Wilner on Blue Jays: Early struggles continue

J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays couldn't get anything going against Chicago Wednesday.
April 17, 2013, 11:09 PM

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays’ season-opening issues continued Wednesday night as they were blown out at home by the Chicago White Sox — already their third loss of the season by at least seven runs.

Here are three things that stood out to me about the White Sox whitewash:

Blue Jays Talk

FALLING BACK INTO OLD HABITS:

In their first nine games of the season, the Blue Jays scored first only once, but then they went to Kansas City and hit the scoreboard first in each of their three games there, winning two.

Back home, though, they’ve allowed the White Sox to open the scoring in each of the first three games of this series, and though they managed to come back and take the lead both Monday and Tuesday, when you play with fire that much, you’re bound to get burned.

Given the fact the Blue Jays’ offence has really yet to get untracked this season, falling behind early really doesn’t appear to be something they can afford to do.

That said, the Jays did get a very good start from four of their five starting pitchers in the third trip through the rotation that just finished, and that’s a big positive.

NEED AT LEAST ONE JOSE:

The Blue Jays offence hasn’t exactly been shooting blanks for the past week, but since their come-from-behind 8-6 win over the Detroit Tigers last Wednesday, they’ve scored just 21 runs in the past seven games.

The long-term loss of Reyes, the catalyst at the top of the order, is going to be difficult to overcome to be sure, despite the fact that his replacement, Munenori Kawasaki, has done a tremendous job at the plate as the nine-hole hitter so far.

The loss of Bautista — which the Blue Jays hope will be for a very short term — has left the team without a big-time threat in the middle of the order. J.P. Arencibia has taken Bautista’s place in the third spot in the lineup and has gone 3-for-12 with a pair of solo home runs in the three games Bautista has missed.

The Blue Jays need Bautista, who is a guy that can generally be counted on to reach base much more than 25 per cent of the time.

With Brett Lawrie just back and still looking for his timing, and with it, his first hit of the season, and both Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind emerging from season-opening slumps but not yet hitting for power, the loss of a second Jose has been awfully tough for the Blue Jays to handle.

GOTTA GET THAT THIRD OUT:

J.A. Happ had his worst start of the season, giving up five runs on six hits in just 5.2 innings, snapping the Blue Jays’ streak of quality starts at four and getting the bullpen into the game before the seventh inning for the first time since his last start, a win in Kansas City.

Four of the five runs Happ allowed came with two outs, the first three off a rally that started with two out and nobody on in the second inning. After Happ had retired the first five hitters he faced, needing only 17 pitches to do so, he gave up a double into the right-field corner to Dayan Viciedo and then walked Alexei Ramirez. Tyler Flowers was next, and Happ fell behind him and served up a three-run bomb that gave the White Sox a lead they would never relinquish.

In the fourth, Chicago added on — again with two out. Paul Konerko led off the inning with a double, but Happ struck out the next two hitters and almost worked his way out of the frame. The lefty couldn’t get that final out, though, as Ramirez took him off the centre-field wall for a double of his own to make it a four-run lead.

The Blue Jays are going through it right now, to be sure, but we haven’t even reached the one-tenth pole of the season. They’re starting to pitch — at least the top four starters in the rotation are — and they’re going to have to hit a bit.

But if the big arms at the top of the rotation pitch they way they can, they won’t have to hit all that much in order to keep their heads above water. Of course, if two-thirds of the line-up goes a combined 0-for-24 as they did on Wednesday night, there’s going to be trouble.

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