Blue Jays Left Sitting in No. 2 Wild Card Spot After Another Loss to Angel
ANAHEIM, CALIF. – As crisp and as fluid as the Blue Jays were in winning the first two games of this four-game trip to Angel Stadium, the last two dissolved into something that can only be described as bad baseball.
That includes Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at the hands of the woeful Los Angeles Angels in the finale, sending Toronto on to Seattle with a split in a series they fully expected — and needed — to sweep.
Indeed, Sunday was just an extension of Saturday’s litany of dumb base running, lousy hitting approaches and sketchy defensive play. At least in Saturday’s game they gave themselves multiple opportunities on offence, failing miserably in the clutch, going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Sunday, in the first eight innings, they only had two at-bats with a runner in scoring position and went 0-for-2. In the ninth inning, after Jose Bautista’s leadoff double, they went 0-for-3 to end the game.
The loss, coupled with Baltimore’s 2-1 win over Tampa Bay, leaves the Jays sitting in the No. 2 wild card spot, a game behind the Orioles. Both teams trail the Boston Red Sox for the American League East Division lead.
“Let me tell you something,” said manager John Gibbons. “There’s not a guy out in that room that is not busting his ass trying to come through. Sometimes it is what it is. Show up tomorrow, like they always do.
“They’re human beings. I don’t care how good they’ve been. Nobody likes to struggle. It’s a pressure business. These guys are right there in the arena, not on the outside looking in. It’s a battle and the reason they’re here is that they’re great competitors, talented guys. Sometimes you run into a roadblock and you struggle.”
Just as Francisco Liriano deserved a better fate on Saturday so, too, did Marcus Stroman on Sunday. Stroman pitched six solid innings, allowing seven hits and two earned runs, a performance good enough to win on most days but these are not ‘most days’ for the pop-gun Toronto offence and its suddenly-porous defence.
“Overall I thought Stroman did a nice job,” Gibbons. “Bit of a slow start but he kicked it in and did a nice job. We just couldn’t mount anything offensively. That’s the bottom line, nothing more than that.”
The Angels broke on top in the second, taking advantage of some of the same kind of ragged play that plagued the Blue Jays on Saturday.
Stroman walked Albert Pujols to lead off. C.J. Cron singled to centre. Andrelton Simmons then hit a hot shot that Edwin Encarnacion snared, getting Cron at second base. With Rafael Ortega at the plate, catcher Dioner Navarro was charged with catcher’s interference when Ortega’s bat ticked the catcher’s glove on a swing. That loaded the bases for Juan Graterol. His ground ball to second baseman Devon Travis was bobbled just long enough to prevent an out at second. He settled for the out at first, while Pujols scored the game’s first run.
In the third and fourth innings, the Jays had ample opportunity to tie the game, putting two baserunners in place in each inning but Josh Donaldson hit into an inning-ending double play in the third and Encarnacion ran them out of an opportunity in the fourth, trying to take third with nobody out on a ground ball hit by Bautista. Second baseman Cliff Pennington threw him out easily.
The Angels added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth and, as is their custom, it was the combination of Mike Trout and Pujols in the centre of it.
After Kole Calhoun struck out, Trout drilled a double into the right field corner. A moment later Pujols singled sharply into right field. Bautista got a good jump on the ball and delivered a strike to the plate. His throw beat Trout to the plate but, great baserunner that he is, Trout sneaked a hand onto the plate, eluding Navarro’s tag.
In the seventh inning, the Angels scored twice and once again the Jays defence was caught napping.
After Brett Cecil had been summoned to face Calhoun and struck him out, Joe Biagini came in to face Trout but walked him on four pitches. Pujols followed with a single, putting runners at first and third.
Cron lifted a fly ball to Bautista in medium-deep right. Anticipating a play at the plate, Bautista did not even see that Pujols had wandered far off first base. Instead of trying to double him up at first, he threw to the plate and Trout scored easily. If he had thrown to first, he had a legitimate chance to double up Pujols. After Simmons walked, Ortega blooped a single into left field, a ball that Michael Saunders should have had easily but his late break on the ball allowed not only the ball to fall in but allowed Pujols to score L.A.’s fourth run.
So, now the Jays are off to Seattle and what promises to be a tough three-game set against another wild card contender. He’s counting on his players to snap out of this funk.
“They’re all aware of where we’re at,” he said. “Nobody likes what is happening right now. Nobody feels good about that. We’re due for some wins and we’ll see if we get them. Reality is, in the end, if we’re good enough we’ll be there if we’re not, then we won’t. Nobody lucks into anything at this level when you play this many games. There are too many good teams. We’ll either be there if we’re good enough. If we’re not, we won’t.”