If you are scuffling at the plate and the pitching is mediocre, chances are you are not going to fare all that well in baseball’s most important statistical area – the final score.
So it goes for the suddenly suspect Toronto Blue Jays, who for several weeks enjoyed a charmed life as they charged up the American League East standing. Every ball they struck seemed to fall in for a hit and the pitching was more than adequate.
And the wins kept piling up. First it was a nine-game win streak in May that the Jays leveraged into a first-place perch. The lead stretched to as many as six games when Toronto cobbled together another six-game winning run through June 6.
Now the realities of the game – its cyclical nature – have come back to bite the formerly high-flying squad in the butt.
The Jays (39-28) lost for the fourth time in their last five games Wednesday afternoon at Rogers Centre, looking decidedly out of sync in falling 7-2 to the Minnesota Twins (31-33).
“I think we’ve cooled off pretty good, pretty much top to bottom throughout that lineup,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We’re not getting any [hits] in bunches and following hits with other hits and things like that. But that’s the way it goes.”
It was not a great showing for the home side before a healthy turnout of 45,080, but at least Toronto finally managed to score a couple of runs, both in the eighth inning after the Twins had the game well in hand.
Until then, the Jays had rattled off 16 straight scoreless innings, not having moved a runner across the plate since Monday night’s walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.
And now the Blue Jays will be forced to show how they handle a little bit of adversity, heading out on the road for a 10-game trip, including a couple of key series against AL East rivals.
The journey will begin Thursday night in Baltimore for the first of a four-game set against the Orioles. Then the Jays will take on the Yankees in New York for three games, before concluding the trip in Cincinnati against the Reds.
“I think it’s going to be good to get on the road,” Gibbons said. “We’ve been at home a long time. A little change of pace, a little change of scenery might do us some good.”
The road just might be the tonic the Blue Jays need to get back on track.
Heading into play on Wednesday, the Blue Jays had amassed a 19-11 record away from Rogers Centre this season, a .633 win percentage, the second highest among Major League teams this season. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers, who played the Reds in Cincinnati Wednesday night, have enjoyed more success than Toronto on the road, their 22-12 mark working out to a .640 success rate.
The Blue Jays offence has been abysmal of late. During the recent six-game win streak, Toronto batters hit a combined .302 with nine home runs as the team averaged 6.5 runs per game. During the four losses, the hitters batted .180 and scored just two runs.
The pitchers compiled a collective 1.67 earned-run average during the streak of success, compared with a hefty 5.00 during the skid.
“The bats are going to come around, all the guys in the clubhouse are pretty positive about it,” said Marcus Stroman, the rookie Jays pitcher who had a so-so start against the Twins. “I have 100-per-cent confidence in every single guy in that lineup, that the guys are going to start doing what they were doing at the beginning of the year.”
Stroman, who was pitching despite battling illness, allowed the Twins a quick lead in their first at-bat when Josh Willingham crushed a two-run home run to left.
After that, Stroman settled down and managed to shut the Twins off until the sixth when Trevor Plouffe lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Kendrys Morales for a 3-0 Minnesota advantage. Looking for his third straight victory since joining the Blue Jays rotation, Stroman saw his record dip to 2-1 after surrendering three Minnesota runs off nine hits over six innings.
Before the game, the Jays made a roster move, summoning right-handed pitcher Bobby Korecky from Triple-A Buffalo, with outfielder Kevin Pillar – Monday night’s walk-off hero – going the other way.
Korecky came on in relief of Stroman and quickly surrendered three more runs in the seventh to make it 6-0. After the game, the Jays announced that Korecky would be returning to Triple-A, to be replaced by outfielder Darin Mastroianni.
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