Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Alejandro Kirk wraps up torrid May with two homers, powers Blue Jays to sixth consecutive win

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The Toronto Blue Jays are beginning to look like the team they were expected to be coming into the season. Tuesday night the Blue Jays opened their three-game home series with the Chicago White Sox with a 6-5 win (box score), extending their winning streak to six games. They are 10-3 in their past 13 games and 28-20 on the season.

Tuesday’s win was powered by sometimes catcher, sometimes DH Alejandro Kirk. He swatted two two-run home runs against ChiSox ace Lucas Giolito to continue his May hot streak. Here are Kirk’s two blasts:

The 23-year-old Kirk went into Tuesday hitting .324/.397/.471 with nine walks, seven doubles and only six strikeouts in May. He then went 3 for 4 against Chicago to up his season batting line to .304/.382/.432. That is far better than the .218/.289/.347 league average for catchers. Kirk served as the DH on Tuesday, though 27 of his 42 games this season have been behind the plate.

During his prospect days Kirk was billed as a hitter first and a catcher second — Baseball America called him “one of the best pure hitters in the minors” in 2020 — and he authored a .259/.336/.455 line with nearly as many extra-base hits (19) as walks (20) as strikeouts (26) in 69 MLB games from 2020-21. He started slow this year, but is now very much delivering on that promise.

Prior to this 10-3 stretch the Blue Jays were 18-17 and averaging only 3.71 runs per game. Offense is down across the league this year, though that’s a pretty significant drop from last season’s 5.22 runs scored per game mark, even accounting for the loss of 45-homer player Marcus Semien. Sluggish starts by Bo Bichette and even Vladimir Guerrero Jr. contributed to the subpar offense.

Thanks in large part to Kirk, the Blue Jays are averaging 4.69 runs per game during their 10-3 stretch and 6.83 runs per game during the six-game winning streak. Kirk and this lineup were bound to hit eventually, and truth be told, there is still room for improvement. Teoscar Hernández in particular is still well south of last year’s production. Getting him going is the next priority.

Toronto’s six-game winning streak is the longest active winning streak in baseball. The Blue Jays are 5 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East and they currently sit in a wild card spot, though of course there are still four months to play.

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