Blue Jays suffer missed opportunities despite juggling batting order

Jarren Duran hit a solo home run with two RBI and Enmanuel Valdez added a solo blast of his own as the Boston Red Sox topped the Toronto Blue Jays with a 7-3 win to complete the series sweep.

TORONTO — For the 70th time in 74 games during this moving target of a season, the Toronto Blue Jays switched things up in the batting order Wednesday, most notably pushing Justin Turner up to the two-spot with Danny Jansen sliding down to fifth. 

Only three of their lineups thus far have been repeated, none deployed more than three times. Within that, they’ve used five different leadoff hitters, seven players in the two-hole, four three-spot hitters, six different cleanup batters and nine guys in the five-spot.

Now, none of the above is necessarily unusual. 

The visiting Boston Red Sox, for instance, have used 71 batting orders in 75 outings, repeating an alignment only four times, twice apiece. And while they’ve only had three players hit in the leadoff spot, 11 different players have started in the two-hole, 10 in the three-spot, nine at cleanup and 14 in the five-spot.

Just for some divisional context, the New York Yankees, with 41 lineups through their first 75 games, have been far more consistent, while the Baltimore Orioles, at 62 in 72, are more of a middle ground with the Tampa Bay Rays at 67 in 73.

So, while lineup churn does happen in today’s game, the context behind why a team does it is what really matters. Some of the Blue Jays’ juggling was planned coming into the year but much of it is improvisation, particularly atop the lineup where George Springer, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Turner were supposed to be locked in place.

Turner batting second – from where he extended a strong stretch by going 2-for-4 with a run scored and a hit-by-pitch in Wednesday’s 7-3, sweep-completing loss to the Red Sox – is their latest plate thrown at the wall in search of anything that might stick.

[brightcove videoID=6355328579112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

What happens once Bichette returns from the injured list — he’s eligible as soon as Tuesday — “is going to be interesting to tackle,” said manager John Schneider, although the goal, as it’s been all along, is to get to something stable.

“Look, in a perfect world you’re going George, Bo, Vlad, JT every night — we’re just not living in a perfect world,” said Schneider. “That’s my goal, to get it back to that point, for sure and let them go play, let them go be themselves. Right now, it’s how can we best fit it and it changes a lot, which is not ideal. But you look at what Bo’s done over the course of his career in that spot and that spot’s going to come up later in games against their best pitchers. So you also want those guys, late in the game, too. So we’ll see. It’s not going to be one game where it’s like, OK, you got three hits, I’m moving you. Just seeing it consistently once everyone’s back and hopefully performing, that’s how I want it to land.”

The interim has made for an increasingly island-of-misfit-toys iteration of the Blue Jays, who dropped to 35-39 by following up a steely series win against AL-Central leading Cleveland last weekend with three hard-to-stomach losses to the Red Sox (40-35).

They began the week with a chance to get back to .500 but instead are facing another uphill climb to the ground level.

“It seems that we’re kind of stuck in neutral right there when you’re getting close,” said Schneider. “You come off a good weekend series against a really good team and you run into a team that is playing pretty well and that is talented and can pitch really well. So you’ve got to reset it after the off day and you get back after it, just really one day at a time.”

Kevin Gausman really got Boston’d over 5.2 middling innings, looking strong early before getting scratched and clawed for five runs, four earned, two on solo shots by Emmanual Valdez in the fourth and Jarren Duran in the fifth. 

[brightcove videoID=6355323483112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The Duran homer came immediately after the Blue Jays tied the game 2-2 in the fifth on Kevin Kiermaier’s RBI single — set up by a clever hit-and-run by Isiah Kiner-Falefa one batter previous — and Turner’s double-play grounder with the bases loaded.

And the Red Sox kept adding from there, ending Gausman’s night on Romy Gonzalez’s RBI single in the sixth before Duran added an RBI single off Tim Mayza to make it a 5-2 game before a crowd of 38,906.

“Really just inconsistent is probably the biggest word I could use for myself,” Gausman said of his night and his overall season. “Frustrated with the inconsistency because I know I’m good enough to pitch to my best abilities. Not necessarily making the pitch when I need to, to get a big punch out or, even when I do make the pitch, like, the last batter I faced, threw him a sinker and jammed the heck out of him but it was a base hit and they scored a run. …

“It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated with how I’ve pitched to this point of the season but I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to give in. I’m going to work every day to get better and try to find that consistency and be the best pitcher that I can be for this team and for all my teammates.”

[brightcove videoID=6355328690112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position through the first four innings and 1-for-14, overall, another night of missed opportunities to lament.

After an off-day Thursday they’ll try to rebound during a return engagement with the Guardians this weekend, during which top hitting prospect Orelvis Martinez is expected to make his debut.

He was recalled Tuesday when Bichette hit the IL, arriving only an hour before game time, and wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday against Brayan Bello, who is hard on righties but was in and out of trouble through six innings of two-run ball.

[brightcove videoID=6355318632112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

“With Orelvis and a lot of these guys that are coming up, you don’t want to throw them in every single day in every single spot,” said Schneider. “You want to try to pick and choose. And that was the plan when we did call him up, targeting the weekend to start. He’s a really talented player, so there’s no hesitation to put him in. He’s got to get in and start playing at some point. But I think just trying to maximize who we have here, right/left.”

Martinez appears likely to be the counter once Bichette is ready and given the approach to his usage, shortstop Leo Jimenez may very well have been the pick to cover the week had he not just returned from injury at triple-A Buffalo.

While Schneider insisted that “I don’t think the move is set in stone,” factoring into the decision was that “Leo’s just getting back to playing from the concussion and who else we have on the 40 man and who else we thought could help.”

“It’s good to get (Martinez) up here and experience it, much like Addy (Barger) did earlier in the year and Spencer (Horwitz) last year a little bit,” Schneider continued. “That part was attractive. But this is our No. 1 hitting prospect, if he shows that he’s handling himself well, it’s not a slam-dunk decision.”

Nothing has been all season long for the Blue Jays, with nearly as many different lineups as games played, the search ongoing for an elusive working combination.

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.