Gibbons: Pitching, defence led to Jays’ ‘downfall’

When John Gibbons looks back at the first three quarters of the Toronto Blue Jays’ disappointing 2013 season, he sees a team that couldn’t keep the opposition off of the scoreboard regularly enough.

“Our biggest trouble has been inconsistency in the starting rotation,” Gibbons said on Sportsnet 590 the FAN Tuesday. “That and some of our defensive lapses has been probably our downfall”

The manager joined Joey Vendetta, explaining that the Blue Jays plan “to finish strong and make it a respectable season.” Gibbons believes the team’s effort level has been adequate, even if the resulting 54-64 record represents a letdown.

“We didn’t play good enough baseball and we dug a hole,” Gibbons said. “We definitely didn’t handle expectations well and that showed.”

As Gibbons noted, the team’s starting rotation has been a weakness this year. Blue Jays starters have combined to post a 5.16 ERA — the highest ERA posted by any of the 30 MLB rotations.

The Blue Jays welcome the Boston Red Sox to Toronto for a three-game series starting Tuesday. The Red Sox have rebounded from a 93-loss season in 2012 to lead the American League East.

BLUE COLLAR RED SOX: Gibbons says the Red Sox have a ‘blue collar’ approach that has helped them succeed. He’s not surprised to see them atop the AL East standings again.

“They keep coming at you and grind it out,” said Gibbons, who praised the Oakland Athletics for their similarly gritty style of play.

The Red Sox have more than enough arms to succeed in Gibbons’ view.

“Those guys are some of the best pitchers in baseball,” Gibbons said. “They always have been.”

HAPP RETURNS: Though the Blue Jays lost Monday, Gibbons was pleased with J.A. Happ’s performance.

“He looked like the old guy,” Gibbons said. “The guy we had seen and gotten so excited about.”

Happ has made two starts since being activated from the disabled list.

The left-hander was hit in the head with a line drive May 7, and also injured his knee while falling to the mound. Gibbons explained that Happ’s knee now feels better and has contributed to his improved command.

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