Blue Jays’ improvised lineup a major reason for wretched May

Marco Estrada struggled on the mound and Rick Porcello gave the Red Sox 6.2 solid innings as Boston won 8-3 over the Blue Jays.

BOSTON – In general, John Gibbons tends to give his starters rope, both in an attempt to get innings so the bullpen isn’t taxed, and because of the trust he likes to show in his guys.

But there’s less room for latitude with an improvised lineup further depleted by the absence of Josh Donaldson, which is why the Toronto Blue Jays manager came to get Marco Estrada with two out in the fourth inning and just 63 pitches under his belt Tuesday night. Jackie Bradley Jr.’s RBI single had just opened a three-run lead for the Boston Red Sox, the top of the lineup was coming up and Gibbons felt the time was right for someone else to try and stop the bleeding.

“It was early enough (to rally) and I thought they were hitting him around pretty good,” he explained. “Bring (Aaron) Loup in, get a number of lefties in that lineup. … One of those days. They’ve got a good offence, they keep coming at you.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

The Blue Jays didn’t end up rallying, losing for the second straight night at Fenway Park, this time an 8-3 decision that dropped them to 2-6 versus the Red Sox this season.

Estrada was left scratching his head after the game, not at the early hook, but at some of the pitches the Red Sox turned into seven hits over 3.2 innings, leading to four runs against.

“I’m not really sure how they were on a lot of those pitches,” he said.

Regardless, they were, and after Loup followed with a clean 1.1 innings, Joe Biagini surrendered a run in the sixth in the type of frame that really signifies how things have been going for the Blue Jays during a wretched 9-18 May.

Rafael Devers led off the inning with a chopper just out of an outstretched Biagini’s reach for a single and after a Dustin Pedroia single and a Brock Holt strikeout, a Sandy Leon squib deflected off Biagini’s glove and under a diving Devon Travis for what ended up as an infield – yes, infield – RBI double.

“Some things that could be double plays, we’re not getting them, some things you would think is a routine play it’s not happening for us and it is frustrating watching some of these hits go by,” said Estrada. “There were a lot of hard hits on their end, there were also some soft ones that you don’t really see too often, but when you’re hot, those things go your way. We’re not hot right now. We’re cold. And we need to get on that program where we’re playing much better baseball and it’s got to start with me.

“I’m the one who starts this game and when you fall behind 2-0 in the first inning, that’s hard, so I’ve got to do a better job and put up some zeroes up there.”

Not helping was with Donaldson resting the tightness in his left calf, Russell Martin started at third base, becoming just the third Blue Jays player to ever start four straight games at four different positions. Gibbons said Donaldson felt better Tuesday and the club’s hope was that with another day of rest Wednesday and off-day Thursday, he may be ready Friday in Detroit

Yangervis Solarte got the call at shortstop with Curtis Granderson in left field and Teoscar Hernandez in right, with each of the trio unable to make potentially makeable plays in the field.

“I don’t feel like talking about that,” Gibbons replied when asked the defensive miscues. “This is our team, we go out there and play hard every night. I don’t care what anybody else thinks. I really don’t. People need to look at it objectively, and if they’re smart enough baseball people, they’ll understand.”

While Martin joked about how he “did nothing” in the field with no balls hit to him and that “we didn’t even need to have a third baseman out there,” he pointed out that the Blue Jays are also “missing, I feel like, half the team.”

“Gibby is doing what he can to put a lineup out there but we have what we have,” Martin continued. “We’re going to fight and we definitely have what it takes to win games, it’s just other teams are playing better than us right now and they’re capitalizing on our mistakes.”

Things got testy in the sixth when Martin was granted a late timeout by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza and got hit in the shoulder by Rick Porcello on the next pitch. Martin glared out at the right-hander before taking his base, Porcello saying he didn’t mean to hit him as he jogged down the line.

“This is what happened,” said Martin. “I get in the box, get ready, I look up and he’s already in his windup so I call time, Vic gives me the time. He was pretty late in his delivery so he kind of had to stop his throwing motion and everything, it’s not what you want to do as a pitcher, I get it, it’s probably frustrating a little bit. Then the next pitch he hits me in the shoulder. Is he trying to hit me? Or is he trying to make a point by coming up and in? Only he knows that. Bottom line is it didn’t hurt, went to first base, we scored some runs so it ended up working out for us. That’s that.”

The Blue Jays did indeed count a pair in the frame when Curtis Granderson’s run-scoring single was fielded by Pedroia, who made a wild throw to first in a futile attempt for an out. The error, charged to Porcello for not making the catch, allowed another run to come in and make it a 5-3 game.

After a Xander Bogaerts homer off Biagini in the bottom of the sixth made it 6-3, Hernandez got hit by on the forearm by Joe Kelly in the top of the seventh, the third Blue Jays batter struck in the game. Danny Barnes got the ball in the bottom half and hit Holt in the thigh with his first pitch of the inning. Carapazza warned both dugouts, and the clubs moved on.

“I think Danny just pulled a fastball and it hit him in the leg,” said Martin. “It’s unfortunate but sometimes those things happen, and they seem to happen sometimes after someone else gets hit. It’s weird, I don’t know why it happens like that.”

The hit batter proved costly when Sandy Leon followed with a two-run homer that opened up an 8-3 Red Sox lead, and the Blue Jays loaded the bases with no one out in the ninth but they came up empty, Craig Kimbrel coming in to put out any hopes of a rally.

Sam Gaviglio gets the ball Wednesday afternoon against Eduardo Rodriguez, trying to prevent a sweep.

“We’re dealing with a lot of injuries, we’re seeing a different lineup almost every single day and it’s tough,” said Estrada. “We’re missing key guys, we need some of these players back, hopefully they’ll be back soon because we’ve got to get things going, I’ve got to get things going and it all begins with the starting pitcher. I can’t go out there and last three innings. I’ve got to do a better job to help my team win these games.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.