Blue Jays post-season hopes already fading

TORONTO — A season that started with loads of promise is quickly turning into a year to forget for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The team acquired plenty of big-name talent in the off-season and was expected to contend in the American League East. Instead the Blue Jays are stuck in last place in the division and are among the worst clubs in Major League Baseball.

Toronto was flat out of the gate and has been unable to win more than two games in a row. The Blue Jays appear to have the talent but the team has been consistently outplayed and has an 11-21 record as a result.

"We’re digging a pretty good hole right now, no question about it," manager John Gibbons said during a pre-game availability Sunday.

The Blue Jays went on to blow out the Seattle Mariners 10-2 to finish their six-game homestand with a 2-4 record. Toronto will try to build on the victory this week with a four-game series beginning Monday at Tampa Bay.

It’s still early May but the reality is the Blue Jays’ chances of reaching the post-season appear slim at best.

A 93-win total was needed for an American League wild-card berth last year. Toronto would need to play at a .631 clip the rest of the way to reach that plateau.

To put that in perspective, only the National League East champion Washington Nationals — at .605 — finished the 2012 season over the .600 mark.

The Blue Jays need an immediate improvement in almost all areas of their game to have any hope of getting back in the mix in the AL East.

Their starting pitching has been poor and for the most part, the bats have been quiet. Team defence has been suspect and the bullpen mediocre.

The Blue Jays caught a bad break when a severe ankle sprain sidelined leadoff man Jose Reyes, who was off to an excellent start. His absence magnified the team’s lack of infield depth and took a major sparkplug out of the lineup.

There have been a few positives in the early going.

Sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have shown some pop at the plate. Catcher J.P. Arencibia is off to a solid start and closer Casey Janssen has delivered.

However, the list of negatives is a long one.

The retooled starting rotation has been weak. The big-name additions have been disappointing with inflated numbers the norm.

Ace R.A. Dickey is 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA. Josh Johnson, currently on the disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps, is 0-1 with a 6.86 ERA while Mark Buehrle is 1-2 with a 6.43 ERA.

The offence hasn’t been much better.

A glance at Sunday’s starting lineup revealed just one batter who was hitting over .236 (Rajai Davis at .277). The Blue Jays are near the bottom of the major-league rankings in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS (on-base plus slugging).

Hopes were high that Toronto would make its first playoff appearance in two decades this year. The season is just over a month old but fans are already letting the players know what they think.

The boobirds were out at Rogers Centre during the recent homestand, with the Blue Jays getting a Bronx cheer from the crowd when a 23-inning scoring drought ended Saturday.

"The best thing we can do is keep hoping and ask our fans to keep fighting this battle with us," Davis said. "Because it’s not over."

The Blue Jays had some swagger and a spring in their step when the season started. The smiles are more infrequent now, often replaced by looks of frustration.

"As hard as it is, I’m always optimistic for the most part I think," Gibbons said. "I know how the game works. Things can change in a hurry and get really good.

"But we’ve been saying that a while now and it hasn’t happened. But I still believe that’s going to be the case."

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