The Blue Jays will win another game. But after losing all six games on a road trip that ended with an 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Jays look like a team that is struggling mightily to put enough positive things together to carry them to a win.
They couldn’t recover from back-to-back walks in the second inning Sunday, allowing two runs to score. And they gave up three more in the fifth because of some shaky defence. It is an issued that plagued the club throughout the road trip.
Three Jays converged on fly ball down the right-field line in the fifth, but they came up empty after failing to communicate about who was actually going to catch it. Then centre-fielder Teoscar Hernandez failed to make a play on a catchable line drive hit right at him, opening the door to a big inning for Tampa.
And that was it, in a nutshell.
Of course the Jays are compounding their defensive problems by striking out in record numbers, and having pitchers make one or two costly mistakes to ruin otherwise decent efforts. Toronto whiffed 10 more times Sunday, making it 50 in the four-game series with Tampa and 81 during a seven-game losing streak.
Overall, much of that could be expected from a team that leads baseball in rookie starts and rookie games. The Jays have also run out 19 starters this season, the most by any American League team since the 1955 Orioles. And the losses keep piling up, with the Jays looking like a team destined to lose 100 games or more.
“(The Rays are) better than we are, that’s a fact,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters in Florida. “They’ve got the pitching, they’ve got people that throw 97, 98 …
“You know what’s funny ? I’ve been looking at our stats and, since the all-star break, we’re fifth in pitching in baseball. That’s why we’re in every game. But now, we’re not swinging the bats. We’re facing good pitching, and that’s a good test for our kids. Besides today, we’ve been in every game. But we’re not swinging well right now. Our hitters have to make adjustments and, for the first time, they’re learning what it’s like to play in September.”
The seven-game slide is the Jays’ longest since April, 2017. They have scored just 15 runs over the stretch, and have averaged 2.8 runs a game since Aug. 17, the lowest mark in the majors.
Those 50 strikeouts matched a franchise record for the most in a single series (2015, against Houston). And the Rays swept the Jays in a four-game series for the first time in their franchise history.
Toronto hitters are now at 1,326 strikeouts for the season. With 18 games remaining in the regular season, they are easily on pace to break the franchise record of 1,387 set last season.
Living with mistakes: It’s all but certain Hernandez would be sent back to Buffalo to work on his game, if the Bisons were still playing. Instead, his struggles have been on full display in the majors. Hernandez’s defence and batting dipped dramatically on the road trip, to the point where he is striking out regularly — including all three at-bats Sunday — and struggling with his reads on line drives.
This could be an opportunity to give Anthony Alford a streak of starts in the outfield. Alford and Jonathan Davis have game-breaking speed, the type that could help shape this team in the next two or three seasons.
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Bo slows: Leadoff hitter Bo Bichette hasn’t been immune from the team’s struggles. When the rookie legged out an infield hit in the eighth inning Saturday, it was his first hit in 13 trips to the plate. He still leads the team with a .311 average.
Up next: A welcome day off Monday before a three-game series with Boston at the Rogers Centre.