Game Threat: Seeking A Solution, Blue Jays (77-63) vs Red Sox (79-61)

Last night, the Blue Jays welcomed the Red Sox to town to kick off the most important series of the season (until a couple of weeks from now when they play again at Fenway). And it didn’t go very well! The Jays booted the ball around in the field, making life difficult for Marco Estrada, who was having a difficult enough time anyway, and their bats couldn’t get much going off of Rick Porcello, ultimately resulting in a very disappointing 13-3 loss. 

Remember a week ago when they Jays were leading the division by two games? Well, life happens fast sometimes. The defeat extended Toronto’s losing streak to four games (including losses in six of their past seven games) and also extended Boston’s lead in the division to two games. Uh, not good! Snap out of it, please! 

News and Scuttlebutt 

The Jays held a players-only meeting today to discuss why it is they’re playing their worst baseball of the season while in the midst of a pennant race in early September. We don’t know what was said behind those doors, so this will certainly give us an opportunity to speculate, fantasize, and even twirl some bogus narratives and fantasies. 

Maybe they all went in there and had a group nap? That seemed to turn things around the last time it happened. I can’t imagine there’s any anti-John Gibbons rhetoric being spewed in there, so I’m guessing it was mainly just an opportunity for everyone to air out what they think has been contributing to this slide and what they can do to deal with it. 

On a similar note, Arden Zwelling talked to Josh Donaldson about his (and the team’s) recent issues at the plate. I think something he said could give some insight as to what the tone of the closed door meeting was all about: 

“I feel like, for the most part, we do a good job as a team and go out there and prepare. I do think there are times when we make mistakes, but that’s every team, you know?” Donaldson said. “That’s part of being human. And that’s part of the growth you go through at this time of the season. Some mistakes get a little bit more magnified than others but I believe our team does a great job of going out there and preparing and ultimately doing everything they can in order to win the game.”

I think that’s an important thing to remember at this juncture of the season. Though losses become a lot more magnified (and somewhat justifiably so) in a situation like this, baseball really isn’t a sport in which you can hang your head and overthink what happened last time, because you’re going to get another chance right away. 

More important than the results is the process that goes into the game, and if the Jays truly believe they’re going out and preparing properly, taking their best swings, and doing everything as they usually do, they’ll eventually find the same success they did earlier in the season. 

The team isn’t going to just suddenly become terrible. They’ve been very good for the majority of this season, and most of the players from last year’s dominant group that rode a wave all the way to the ALCS are still around. I mean, yeah, they’ve been really fucking bad as of late, there’s no way around that. But still, the last seven games are absolutely in no way more indicative of the talent level of this team than the previous 133 before that. 

Today

Blue Jays: Devon Travis 2B, Josh Donaldson 3B, Edwin Encarnacion DH, Jose Bautista RF, Russell Martin C, Troy Tulowitzki SS, Melvin Upton LF, Justin Smoak 1B, Kevin Pillar CF

J.A. Happ: 17-4, 3.34 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.181 WHIP, 7.9 H9, 2.7 BB9, 7.9 SO9

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia 2B, Xander Bogaerts SS, David Ortiz DH, Mookie Betts RF, Hanley Ramirez 1B, Aaron Hill 3B, Chris Young LF, Jackie Bradley CF, Ryan Hanigan C

Eduardo Rodriquez: 2-6, 4.83 ERA, 4.89 FIP, 1.305 WHIP, 8.5 H9, 3.3 BB9, 7.2 SO9

The last time the Jays won was the last time J.A. Happ took the mound. And that time around he didn’t have a particularly good go of it, as he was pulled after just two-and-two-thirds innings. Happ has had a pretty forgettable stretch recently, but in his one start against the Red Sox this season, he was fantastic, so this could represent a good opportunity for him to get back to the groove he was in a couple of weeks ago that started garnering Cy Young discussion. 

Opposing him will be another lefty in Eduardo Rodriguez, who, after having what appeared to be a breakout season last year, has had a difficult time finding his footing in the Majors this season. Rodriguez has made 15 starts this season, allowing three or more runs in seven of them. That said, his last time out, he dominated that Athletics (not like that’s something difficult to do, or anything), shutting them out over eight innings. In his one appearance against Toronto this year, the Jays hammered him for five runs in five-and-two-thirds innings as he struggled mightily to locate his pitches. 

If there was going to be a time for the Jays to pull out of their slump, it’s right now. They have favourable pitching matchups in both today and tomorrow’s games, and back-to-back wins over the Sox would bring them back to a tie for first in the division and all but erase the junk they’ve been displaying over the past week. Hopefully that heart-to-heart meeting worked! We need a fucking win in the worst possible way!