All Aspects Found Wanting as Blue Jays Turn in Forgettable Performance in Loss to Tampa
Perhaps it’s best the Toronto Blue Jays sweep this one under the rug and let it be mentioned never again.
The hope for the club, of course, is that the 9-2 crushing at the hands of the lowly Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night at the Rogers Centre is a one-off.
Locked in a battle for first place in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles — the Jays and Orioles were tied for first heading into Tuesday, with the O’s playing late in Oakland versus the Athletics — Toronto can’t afford many off nights in the final two months of the regular season.
A crowd of 43,134 watched as the Jays were defensively mediocre behind starter Marco Estrada (7-5) and got no lift from the bullpen.
And the offence wasn’t exactly sparkling against a Rays team that is 20 games under .500.
Estrada, who pitched five innings before being pulled in favour of reliever Danny Barnes, put the blame on himself for the loss which dropped the Jays to 64-50.
“Just one of those days,” Estrada said. “It’s a good team over there. We didn’t play as well as we could have. I thought a lot of things went their way and I did not pitch a good game, so (defensive miscues and other factors) really does not matter.
“I have to be better than that. I can’t just go five innings. My goal is to try to finish the game, or at least give them as many innings as possible.”
Estrada initially mentioned some rust, given that he had not pitched since last Wednesday, but later said it was no excuse. And his back, which has given him problems, was not an issue.
“The back is fine,” Estrada said. “I am out there pitching. We don’t really need to talk about that anymore. If you don’t see me pitch, you will know it’s not doing too well.”
Down 5-2 in the sixth inning, the Jays had a prime opportunity to mount a rally when they loaded the bases against Rays starter Drew Smyly with none out. But no runs were scored as Troy Tulowitzki popped out, Michael Saunders struck out and Justin Smoak popped out to catcher Luke Maile in foul territory.
Mild boos were heard as the Jays went down feebly. Fans were frustrated after singles by Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion, followed by a Russell Martin walk, were wasted.
“That’s the difference-maker right there,” manager John Gibbons said. “You come back and put a couple more (runs) up and who knows how things change. We are putting guys on base, we are looking for that big blow.
“You get in those ruts where you are having trouble scoring runs and that kind of what happens. People don’t want to hear it, but that’s baseball. If you have been around baseball a while, you see that. You battle your way through it.”
The Rays had a 3-0 lead when the Jays scored twice in the fifth, but Barnes gave up two runs in the sixth and Scott Feldman was torched for four runs in the seventh.
The Jays more than once had observers scratching their heads.
In the third, Kevin Kiermaier singled to right. Jose Bautista tripped, and as he was doing so, flipped the ball to Devon Travis. The latter didn’t anticipate Bautista’s decision, and when he missed the ball, Maile, who had been on first, scampered to third. Luckily for Bautista, the Rays did not score in the inning.
Tampa scored in the fourth on a throwing error by Travis.
Gibbons tipped his hat to Tampa, but knew Estrada struggled.
“I had not seen him have to battle for five innings since I have known him, to be honest with you, like he did (Tuesday),” Gibbons said. “That’s what they do. They attack us and they are tough outs. He kept us in it. He is one of the best I have seen at getting in jams and getting out of them. I thought he was a little bit off.”