Wilner on Blue Jays: It’s on the hitters

Edwin Encarnacion isn’t worried about his back after tightness forced him from Wednesday night’s contest.
April 23, 2013, 1:27 AM

BALTIMORE, Md. – It was another in what seems like an endless string of tear-your-hair-out frustrating early-season losses for the Blue Jays, as they opened their series here in the Land of the Crabcake by getting walked-off on.

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Here are three things that stood out about Monday night’s loss to the Orioles:

COSTLY MISTAKES

Many Blue Jays fans got themselves awfully worked up about Munenori Kawasaki’s throwing error with two out in the bottom of the ninth – the first-ever major-league error for the two-time Japanese League Gold Glover. It was a bad throw on a routine play and Edwin Encarnacion couldn’t save Kawasaki as he had saved Emilio Bonifacio on several occasions earlier in the game.

The timing of the error couldn’t have been much worse. If Kawasaki makes the play, the game goes to extra innings and maybe the Blue Jays pull out a win. Maybe they don’t. Maybe the game is still going as you read this, but if he makes the play the ninth inning is over and the Nick Markakis walk-off duck snort doesn’t happen.

But as much as Kawasaki blamed himself for the loss, the truth is that physical errors happen.

Just as costly to the Blue Jays was an outside fastball thrown by J.A. Happ to Matt Wieters in the sixth inning that J.P. Arencibia simply didn’t catch.

With runners on first and second with nobody out, Arencibia couldn’t grab the off-target offering and the ensuing wild pitch (which really should have been scored a passed ball) moved the runners to second and third, from which it’s highly unlikely to emerge unscathed.

Happ almost got out of it anyway, but Chris Davis’ one-out fly ball to right was just a bit too deep for Jose Bautista to have a shot at throwing out Manny Machado at the plate.

Without the wild pitch, the Orioles don’t score in that sixth inning – assuming the frame still would have played out the way it did.

IT’S ON THE HITTERS

As much as people might want to blame Arencibia for not catching that pitch or Kawasaki for his ill-timed throwing error, the fact remains that for the Blue Jays to have won the game in regulation, they would have had to shut out their opposition as they only scored one run.

In fact, outside of the seventh inning – the one in which the Blue Jays scored their only run – Toronto only managed one hit all night, an Adam Lind single in the second that, at the time, increased his consecutive-plate-appearances-reaching-base streak to eight. It would end up at nine after a fifth-inning walk. The Blue Jays’ record is 12, set by Lyle Overbay in 2008.

A team is not going to win many games when its entire offensive output is four singles, even if they do manage to draw five walks along the way. The Blue Jays have had far too many games in which the offence has been found wanting.

Granted, they’re 20 games into the season and their best hitter, Jose Bautista, has missed seven of those games with various injuries. Jose Reyes, the next-best hitter, has missed ten games and Brett Lawrie missed the first 13. That’s a lot of games missed by a lot of important hitters, but the Yankees haven’t had Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira for any of their games.

In one quarter of their games this season, the Blue Jays have managed only five hits or fewer. That’s pretty terrible.

They’ve out hit their opposition in only FOUR games all season. And that’s with a pretty terrific pitching staff.

This group of hitters is simply too talented to keep this going much longer, but while it’s going, it’s pretty difficult to watch.

ENOUGH WITH THE BUNTING ALREADY

With Maicer Izturis nursing a tight hamstring, Emilio Bonifacio returned to the Blue Jays’ lineup, batting ninth and playing second base. In his first at-bat, as is his wont, Bonifacio tried to drop down a bunt single to get a rally started.

Bonifacio isn’t off to a great start this season – he’s batting just .185/.237/.333, having struck out in exactly one third of his at-bats. Some of his struggles, though, have come from the fact he starts almost every at-bat one strike in the hole, because so many of his at-bats have begun with him trying, and failing, to get a bunt down.

The futility appeared to reach its zenith in the third inning on Monday night, when Bonifacio attempted a Tony Fernandez-style slap bunt through the left side and wound up actually hitting a pop fly to shortstop.

I understand that Bonifacio is really, really fast, and that the bunt for a base hit could be a very dangerous weapon in his arsenal, but he’s shown over and over again an almost complete inability to get a bunt down. Seriously, it’s enough already.

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