Nine times this season the Blue Jays have gone into a game with an opportunity to bring themselves to a .500 record. They’ve lost all of them. Two of those games came this week against the Rangers, as Toronto and Texas split their four-game series at Arlington.
A split against the Rangers isn’t a terrible result by any stretch, but it’s more of the same. Win one, lose one, rise, wash, repeat. Save for one instance back in May, this team can’t seem to get going on any kind of run.
On Monday, Marco Estrada continued his string of bad starts, getting knocked around and chased in the fourth inning. But the Jays managed to muster some magic, rallying against Matt Bush in the ninth for a gusty come-from-behind win. 7-6 Blue Jays.
On Tuesday, Francisco Liriano had a terrible first inning, giving up four runs. The Jays offence wasn’t able to solve Nick Martinez, mustering just six hits against him and the bullpen. 6-1 Rangers.
On Wednesday, the Jays had a big first inning of their own off of Tyson Ross, plating six runs in the opening frame. The Rangers chipped away, but that big first inning was pretty much enough. 7-5 Blue Jays.
On Thursday, Marcus Stroman was handed his first opportunity to help the Jays reach .500, but like everyone before him, he dropped the ball. Stroman had his worst start in weeks, getting tagged for seven runs in four innings. 11-4 Rangers.
Things that were good
- Monday night’s game, outside of Estrada’s struggled, was excellent and deserves its own mention. The bullpen especially deserves a pat on the back for this one. After Estrada was pulled with two outs in the fourth, Dominic Leone, Jeff Beliveau, Aaron Loup, and Jason Grilli tossed four-and-a-third without giving up a run, allowing the Jays to come back in the ninth. Then, of course, Roberto Osuna came in and slammed the door. I watched this game on the Rangers broadcast, and there was something funny about their announcers speaking as if they just knew Toronto was going to come back. When the rally started with the Goins double, they already sounded deflated.
- Otherwise? Meh. Even though they went 2-2 over this four-game series, is wasn’t very pretty. Justin Smoak has continued to hit, going 7-for-15. He hasn’t slowed down at all and we’re nearly half way through the season. This might be legit. Steve Pearce also started to swing the bat really well this series and was playing his best baseball as a Jay before hurting himself in the field on Wednesday night.
- Kevin Pillar was struggling mightily at the plate in the leadoff spot, and John Gibbons finally moved him down in the order. The lineup shuffle looks good. Jose Bautista is solid in the leadoff spot, and went 3-for-7 with three walks after being moved up, while Pillar went 3-for-5 after being moved down.
Things that weren’t good
- The starting pitching really struggled this week. Marco Estrada got tagged for six earned runs over three-and-two-thirds. He’s now had a few poor starts in a row, and there’s certainly some reason to be worried. Francisco Liriano had a poor start to his game on Tuesday, allowing four runs in the first, and ultimately couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. Biagini was solid on Wednesday, but still allowed the Rangers to creep their way back into a game that should have been over in the first. And finally, Marcus Stroman had his first poor start in over two months. He only went four innings, marking the first time he didn’t go at least five-and-two-thirds since that outing in New York in which he left with an injury. The starting pitching is supposed to be a strong point on this club, but it didn’t appear to be that way this week.
- Steve Pearce, as I mentioned, was hitting the ball very well, but got hurt in Wednesday’s game. That’s just this team’s luck. As soon as the ball is rolling and the lineup is starting to look complete, something happens. In this case, Pearce hurt himself in the outfield and had to sit out Thursday’s game which was against a lefty. To pile on, Josh Donaldson had to take a day off because of a sore knee. Injuries always seem like a poor excuse, but this team has had a hell of a time getting going because of them.
- Troy Tulowitzki had a really, really ugly series. Yikes. He went 1-for-12, and the day off on Wednesday didn’t seem to help. In Thursday’s game, he came up with the bases loaded and Martin Perez on the ropes, but swung at a terrible 2-0 pitch and grounded out. He’s hitting just a shade over .200 since coming off of the DL. It’s a strange thing to watch.
The floor is .500 baseball. pic.twitter.com/MXa64rFpPT— Scott Johnson (@_scottjohnson) June 21, 2017
The Jays will head to Kansas City for three games against the Royals, then home for three with the Orioles. After that, as I’ve mentioned many times, the schedule gets tough. The Jays badly need to step up over these next six games to help themselves down the road.