Problematic offence prevents Blue Jays from extending win streak

Corey Julks and Danny Mendick recorded two RBIs each, Garrett Crochet pitched six innings surrendering just two hits, and the Chicago White Sox blanked the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0.

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays were considering several options to nurse home a two-run lead during the bottom of the seventh inning Monday when Danny Jansen’s two-run homer changed the calculus. 

Suddenly blessed with breathing room, manager John Schneider opted against sending Yimi Garcia back out for a second inning of work, going with Genesis Cabrera instead. When Cabrera got into trouble with two outs in the eighth, Jordan Romano quickly warmed but wasn’t needed when they lefty escaped trouble. Jansen then added a two-run single in the bottom half to open a six-run lead, Romano stood down and Erik Swanson mopped up the ninth in a 9-3 win.

“It all just depends on where you are in the game and what the score is,” Schneider explained. “The Jano single, Jano homer allow you to not go to those guys. That was huge.”

The sequence reinforced how add-on runs can help teams not only win the game in which they’re scored, but also better position them the next day, too. Rather than being down due to extended outings, Garcia and Romano were both available if needed Tuesday, but the Blue Jays couldn’t capitalize, managing just two hits in a 5-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

As lacking as add-on runs have been this Blue Jays season, scoring in general continues to be problematic for them, a key reason why they failed to reach three straight wins for just the second time this season. As much as scoring runs masks mistakes and creates options, not scoring magnifies every little error and limits choices, which is what happened as Yusei Kikuchi wasn’t at his best but still allowed only three runs over six innings while Garrett Crochet sat 97.2 m.p.h. and shoved over the same span.

“You don’t like to do it, but sometimes you’ve got to give the guy on the other side a little bit of credit for what he’s doing. He’s obviously got really good stuff and pitched well,” said Justin Turner, who broke out of an 0-for-30 with a double. “I don’t think the at-bats were terrible tonight. We took good at-bats, hit some balls hard, hit some balls right at guys and didn’t get rewarded for it. But, at the end of the day, we still have a chance to show up (Wednesday) and win a series.”

The Blue Jays (21-26) haven’t done that since April 19-21 when they took two of three from the Padres in San Diego, and the time to change that is now during a 13-game stretch featuring the White Sox, Tigers and Pirates.

While there’s plenty of runway remaining, it’s shortened by the fact they need a good run just to get themselves level. 

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“I was falling behind in counts so I think that’s what led to the walks and stuff like that,” Kikuchi, who allowed five hits and three walks with six strikeouts, said through interpreter Yusuke Oshima. “I’m glad I kept the team in the game but at the end of the day, it’s not that early anymore so just can’t be content with getting the quality start.”

Especially when the offence went dry again. 

Four days after Tyler Alexander was perfect through his first 22 batters against them, electric lefty Crochet sat down his first 13 batters before Turner’s one-out double in the fifth.

Turner was stranded there and the Blue Jays left on an Ernie Clement single and Jansen walk in the sixth, too, as Crochet worked a third straight start without allowing a run.

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Having game-planned so well for Erick Fedde on Monday, the Blue Jays couldn’t apply the same pressure to Crochet, who allowed four hard-hit balls but was never under duress.

Turner was an outlier, also working him a 10-pitch groundout in the second that nearly resulted in an infield hit. He also lined out to left in the seventh and “I thought the at-bats were way better just overall,” he said. “Recognizing, being on time, being able to get a good swing off, contact point was better.”

“Oh-for-30s suck, but you know it’s going to flip,” Turner continued. “You’ve just got to keep working and trust the process and keep trying to get the right feels in the box, really. It’s a crazy game. It’s amazing how good you can feel one moment, and then you lose it at the snap of a finger, and then you’ve got to fight and work to get it back. Honestly, that’s what I love about the game. If it was easy all the time, a lot more people would be doing it.”

For the Blue Jays, it continues to be hard all the time, with every little miss magnified.

The White Sox opened the scoring before a crowd of 28,176 in the second when Clement bounced a throw across the diamond on Korey Lee’s grounder for an error. Zach Remillard then sacrificed him to second, even though it looked like Kikuchi had ample time to get the lead out, and Nicky Lopez followed with a two-out single.

“I was a little shocked that he was not too far off first base,” said Kikuchi. “Instinctively, I thought maybe I could have gone to second base, but I just got the sure out there and went to first.”

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Then in the fifth, Kikuchi issued a one-out walk to Andrew Vaughn, Eloy Jimenez crushed a double to left-centre at 109.8 m.p.h. and after a Paul DeJong strikeout, Corey Julks snuck a single up the middle to make it 3-0.

The White Sox further lowered their leverage in the eighth when Danny Mendick ripped a two-run double off Tim Mayza, who came on with two outs to face lefty Dominic Fletcher but instead walked him.

And so the Blue Jays are left to try and again begin a streak, reminded both of how much easier scoring runs can make their life and just how hard it is for them to score at all.

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