Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The Blue Jays managed to lose another very winnable game, falling to the Orioles 3-2 on another night in which the starting pitching mostly excelled, but the bullpen was a little leaky and the offence (against shitty goddamn Chris Tillman) struggled to produce.
Marco Estrada only got through five innings, and he allowed six hits and four walks, but also struck out nine and limited the damage against him to just a single run. In the process he even made me not feel so terrified of the karmic wrath I’m due for referring to David Price, on this week’s Birds All Day podcast (which is now up, FYI), as the number three starter on last year’s Blue Jays. (Which… y’know…)
It’s easy to nitpick the bullpen, or the passed ball from Russell Martin that allowed the go-ahead run into scoring position with stupid fucking Manny Machado at the plate against Brett Cecil, or John Gibbons’ decisionmaking back there, but for one) meh, it happens. And for two) even if there are certainly things with which to pick nit here, the Jays wouldn’t have found themselves in this situation yet again — heading into tonight’s game, Jays pitchers had endured the second most batters faced in high leverage situations among American League teams — if their hitters were getting it done.
And here’s why: I’d feel like I was maybe a little being a little aloof about these early losses, or too optimistic in general, if the component of the Blue Jays’ that bears ultimate responsibility for a bunch of the losses they’ve accumulated so far was anything but their offence. Because it’s the Blue Jays’ offence! It’s really good. It’s going to be really good.
Or, at the very, very least, it’s very probably going to be very good, and it’s really still much too early to be worrying too much about Tulowitzki, Martin, Smoak, Colabello, Goins, and Pillooooooohmygod that’s a lot of guys struggling!
Only two of those guys are worth worrying about, though (hint: the two guys on the wrong side of 30 making $20-million per season), as the rest are going to be prone to not being good. So… everything’s splendid, then! I’m.. uh… confident.
OK, but yes, the bullpen. Trying to get two innings out of Pat Venditte was… not good. Nor was going to Brett Cecil for as long as John Gibbons did. He didn’t have a whole lot of choice, as Estrada didn’t go deep enough, and Gibbons noted after the game that none of Jesse Chavez, Gavin Floyd, or Drew Storen was available. But Roberto Osuna was available (though I must say I wasn’t bothered when Cecil was allowed to face Machado in the bottom of the eighth), for one.
For two, it’s kind of Gibbons’ job to manage the bullpen so that he doesn’t get stuck with it so short like this. Part of that is due to Chavez’s tight back, of course, and I’m not saying it’s easy to properly manage the short- and the medium- and the long-term (and especially difficult to do so while pleasing the unwashed masses), but there have been times when that stuff so far has seemed wanting. But again, these things only really seem glaring because the offence isn’t yet scoring the number of runs they’re certainly capable of.
- I listed Justin Smoak among those struggling Jays hitters, but is he really struggling? Like… he is. Of COURSE he is. He’s a power hitter sporting a .056 ISO and a .278 SLG, and the 29.6% walk rate that’s carrying him is worlds away from sustainable. But he’s still got a .481 on-base! And he had a walk and a double tonight, to go along with a strikeout and, sadly, his first out on a ball in play all season — a ground out to short in the top of the 9th. His BABIP now stands at .800.