Blue Jays in trouble with no obvious escape available

Miguel Andujar hit his first career grand slam off Seunghwan Oh to propel the Yankees to a 7-2 victory over the Blue Jays.

TORONTO – It’s generally demoralizing to blow late leads, waste strong starting pitching and falter offensively. On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays were guilty of all of the above.

Not good, and even more troubling than any single defeat is the Blue Jays’ rapidly rising loss total. They’re now 26-34 after a 7-2 loss to the New York Yankees, and the 3.1 per cent playoff odds they had before the game will drop again by Wednesday morning.

In the clubhouse, players understandably stress the importance of staying focused day to day. The standings are best avoided at a time that the Blue Jays are 10 games out of a wild-card berth.

“We try to not look at it,” said Teoscar Hernandez. “We try to go out there and have fun, try to do things to win games and forget what happened the day before and try to continue battling.”

“Hopefully tomorrow goes our way,” added starter Marco Estrada.

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.

Even if it does, an imposing challenge awaits the Blue Jays. To win 90 games – seemingly the minimum for a wild-card berth in the top-heavy American League this year – they would have to play at a 102-win pace over their remaining 102 games. And of the two teams on display at Rogers Centre Tuesday, the Blue Jays weren’t the one that seemed capable of sustaining a .627 winning percentage over the next four months. As this loss total mounts, October baseball in Toronto becomes harder and harder to imagine.

The night began well for the Blue Jays, as Marco Estrada pitched effectively against a lineup that’s powerful even on days off for Aaron Judge, who rested after striking out eight times against the Detroit Tigers in Monday’s doubleheader. Estrada allowed just one run on six hits over six-plus innings against the Yankees without issuing a walk.

“Marco was great,” manager John Gibbons said. “No doubt about it.”

True to form, the right-hander relied heavily on his change-up, throwing it for 40 of his 97 pitches. Thanks to his change, which generated nine swings and misses, he struck out six on a day his fastball never reached 90 m.p.h.

“I felt like my change-up was better than it has been,” Estrada said. “For some reason, it just hasn’t been quite there yet like I’d like it to be and today I saw some of the swings and misses that I was hoping for. Even on some of the hits they were still out in front on it, and that’s all I’m looking for.”

When Gary Sanchez opened the seventh inning with a single, the Blue Jays replaced Estrada with right-hander Seung-hwan Oh. Just three batters later, the game had turned in the Yankees’ favour. Oh hit Didi Gregorius with a pitch and walked Aaron Hicks to set up a grand slam from third baseman Miguel Andujar.

Afterwards, Oh approached Estrada in the dugout to apologize for blowing the lead after such a strong start. Estrada, a former reliever, was touched by the gesture, but said it wasn’t necessary.

“I’ve been on that end. I’ve come into games with guys on and I’ve given up the runs and obviously you feel terrible. It’s not something you’re trying to do,” he said. “I feel a little more upset for (Oh) than I do for me. I really don’t care that the run came in (personally). Oh’s a great guy and I feel bad for him.”

Hicks later added a three-run homer against Aaron Loup to provide the Yankees with enough breathing room to keep Aroldis Chapman fresh for Wednesday.

Andujar’s slam alone was enough to offset two homers from the Blue Jays – really the only offence they managed against CC Sabathia on a day the veteran left-hander provided seven strong innings of two-run ball. Teoscar Hernandez homered in his return to the lineup after fouling a ball off his left toe in Detroit Saturday, hitting a towering shot down the left-field line (his toe, while still a little sore, is “feeling better,” by the way).

Kevin Pillar added a solo shot of his own the following inning, homering for the first time since April 29.

For Estrada, Hernandez and Pillar, then, there were positives on an individual level. But big picture, the Blue Jays’ season is already in real trouble with no obvious escape available. Another tough loss offered a reminder of that reality Tuesday.

“It got away from us,” Gibbons said. “We still like our team. We’re (just) not playing particularly well.”

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