TORONTO – Logically, it makes sense.
The Toronto Blue Jays are a good team, but they aren’t going to win every time they play. The Baltimore Orioles are an awful team, but they aren’t going to lose every time they play. Which means sometimes the Orioles will beat the Blue Jays.
Whenever it happens, though, it’s still something of a surprise. After all, how could the Orioles -- a team that just ended a 19-game losing streak, that began the day 50 games below .500, that allows more runs than any team in baseball -- beat anyone?
Tuesday night at Rogers Centre, 13,963 found out first-hand. Hyun-Jin Ryu took a no-hitter into the sixth and Danny Jansen returned from the injured list to support him with a home run, but the Blue Jays couldn’t get much going against Keegan Akin so they lost 4-2 to Baltimore, ending their win streak at four and bringing their season record to 69-62.
Beyond the result of the game itself, the Blue Jays had some additional reason for concern as George Springer exited the game for pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson after stopping abruptly at second base in the seventh inning. Though the team described the decision as precautionary, Springer appeared to be moving somewhat gingerly as he returned to second base.
He lobbied to stay in the game but considering he recently returned from a knee injury, the Blue Jays removed him anyways. He’s once again considered day-to-day.
“We’ve got to be careful, we’ve still got a month left,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He wants to be out there. He wants to help us win. That’s why I love the guy. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
For most of the game Ryu appeared to be in complete control, retiring 15 Orioles in a row at one point and striking out the side in the fifth. It wasn't until Ryu had recorded two outs in the sixth inning that the Orioles recorded their first hit of the game.
But Ryan Mountcastle doubled to get the Orioles started and three batters later the Orioles had scored three runs thanks to a single, a walk and a Ramon Urias double that scored two and chased Ryu from the game.
As a result, Ryu's final pitching line -- three earned runs over 5.2 innings with six strikeouts -- doesn't quite reflect how the game unfolded. Still, it was a step in the right direction for a pitcher who allowed seven earned runs two different times in August, including his last time out.
"Overall, I felt better. I felt like my pitches had better life," Ryu said afterwards via an interpreter. "Physically and mentally, I feel pretty good still."
“He was really good,” Montoyo added. “He just had a tough sixth inning there, but he was really good. He was vintage Ryu which was great to see. We’re going to need him to be that guy.”
Because Ryu and Jansen have a high level of comfort with one another, the Blue Jays expect the two to work together for most of Ryu’s remaining starts. But on Tuesday, Jansen also provided some welcome offence.
Facing big-league pitching for the first time in more than a month, Jansen homered on the second pitch he saw in the bottom of the third inning. Later, he’d add a walk in his first game back from the strained right hamstring he sustained July 21.
“That’s great,” Montoyo said. “But more important to me was that he was on the same page as Ryu and they had a good game together.”
Equally encouraging for the Blue Jays was the continued power display from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who hit his 39th home run of the season one night after going deep twice. The quality of contact suggests Guerrero Jr. may be moving past his second-half struggles toward a strong finish.
“It would be great for this next month,” Montoyo said. “If he can keep going like that hopefully the other guys will get hot at the same time.”
Only six players have ever hit more home runs than Guerrero Jr. in their age-22 seasons, and all are Hall of Fame calibre talents: Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench, Juan Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Alex Rodriguez and Eddie Matthews. With a month to go, Guerrero Jr. could advance further on that list while challenging Shohei Ohtani (42) for the MLB home run lead.
Of course activating Jansen wasn’t the only noteworthy roster move the Blue Jays made before first pitch. Brad Hand, who was acquired at the trade deadline with a view toward improving a struggling bullpen, was designated for assignment in a move that frees up a 40-man roster spot.
In 11 appearances spanning 8.2 innings with the Blue Jays, Hand posted a 7.27 ERA with three home runs allowed. While he’s likely to draw interest from other teams on waivers in the coming days, he had clearly lost the Blue Jays’ trust in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, the Blue Jays will be able to add two more players when rosters expand from 26 to 28, and the 40-man roster spot once occupied by Hand could eventually be used to activate Julian Merryweather, who’s rehabbing his way back from the 60-day injured list. Ideally, Merryweather and Nate Pearson would eventually deliver some of the high-leverage outs Hand could not.