The Toronto Blue Jays’ roller-coaster season has prevented me from considering what appears to be obvious, and that’s that the Jays may not be able to withstand the latest round of injuries and keep hanging out around the .500 mark on the fringes of the wild card race.
Of course, given the Black Knight impression the Jays have been doing ever since their pitchers started dropping like flies back in June, they could very well rebound and win their next few games — that’s been the pattern. Thing is, they’ve spent most of the season outhitting some lousy pitching performances, and they don’t seem to be able to do that right now.
The Blue Jays’ losing streak reached five games with their series-opening loss in Oakland — that’s tied for their longest of the season — and they’ve fallen a season-low three games below the break-even mark. Over the five losses, they’ve scored a grand total of eight runs.
With Jose Bautista, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind all on the shelf, the vaunted Blue Jays offence has been shooting blanks. All three had been going very well before getting hurt — Lind was hitting .333/.389/.606 over his first 20 games back from Vegas before falling into a 1-for-14 slump that probably coincided with his back problems beginning to resurface, Arencibia was on a two-week run over which his OPS was 1.196 and Bautista is, of course, Bautista.
Without them, the bulk of the run-producing duties have fallen on the shoulders of Edwin Encarnacion — so much so that he’s walking around with an injured heel. With Brett Lawrie mired in a 3-for-20 run, there’s not been a lot of help for Colby Rasmus, who has a pair of hits in each of the Jays’ last two games.
There really hasn’t been that much of a dip in pitching over this five-game slide — the Blue Jays have held their opposition to four runs three times and five once — it’s that the bats have disappeared, and it’s easy to see why. Arencibia and Lind aren’t coming back anytime soon, which leaves a huge offensive void at catcher and DH since the Jays now have to deal with the Jeff Mathis/Yan Gomes combo behind the plate and David Cooper replaces Lind’s post-callup production. Bautista will be back sooner than later, though certainly not soon enough. He’s indicated that he’ll need a couple of rehab games before returning to the lineup.
Without some of the big bats available, one wonders if the hitters who are still around are pressing a little bit, and there may be some evidence of that in the fact that the Blue Jays have managed to draw just two walks over the course of the last three games.
They still showed some of that good old Blue Jays’ fight in the latest loss, though, bringing the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning despite going into the game’s final frame down by four and with the bottom of the lineup coming up.
The Blue Jays have managed to stay in the thick of the wild card race all season long, thanks to their big, booming bats. As the offence slumps, they’ve fallen 5 ½ games back of the second wild card, and they’re going to need to start hitting again to get themselves back in the race. With Kelly Johnson, Yunel Escobar and David Cooper as their fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place hitters, though, that’s not going to be terribly easy.