The Blue Jays are stuck in neutral

Photo credit:© Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Veronica Chung
1 month ago
Breaking their five-run curse on Monday was supposed to be a good omen for the Toronto Blue Jays. With a wobbly but promising 6-5 win on Monday night, Toronto was seemingly on the path to redemption after a frustrating stretch that put the team on a losing record. The only way was up for the Blue Jays. But little did they know they were stuck in neutral. 
It was clear that Tuesday wasn’t exactly going to be a piece of cake as the Blue Jays prepared to face Cole Ragans, the ace of the staff for the Kansas City Royals. If there was a glimmer of hope, Ragans was no longer completely impenetrable for Toronto. There were several opportunities for the Blue Jays lineup to finally crack Ragans to score runs when they were playing in Kansas City last week, but they couldn’t take full advantage of it. 
On Tuesday night, the Blue Jays let Ragans dominate the game aside from the bottom of the sixth inning. Toronto couldn’t muster up much other than four singles and two walks throughout the entire game. The Royals didn’t do significantly better than the Blue Jays in the hitting department, but they cashed in runs strategically when they got the chance. 
Too many opportunities slipped by the Blue Jays when runners were in scoring position and their overall offence hasn’t made much stride compared to the 2023 season. By and large, the Blue Jays ranked 23rd in their offensive production while ranking 29th in terms of hitting with runners in scoring position according to Kaitlyn McGrath from The Athletic. It also doesn’t help that the top of the lineup for the Blue Jays hasn’t produced much yet. Right fielder George Springer, shortstop Bo Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have a batting average above .230 and they’ve only hit seven home runs collectively. Without much contribution from the top three players, the Blue Jays may struggle with a scoring drought for an extended period of time just like the 2023 season. 
In the absence of productions from Springer, Bichette and Guerrero Jr., designated hitter Justin Turner and catcher Danny Jansen have contributed the most with their offensive prowess. However, one or two players can’t simply carry the lineup every single game, especially when there are still at least a hundred more games to be played. That was abundantly clear when Turner struggled to hit or score on Tuesday while Jansen was on his off day. 
The unsettling part about the current Toronto Blue Jays’ discourse is that the pitching isn’t holding up as it used to. Pitching is still the main strength of this team, but they have not been as dominant as the 2022 or 2023 seasons with less depth to rely on. The team isn’t as lucky with pitching injuries anymore either with fifth starter Yariel Rodriguez going on an injured list most recently. Reliever Chad Green is still on the injured list and there are not many reliable pitchers in the Blue Jays’ system that the team can bank on to confidently win games. 
Reliever struggles are also adding further to the team’s burden as Génesis Cabrera and Erik Swanson continue to search for the best version of themselves. That’s not to say that Toronto’s bullpen is ineffective; rather, it remains one of the team’s strengths but hasn’t quite reached last season’s dominance yet.
Pitching can only prevent runs for so long – it has to work synergistically with a productive offence that can consistently score runs. The Blue Jays will only face more tougher opponents down the road and the new and improved Royals have been the testament to a harder playing field. It’s no secret that more teams became competitive over the last season by signing free agents, trading for effective players or bringing up young talents. For underperforming Blue Jays, it will be much more difficult for the team to come out successfully in each and every series if their offence and pitching continue to be out of sync.
It’s undeniable that the Blue Jays are stuck in neutral as they bounce between a 0.500 record and a losing record. With one more game to go in their series against Kansas City this Wednesday, Toronto doesn’t have much time to bounce back and carry on the momentum that it desperately needs to create. Their road trip to Washington and Philadelphia won’t particularly be easy either since the Washington Nationals became a much peskier team while the Philadelphia Phillies remain one of the potent powerhouses in their offence. 
The 2024 Toronto Blue Jays now have the same exact record (15-16) as the 2023 Seattle Mariners. If you recall, the Mariners last season also couldn’t climb out of their dead neutral record for months until they finally had a white-hot August that put them up to a healthy winning record. But their hot streak came to a squeaking halt as September rolled in and the team eventually got eliminated from the playoff contention by game 162. 
Toronto needs to rebound more quickly if they want to avoid the same fate as the 2023 Seattle Mariners. There have already been multiple wake-up calls for the Blue Jays during the 31-game stretch. If they fail to answer the call, they may be in for a gnarly spiral that they aren’t even ready for. That’s the cost of playing with fire.

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