John Gibbons has been around way too long to expect a team to rally around a fire-storm like the one J.P. Arencibia created on Thursday. That usually only happens in the movies – or, if a team has a history of winning together.
And neither did the Toronto Blue Jays manager need to check the standings to figure out that his team, which had just been dealt an 11-1 humbling by the Detroit Tigers, had essentially undone much of the good from its 11-game winning streak.
“That feels like a long time ago,” Gibbons remarked after his team lost its eighth game in its past 11, this one an all-encompassing rout in front of 35,978 at the Rogers Centre.
“We were bound to cool off at some point, but if you’re legit you still have to win some tough games against some pretty good opponents.”
Even without Miguel Cabrera, who was left out of the Tigers lineup because of tightness in his lower back, and even with the return of Edwin Encarnacion to the Blue Jays lineup this affair was an early-round K.O. Without command of his bread and butter two-seam fastball, Esmil Rogers (3-4) was easy pickings for the Tigers, who rapped out 16 hits led by Austin Jackson’s second four-hit game of the season.
But that was easy to explain.
“In the bullpen my sinker was not working too much,” Rogers said. “I tried to bring it back in the game.”
That happens, right?
Less easy to explain was the manner in which the Blue Jays played the game. Colby Rasmus misjudged a sinking liner to centre-field; Jose Bautista decided to argue balls and strikes with home plate umpire Jerry Layne with the Blue Jays down 7-0 and Justin Verlander working on a three-hitter; and Arencibia needed to huddle with closer Casey Janssen in a messy, make-work project in the ninth inning for Janssen, who hadn’t pitched in three days and walked two while giving up a hit.
The Jays were losing 9-0 at the time. Really, at that point it’s about throwing strikes.
“Tonight we didn’t play good baseball – plain and simple,” Gibbons said. “It was not a good ball game – and when Justin Verlander’s on the mound, you know you’re not going to get much.”
Verlander allowed three singles and two walks, retiring the first 11 batters he faced until Encarnacion singled. Rogers surrendered 11 of the Tigers 16 hits and was charged with seven runs, striking out four and walking two.
The Blue Jays have undone much of the good from that 11-game winning streak that breathed new life into the 2013 season. They started the streak on June 11, when they were 12 games out of the American League East and 10 back in the wild-card race. After their final win of the streak, they’d clawed to within five games of the division lead and were within three games of the wild-card. Thursday’s loss left them 11 games out of the division lead and 6 ½ back in the wild-card, with the Texas Rangers playing a late game.
The Blue Jays will open a three-game series at the Rogers Centre against the Minnesota Twins on Friday, with Mark Buehrle (4-5, 4.81) on the mound against the Twins Kevin Correia (6-5, 4.08).