NEW YORK – The timely, game-breaking hits that were a staple of the Toronto Blue Jays’ hot start dried up in the Bronx over the weekend, with three losses in four games sending them into a visit from the surging Boston Red Sox in rebound mode.
A 5-1 setback in Sunday’s finale, in which they went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position against a dominant Luis Severino, left them 3-for-30 in those key situations during the three losses. The Blue Jays went 4-for-11 in Friday’s 8-5 win, and with better execution they might have otherwise headed home with at least a split, if not a series win.
“Yeah, that’s one of the hardest things to do in baseball,” said manager John Gibbons. “We were on a nice little roll. You know it’s not something that happens all year long, it just never does. But as long as we keep having a good, aggressive approach and taking good swings, that can change. You also have to remember, a lot of that depends who’s on the mound.
“It’s no day at the beach. We’ll have a nice off-day [Monday] and bounceback Tuesday.”
They’ll need to be sharper both at the plate and on the mound for that to happen when the Red Sox arrive for the opener of a three-game set. Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale are lined up to face the Blue Jays (13-8) and they’d be better served by not falling behind early the way they did in each of the four games versus the Yankees (11-9).
That being said, they’ll need to be sharper both at the plate and on the mound when the Red Sox arrive Tuesday for the opener of a three-game set. Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale are lined up to face the Blue Jays and they’d be better served by not falling behind early the way they did in each of the four games versus the Yankees.
Just like Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman, Jaime Garcia gave up some early runs Sunday, surrendering a solo shot to Didi Gregorius in the first before Austin Romine delivered a two-out, two-run double in the second.
“My goodness man, I feel personally I didn’t get the job done today,” said Garcia, who allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. “I take a lot of pride in that. I felt good, I knew this would be a tough challenge against a good lineup, good team. Just a couple of pitches, three pitches pretty much, cost me the game. Just got to do a better job than that.”
With Severino dotting the edges of the zone with 97-m.p.h. fastballs before finishing hitters with wipeout sliders, digging out of a 3-0 hole was going to be heavy lifting.
“He’s a really good pitcher,” said Teoscar Hernandez, whose solo shot in the sixth accounted for the Blue Jays’ offence. “Those guys don’t miss a lot, you just get one or two chances to put good contact on it. We’re going to keep battling, keep playing the way we’ve been playing, keep playing hard and next series we’ll get better results.”
Yet as they’ve done all season, the Blue Jays still created some chances, a single from Kevin Pillar and Devon Travis walk to open the third going to waste, as did a leadoff double by Justin Smoak in the fourth.
Hernandez’s solo shot in the sixth, home run No. 3 this season for the outfielder, put the Blue Jays on the board, but Garcia left men on the corners with one out in the bottom half and Miguel Andjuar pounded an RBI double off Seung-hwan Oh to extend the advantage.
They added on in the seventh, too, when Aaron Hicks found a hole in the defensive shift for a single that opened the seventh, stole second, took third when Russell Martin’s throw deflected off into the outfield and scored on a Gregorious fly ball to right.
One-out walks by Martin and Kendrys Morales in the ninth created the potential for a rally, but Aroldis Champman snuffed that out quickly, reinforcing how difficult it is playing catchup against a team like the Yankees.
“Yeah, it really is,” said Gibbons. “They’re swinging the bat, they’re dangerous. We did have some opportunities. Not so much today, but the first three games. They get some guys who can strike quick. But we hung in there. It was Severino’s day. You put up a lead for him, he’s probably going to shut it down and go late into the game. And, of course, their bullpen.”
Here are some other talking points from the Blue Jays on Sunday:
• Hernandez saw 14 pitches in four trips to the plate Sunday and only two of them were four-seam fastballs. That’s why in the sixth, when the count went full against Severino, he went all-in on slider and it paid off with his third homer of the season.
“I was looking slider,” Hernandez, who also added a single, said of his approach. “They threw me a lot of breaking balls this series and I felt like in that situation they were going to throw me a breaking ball. I tried to stay back, get it up and put on a good swing. … If he throws you a fastball, you tip your cap. He wins. Pitchers like that, they’re too hard to hit and you’re just looking for a pitch, if he doesn’t throw you it, he wins.”
• Lourdes Gurriel Jr. debuted at shortstop as Aledmys Diaz rested for a day, and while not overly busy, did make one nice range play, sliding to his right to trap an Andujar grounder and flipping against his momentum to one-hop a relay to second for a force out. Travis couldn’t corral it off the hop but the play was scored a single. In the eighth, Gurriel made a nice pickup of a Tyler Austin ball to his left, spun and threw to first for the out. It appeared that the throw just pulled Justin Smoak off the bag, but the out call survived a replay challenge.
“He showed really good range, under control,” said John Gibbons. “The fans didn’t like it. They didn’t like the outcome but I think they got it right.”
• Travis returned to the lineup after swelling in his left foot from a ball he fouled into it eased following two days of rest. He had been on a 4-for-9 stretch over the previous three games before sitting, and went 0-for-2 with a walk Sunday. Austin made a nice pick on a one-hopper to steal a hit from Travis and end the game.
• Garcia handled the gigantic duo of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, holding them to a walk over six plate appearances. He struck out each once, and finished with six strikeouts in his 5.1 innings of work.
• J.A. Happ, Sanchez and Estrada are lined up to start against the Red Sox. Garcia is expecting bigger things from the rotation: “We as starting pitchers, we feel like we’re going to take off. We believe in ourselves, we just got stay focused on the process, continue to compete, continue to give us a chance to win and in the long-term things will go that way.”
• Highly touted Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres made his debut at second base and went 0-for-4, including an inning-ending double-play in the fourth.
• Gibbons on the looming challenge of facing the Red Sox: “I know they’re a good team. They always have been, they always will be. We know them pretty well. Not a whole lot of change there, and they’re hot. But I’m looking more forward to that off-day [Monday], to relax a little bit. I’ll worry about that Tuesday.”