Photo Credit: © Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Limp offence and questionable management decisions cost the Blue Jays in the rubbermatch

Strong pitching, limp bats, puzzling decisions, and a late-game bullpen meltdown. Ladies and gents, your 2020 Toronto Blue Jays.

Things worth mentioning…

  • Coming into the game, the big draw was Nate Pearson making the second start of his career after a brilliant debut in Washington last week. Things didn’t go quite so well for Pearson this time largely due to some issues with his command, but he still showed incredibly promising signs of what makes him such a good pitcher.
  • Pearson went five innings, scattering three earned runs. Two of those runs came directly from some poor command. In the first inning, he walked Dansby Swanson on four pitches and Freddie Freeman golfed a two-run homer immediately after. In the fourth, Marcell Ozuna hit a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch before eventually scoring on a sac fly.

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  • But still, the positive here is that, despite not having his best command, Pearson was still able to put together a strong start for the Blue Jays. Atlanta mustered just two hits off of him over five innings and he struck out five. Pearson’s best moment of the night came when he made Johan Camargo, a pretty decent hitter, look like a little leaguer. Pearson started with a curveball and changeup combination to get Camargo off balance before blowing him away with a perfectly-placed 99 miler-per-hour heater up high.

  • There were clearly points during the game in which Pearson was visibly frustrated with himself, like when he walked Swanson on four pitches and when he lost Tyler Flowers after going ahead 1-2 in the count. After the game, Pearson talked about the adjustments he made in-game, focusing more on command.  “It was a grind,” Pearson said. “It was hot, humid. Just trying to find the strike zone at times. I had some success, then not so much. I only gave up two hits, but I’ve really got to focus on throwing strikes from here on out. I think that’s going to change the whole dynamic of the way I pitch as long as I control the zone more.”
  • Again, the result wasn’t as gorgeous as the five shutout innings he put up against Washington, but if this is what Pearson looks like when he’s having a difficult time, that goes to show you just how electric he is.

  • Pearson didn’t end up being the story of Thursday’s game. That honour was, yet again, given to Charlie Montoyo. Thursday’s gaffe was a new one, as the manager tried to bring in Jacob Waguespack to start the sixth inning, but, after yo-yo-ing from the roster to the taxi squad and back, it turned out that Waguespack was left off of the lineup card. So Waguespack came in, left immediately, and Rafael Dolis had to come in and pitch instead.
  • The mistake ultimately pushed Toronto’s bullpen ahead by an inning, which came back to haunt them in the ninth. Dolis, A.J. Cole, and Jordan Romano shut Atlanta down in the sixth, seventh, and eighth, and then, with the score tied in the ninth, Montoyo opted to roll with Wilmer Font in order to save closer Anthony Bass for the extra innings save situation. The only issue with that, as Buck Schowalter will tell you, is you have to actually get to that save situation first. Font ended up allowing a walk-off homer to Nick Markakis, which felt inevitable as soon as he entered the game. That’s really no fault of Font, as he’s clearly not at his best due to missing Summer Camp and the first week of the season with an injury. That probably isn’t the right pitcher to bring into a tied game in the ninth inning. But, yet again, Montoyo is managing the game for next inning or tomorrow or next week or whatever situation in the future rather than managing for right now. And, again, it cost the team.

  • Montoyo had also made a puzzling decision before the game, leaving the team’s hottest hitter, Teoscar Hernandez, out of the lineup. The choice was made due to Atlanta’s starter having heavy splits that favoured using left-handed hitters, but, of all the right-handed guys to take out in favour of *checks notes* Joe Panik, Teoscar isn’t the guy. He came up clutch with a game-tying single as a pinch hitter, but the Jays certainly could have used a few more at-bats from him throughout the game.