TORONTO – A post-batting-practice team meeting didn’t immediately change the Toronto Blue Jays’ fortunes on the field, although Josh Donaldson believes if they continue to play the way they did in Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics, things will turn for them quickly.
The star third baseman wouldn’t reveal who called the meeting or what specifically prompted the gathering before Friday’s game, but told Sportsnet that, “we just brought a couple of things up here and there, just what we need to focus on and I’ll leave it at that. But I feel like we were able to do a good job of that.”
Friday’s loss dropped the Blue Jays to 22-23, under .500 for the first since they were 1-2 on March 31, and came on the heels of a sloppy 10-5 defeat to Oakland on Thursday, after which frustrations ran high. Manager John Gibbons, for example, held an unusually curt post-game session, saying only, “It was a tough night, that’s all I got. No need to elaborate. A tough night.”
Donaldson described the meeting as “a team thing and we just got some things out that we need to focus on.”
“We’re not down, we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” he added, “it was just more along the lines of this is what we need to focus on as a team, as individuals and this is how we’re going to be successful. That’s what it boiled down to.”
The Blue Jays were at one point seven games over .500 during April, but haven’t won consecutive games since three straight victories April 29, 30 and May 1. They’re just 6-11 this month and have lost 10 out of 14 games since beating Cleveland 13-11 in 11 innings in the first game of a doubleheader May 3.
Tying into that period have been injuries to outfielders Randal Grichuk and Steve Pearce, shortstop Aledmys Diaz, starters Marcus Stroman and Jaime Garcia plus Roberto Osuna’s administrative leave following his arrest on an assault charge.
Teoscar Hernandez also missed the past two games after his back flared up, further thinning out the lineup.
“That’s just how every season goes, you have your ups, you have your downs and you have your in betweens,” said Donaldson, who walked twice and stole a base in four plate appearances Friday. “I definitely felt like there have been some high times and I feel like probably the last 10, 12 days, it’s been that little rut when you start getting into the meat of the season. Really, we’ve been facing some teams that have been coming in playing well, more importantly, and we have to do a better job of matching that intensity and that focus.”
To that end, Donaldson said the Blue Jays played with better energy Friday behind starter Marco Estrada, who allowed three runs over 6.2 strong innings. But even though the Athletics lost their starter to injury for a second straight night – Brett Anderson walked off the mound before the second with a shoulder strain – the offence couldn’t take advantage of it.
“I feel like today was a very positive step in the right direction,” said Donaldson. “Before today there might have been a little bit of frustration going on but I felt like today we were able to get some things going in other areas. Offensively it definitely wasn’t our night but I felt like we had some quality at-bats and it’s about to happen.”
With files from Arash Madani