer is required to fill in as a starter, while the left-handed Saucedo was basically squeezed out of a job with the big club.

Hatch becomes a viable option to serve as the 27th man when the Jays play host to Boston Saturday in a double-header given Hatch’s ability to come in as a long reliever.

Each move was initiated once Berrios and RHP Joakim Soria reported to the team.

Soria was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks, a late-inning reliever who has appeared in 31 games this year.

He has also played for Kansas City and Oakland.

PITCH COUNT

The Jays’ rotation will feature Robbie Ray starting Monday afternoon when Cleveland comes to town.

Hyun Jin Ryu is scheduled to take the rubber Tuesday followed by Steven Matz and Ross Stripling in Thursday’s series finale.

With the addition of Berrios, the Jays have six starters and they figure to use all six with games coming fast and furious.

When you add up all the new faces to the staff sprinkled in with the familiar arms who can actually get outs and what emerges is the best group the Jays have featured this season, arguably the best in recent years.

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