This series against the Detroit Tigers was a litmus test for the Blue Jays. Both teams are in a similar place in the standings, sitting towards the bottom of the American League despite having aspirations of contending this season. If the Jays can’t beat a team like Detroit — good in some areas but loaded with many flaws — their already faint hopes of competing for a playoff spot will completely dry up.
I guess the break didn’t change anything.
On Friday, the Jays got off to a nice start. They had an excellent approach against Justin Verlander, managing 10 walks off of him and the Tigers bullpen. Aaron Sanchez was excellent, the bats were excellent, and everything was excellent. A great way to start the second half! 7-2 Blue Jays.
On Saturday, the script flipped completely. Francisco Liriano couldn’t throw a strike and was pulled from the game in the third inning with neck soreness. It didn’t really matter because the Jays only managed two hits off of Michael Fulmer. 11-1 Tigers.
On Sunday, the Jays and Tigers went back and forth in an 11-inning rubber match. Anibal Sanchez and Marco Estrada both weren’t good, so the game turned into a bullpen match. The Jays blew multiple leads, including one in the eighth inning, and then ultimately lost on a walk-off walk in the bottom of the 11th. 6-5 Tigers.
So it was a frustrating weekend, exactly what we’ve come to expect from this team. They can look good one day, and terrible the next. They can look good one inning, and terrible the next. There really is no rhythm whatsoever here. Now sitting at 42-49, a series like this against a team like Detroit simply adds to the reasons to fold up on the 2017 season.
The 2017 Blue Jays experience! pic.twitter.com/JrfcY6JIIA— Cam Lewis (@cooom) July 16, 2017
Things that were good
- Aaron Sanchez was very good on Friday. Because of his issues with the blister, we haven’t had many opportunities to see Sanchez really put together an ace-like start this season. He tossed six innings, scattering seven hits and two walks, surrendering one unearned run. Apparently he didn’t have a problem with the blister, but the Sportsnet crew kept zooming in on him fidgeting with it which was stressful as fuck.
- Jose Bautista has continued be solid in the leadoff spot, a role that really seems to suit him at this point in his career. On Sunday, he hit a key go-ahead bomb in the fifth inning, but the team wasn’t able to take it home. Still, Bautista’s individual performance has been positive.
- After a couple of hitless games on Friday and Saturday, Justin Smoak was given a DH day on Sunday and hit a two-run opposite field bomb off of Anibal Sanchez. That’s obviously a good sign because we’re all naturally sorta worried his first half was some Michael Saunders nonsense.
Things that weren’t good
- That game on Saturday was a goddamn nightmare. When this team loses, boy oh boy do they lose big. James G pointed out an interesting stat about the Jays and deficits, in which their pitching just completely collapses when the other team jumps ahead by three or more runs. This stat matches the eye test as the Jays seem to have a knack for allowing other teams to kick the living shit out of them.
- Both Liriano and Estrada had poor starts. Liriano had been quite good before the break and can be cut some slack because of the sore neck, but Estrada has become a major point of concern. He’s only had one quality start since the beginning of June, and as Keegan Matheson pointed out, has seen his velocity decline. It’s hard at this point not to think that Estrada is working through some kind of injury.
- Troy Tulowitzki had a rough weekend with the stick, going 2-for-13 highlighted by a Sunday game in which he struck out looking three times. His OPS for the season now sits at .676. Also, Miguel Montero still doesn’t have a hit as a Blue Jay, and the team’s backup catchers have now combined to go 15-for-148. There are simply too many black holes in the lineup.
- The Sunday game was a damn shame. Losing big like they did on Saturday is one thing, but allowing a poor team like the Tigers with their dreadful bullpen to climb back into it is another. This seemed like one of those momentum wins — obviously this doesn’t actually mean much, but you know what I’m getting at — where the team can feel good going into a tough series, but glaring holes of the roster leaked. There is literally zero room for error the rest of the way, so losing winnable games like that really hurts.
The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays pic.twitter.com/2N2HQ7tUQt— BP Toronto (@BProToronto) July 16, 2017
The Jays won’t have a break for a while as they travel to Boston for four games with the Sox, Cleveland for three games with the Clevelanders, and then back home for four with the Athletics and three with the Angels. At the end of all of that we’ll be at the non-waiver trade deadline. So if this team is going somehow prove they can contend, they’re going to have to do so over this next two-week span.