Before the game against the Chicago White Sox on Sunday, Jose Bautista tested his sore right hamstring by doing a variety of running drills on the field at Rogers Centre.
Afterward, Bautista proclaimed he was feeling “okay,” even though he only ran at about 50-per-cent capacity.
That is the sort of production the Blue Jays offence is running on of late as the team’s perch atop the American League East is growing more tenuous by the day.
The Blue Jays’ (45-39) bats mostly slept through another game, and the result was a predictable 4-0 victory by the White Sox (39-44), who came to town to take three of four from Toronto.
After punching out seven hits during Saturday’s 4-3 loss, the Blue Jays could muster just four against White Sox pitching, two of them by Jose Reyes.
“If we want to continue to be in first place we need to play better baseball,” Reyes said bluntly.
It was another frustrating day on the mound for Mark Buehrle, the Toronto starter who pitched well enough to win but had to settle for the loss.
Buehrle lasted eight innings, allowing two of the Chicago runs off six hits, including a home run by Moises Sierra in the fourth inning.
For the third consecutive game, the Blue Jays were facing a tough lefty in Jose Quintana (5-7), who stymied the Toronto batters on just three hits while striking out seven over eight innings.
After leading the AL East by as many as six games back on June 6, the Blue Jays have gone on to lose 15 of their last 22 games, cutting their lead to just 1 <AF>1/2<XA> games.
They desperately miss Bautista’s bat in the lineup, along with Brett Lawrie, who has been out for the past week after breaking a finger. He isn’t expected back for at least another month.
“We got zero going and it’s frustrating,” said manager John Gibbons.
One of the highlights of the game as far as the 33,177 fans were concerned occurred in the bottom of the sixth inning when Bautista was given a hearty ovation as he came in to pinch hit for Dioner Navarro with two runners on.
Bautista then hit into a fielder’s choice.
The messages were just a bit mixed from Bautista on the status of his strained hamstring, which he injured running to first base last weekend in Cincinnati.
He’s hoping to avoid the disabled list and tested out his progress before the game by doing some light running on the field.
Afterward he said his hamstring still felt a bit sore, which cannot be a good sign for Gibbons, who is having to make due with a short bench during the all-star’s absence.
“I’m feeling okay,” Bautista said. “I ran at about 50 to 60 per cent, and it was a little sore, which is normal. But it didn’t feel weak – I didn’t feel like I was going to pull it.”
The Blue Jays have an off day on Monday before beginning a two-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Bautista remains optimistic that he might be able to play on Tuesday, at least in a designated hitter capacity.
The Blue Jays were guilty of some atrocious base running in the first inning after Darin Mastroianni, who was called up from Triple-A by the Blue Jays on Saturday and got the start in left field, poked a one-out grounder.
Edwin Encarnacion then lifted a high pop fly in foul territory behind the plate that Chicago catcher Tyler Flowers handled easily.
Flowers must have been as surprised as anyone when he looked up and saw that Mastroianni was still about 12 feet off the bag at first.
So when Mastroianni stumbled, Flowers easily picked him off at first.
The White Sox scored first in the third inning when rookie Jose Abreu extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single to left field to score Gordon Beckham.
Sierra, the former Blue Jay, then homered in the next inning, hammering a fat Buehrle change-up to make it 2-0.
“I pretty much teed one up for him and that’s what he’s supposed to do with it,” said Buehrle, who has four losses and a no decision in his last five outings, his record now 10-4.
Sergio Santos came on in relief in the ninth inning and allowed two runs off two hits while also walking one.