TORONTO – Mark Buehrle said it publicly for the second time Saturday and R.A. Dickey couldn’t help but agree – maybe the Toronto Blue Jays really aren’t as good as they thought they were.
“It’s hard to see it any other way because of our record,” the veteran knuckleballer said Sunday after another disappointing 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays sealed a three-game sweep. “I think the capability that this team has is still very, very good and so I hope we carry an expectation of that going forward now. We obviously haven’t put all the pieces together, and hopefully we’re going to be able to do that.”
Like so many other games this year, the Blue Jays had their chances in this one, with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera each failing to cash in a tying run standing in scoring position during the ninth.
They entered the ninth down 4-1 before Jose Reyes’ two-run double raised hope for another comeback just like Saturday, when another late-inning rally ended in a 4-3 setback. The Blue Jays are 10-18 in one-run games, so often falling a hit or a pitch short, and are now 45-52 with the surging Los Angeles Dodgers checking in Monday for the start of a three-game series.
After Saturday's loss, Buehrle said, "maybe we were overrated, maybe we're not as good as we thought we were" when asked about the team's troubles, a statement similar to one he made June 1 in San Diego. The Blue Jays won 15 of 18 games after the lefty made that comment.
Given the way the roster is set up, the Blue Jays need to find some answers soon for the sake of not only this season, but also the ones to come.
"This is a team that's not built just for a singular year, this is something we're going to have to try to figure out because we've got some guys under contract for the next two or three years that are good players," echoed Dickey. "I don't think we need to be hanging our heads and pointing fingers, it's time for us to try to collectively make a push, however we can do that."
Dickey pointed at himself first and foremost on the front, saying that if he alone was better than his 8-11 record and 4.75 earned-run average that the Blue Jays would be far better off in the standings.
The reigning National League Cy Young award winner was pitching a gem in this one until Luke Scott hit a two-run homer in the sixth and Kelly Johnson followed with a solo shot on the next pitch that opened up a 4-1 edge.
Otherwise, Dickey allowed just Evan Longoria's solo shot in the fourth while striking out eight, but with 23 homers allowed, he's now tied with Joe Blanton for the major-league lead.
"The buck always starts with the guy in front of the camera," said Dickey. "Right now, if I turn in a few more outings that are better outings we might be at .500. It starts with our pitching, me in particular, I'm trying to anchor the staff as best as I can but we've got a lot of great pitchers on the staff and we just need to pitch up to our expectation and hopefully that will be a stepping stone. We're all just spokes in a big wheel and everybody plays a part. Sometimes it's tough to identify, that's one thing."
The Blue Jays have now also given back nearly all the ground they gained during their 11-game win streak last month, which came to an end with a 4-1 loss to the Rays on June 24.
That game triggered a run for Tampa Bay, which is 20-4 since to move from last in the AL East to first in the wild-card standings, and at 58-41 climb within striking distance of the division leading Boston Red Sox ahead of a four-game series that opens at Fenway Park on Monday.
Fortunes can turn that quickly with a good month, but time for the Blue Jays is quickly starting to run out.