Ah, the good old days. It was just last week that we were all filled with optimism. The scene was much like today, in that the Jays completed a series win over the Rays with a gritty Thursday afternoon effort to pull themselves to within three games of a playoff spot. At worst, meaningful September baseball was on the horizon.
But a lot can change in seven days. The Jays lost a listless game this afternoon in Tampa, and with it, they dropped the series, and, really, any faint hope they had of making a late-season surge to a wild card berth.
On Tuesday, Chris Rowley ran into trouble for the first time in his young major league career, getting tagged for four earned runs while failing to get out of the fourth inning. The bullpen did a solid job keeping the team in the game, but the bats weren’t able to complete the comeback. 6-5 Rays.
On Wednesday, the offence exploded for an early five-run lead in the first two innings off of homers from Josh Donaldson, Steve Pearce, Ryan Goins, and Raffy Lopez. Tampa made a comeback and eventually tied the game, but a solo homer from Kevin Pillar sealed the win. 7-6 Blue Jays.
On Thursday, Tom Koehler made his Blue Jays debut and pitched quite well. His five innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts was arguably his best outing of the season. Unfortunately, the offence did almost nothing and when there were chances to score, Kevin Kiermaier was there to ruin it. 2-0 Rays.
Things that were good
- Bleehhhhhhhhh. It isn’t easy to draw positives from this series. The bats weren’t all that good, though the lineup did explode for a handful of home runs on Wednesday and did nearly execute an impressive comeback on Tuesday. Josh Donaldson continued to hit, Steve Pearce was mashing the ball though didn’t actually have much to show for it, and Kevin Pillar has continued to look, uh, less bad at the plate.
- Tom Koehler! We were all very flippant about the beginning of the Koehler era in Toronto because of his whopping ERA, but the former Marlin put together a solid start and made a good first impression on Thursday. It’s a shame he didn’t get the win, but Koehler tossed five innings and allowed only one run while striking out seven. His command was good, his breaking stuff was fooling the Rays hitters, and he did a good job of working through trouble. That’ll play.
- The bullpen was also good, which was important because none of the starters this week cleared six innings. Tim Mayza had a couple of good showings, particularly his three strikeout, one-and-a-half inning outing on Thursday. Ryan Tepera continued to be a horse, grinding through a gritty ass inning on Wednesday to help secure the win. Overall, the ‘pen has been a major bright spot this season, and all of the guys in it are cheap and young, which bodes well for next year too.
Things that weren’t good
- Bluuuuuuuuuggggggggggh. There was quite a bit of not good this week! Especially from the bats! Maybe just feeling particularly jaded from a 1-5 road trip that essentially guttered the team’s playoff chances, but it just felt like an ugly series despite the fact neither loss was a blowout or a heartbreaker. You have Steve Pearce, Josh Donaldson, and Justin Smoak forming a formidable top three of the order, but after that, it becomes a black hole. You expect that from, like, Raffy Lopez, Ryan Goins, and whoever else is a part of that given day’s game of musical chairs, but you expect more from Jose Bautista, Miguel Montero, and Kendrys Morales. But recently, all three of them have essentially been auto outs. Bautista’s OPS has crept down to .700, and Morales only has one home run in August. Yikes!
- Kevin Pillar got ejected in Tuesday’s game for making a comment at the home plate umpire. It was, uh, terrible, as you’d expect. But hey, welcome to the ump show! Apparently you can’t criticize guys for maybe not doing the best job.
The Jays will welcome the Minnesota Twins to town for what once appeared to be a critical series with wild card race implications. Now that they’re five-and-a-half out, though, we’re basically playing spoiler.