TORONTO – They all count the same in the standings, but losses to the Baltimore Orioles surely sting a little more than usual.
Last year this team lost 115 games. This year they’ll likely lose 100 more. When it comes to major-league talent, they’re arguably comparable to your standard expansion team.
Reinforcing the gap between the Orioles and the rest of the league, Dwight Smith Jr. was destined for triple-A with the rebuilding Toronto Blue Jays. In Baltimore, he’s the number two hitter and everyday left fielder.
You can never assume a win in baseball, but nights that the Orioles beat you have a tendency to be especially frustrating. That was certainly the case in Toronto on Monday, as the Blue Jays lost 6-5 on a night that their starting pitcher faltered, their defence didn’t help and their offence waited to record its first hit until the seventh inning.
We’ll start with the pitching, because that’s where the trouble began for the Blue Jays. With Clayton Richard sidelined, the Blue Jays turned to right-hander Sean Reid-Foley in the hopes that he could deliver on the promise that makes him the organization’s No. 8 prospect.
Instead, Reid-Foley was wild at inopportune times, walking in a run and throwing a wild pitch in a four-run first that featured a two-run home run from Jonathan Villar. After throwing another wild pitch and allowing a fifth run to score in the second, the 23-year-old’s day was done. All told, he pitched two innings, allowing five runs (three earned) while walking two and striking out three.
“He struggled the whole time with his command,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Nothing more I can say about that.”
“Always want to be here,” Reid-Foley added afterwards. “I definitely enjoyed pitching up here. It just obviously didn’t pan out.”
To be fair, the defence didn’t help Reid-Foley much. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. threw wide to second base on a potential double-play ball and Freddy Galvis couldn’t grab it, contributing to the two unearned runs. Even catcher Danny Jansen had some trouble corralling balls behind the plate, though he did throw Richie Martin out trying to advance in the fourth.
Regardless, the Blue Jays might determine that Reid-Foley would benefit from more minor-league seasoning. If that’s the conclusion team decision-makers reach, they could option him to triple-A Buffalo for pitching reinforcements ahead of Tuesday’s game.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” Montoyo said.
Without a stellar performance from Thomas Pannone, the Toronto bullpen would be in far worse shape. On a night that Ken Giles, Joe Biagini and Tim Mayza were all unavailable, Pannone held Baltimore scoreless for four one-hit innings. He struck out five along the way, throwing 69 pitches, so on paper he’s a candidate to start in Reid-Foley’s spot Saturday when the Blue Jays face the Cleveland Indians.
“I just looked at it as an opportunity to compete in the big-leagues again and show the team what I can do,” Pannone said of the relief appearance. “That’s really it. I’m happy I got to help out the bullpen and help out the pitching staff. That’s my job.”
Eventually, more pitching reinforcements will arrive for the Blue Jays. Starter Clay Buchholz will throw 60 pitches Tuesday with plans to throw 75 more in triple-A five days later. If all goes well he could join the rotation as soon as April 13.
Meanwhile, Ryan Tepera and Ryan Borucki are both throwing side sessions Wednesday, setting up a mid-April return for Tepera and a potential late-April return for Borucki. The next steps aren’t quite as clear for Bud Norris, who has been throwing 90-91 m.p.h. at the club’s Florida facility. Ideally, the Blue Jays would see him throw harder before adding him to the roster.
Perhaps most surprising on Monday was Toronto’s inability to generate any offence against David Hess. The right-hander was extremely homer-prone as a rookie last year, but he managed to no-hit the Blue Jays through 6.1 innings while striking out a career-high eight batters.
“It’s been a struggle,” Montoyo said. “I’m not going to defend our offence right now, but we’re going to hit. That’s what they do. They have a (track) record. They’re going to hit, they’re just not hitting right now.”
It wasn’t until the bullpen took over that the Blue Jays collected their first hit of the day, a two-run home run by Randal Grichuk that left his bat at 108.3 m.p.h. Galvis added a run with a solo homer in the eighth, and the Blue Jays rallied for two more in the ninth thanks to a Grichuk double and a Teoscar Hernandez triple. Still, it wasn’t enough.
“You’ve got to give them credit for making a comeback,” Montoyo said. “We could have just died and not done anything, but we came back.”
Even if they remain the worst team in baseball, the Orioles will still win 50 or 60 more times this season. Baseball’s just that unpredictable. Knowing that, it’d be unreasonable to draw sweeping conclusions from any one game. The Blue Jays are the far superior team here, better positioned for success now and in the future.
But on its own, Monday was still a disappointment. You don’t want David Hess to hold you hitless, you don’t want to see defensive miscues and you definitely don’t want your 23-year-old pitching prospect to allow five runs over two innings in his season debut. Maybe it’s for the best that just 10,460 were there to see it happen.