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Jays starter Alek Manoah yells at an Orioles batter in Toronto on May 20, 2023.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

This was meant to be the first great homestand of the 2023 Toronto Blue Jays season. Ten full days of late springtime baseball with the top popped at the Rogers Centre.

Instead, it ends with a surly holiday-weekend crowd booing Jays’ reliever Yimi Garcia onto the team plane. You can’t blame them. Eleven innings is a long time to hang around just to watch batting practice.

It had been a tight package of a game, tied 2-2 after nine. Then Garcia gave up five fat hits and blew out his team’s waistband. It ended 8-3 for Baltimore.

Here’s a sentence you were not expecting to read back in March – the Jays just got swept by the Orioles. That was after losing three of four to the New York Yankees.

Here’s another unlikely proposition – the Jays are now getting comfortable in last place in the AL East. They haven’t brought up the divisional rear so late in a campaign since they were tiptoeing into the tank in 2017.

Toronto’s still above .500 (25-22) and still in the wild-card conversation, but fair to say things are not trending in the right direction.

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What’s the problem?

Offence. And defence. And the bullpen. And every once in a while, the starters.

Right now, Toronto is an anti-renaissance man – it doesn’t do anything particularly well. It is average at just about everything. It’s so average that its run differential is hovering just above zero.

But the thing that’s really starting to get you thinking are the mistakes. The Jays are an especially accident-prone class. They’re always running into things or each other and falling down and going boom.

On Saturday, manager John Schneider forgot that pitching coach Pete Walker had already gone out to see starter Alek Manoah.

Manoah’s been having a miserable year. Saturday was one of his rare good outings.

Manoah had completed nearly six innings of work and thrown 85 pitches. He wasn’t going to be out there much longer in any case.

But two mound visits meant Manoah was forced by rule to leave the game.

It’s a little mistake, but it’s still a mistake. They add up.

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On Sunday, there were a million things like that. Vladimir Guerrero firing a ball hit in the infield to home plate to try to catch a runner he was never catching, and giving up the automatic out. George Springer and Kevin Kiermaier both hitting into inning-ending double plays with runners on third. The team leaving a dozen runners on base.

The one that really caught your attention was Kiermaier and Whit Merrifield getting their wires crossed on an easily catchable ball in left field. Kiermaier thought Merrifield had it. Merrifield saw it the other way. Kiermaier ended up looking silly trying to make a last-nanosecond basket catch. As he dusted himself off, he gave Merrifield the full-on laser-beam treatment.

Then Garcia began vandalizing a lovely afternoon.

The best thing that happened to the Jays over this homestand? The Leafs.

The local hockey team’s C-suite telenovela has occupied all of the city’s sporting bandwidth. Because of that, nobody’s noticed that the would-be World Series favourites a few blocks over are losing altitude in a hurry.

But that cover won’t last, and things are not getting any easier. The Jays are in the midst of 17 consecutive days of games. The bullpen already looks ragged. The offence is running cold.

Now they’re headed down to Tampa to face the best team in baseball. Then it’s on to Minnesota to play the AL Central leaders.

The Jays haven’t dug themselves into any holes they can’t get out of, but they are digging. In a week’s time, this could be a crisis.

Kelly: Manoah the heartbeat of a more serious Blue Jays team that was too loose last season

So the really important baseball work on Sunday happened after the game. It was convincing everyone that things are fine. Fine. Totally fine. Absolutely fine.

“It’s at the point where enough’s enough,” Schneider said. “You’re waiting for it to turn. It will. Not ‘I think’ it will. I know it will.”

There you go – the Jays will get better. Why? Because a guy who isn’t permitted to pitch or hit knows it will.

This is where a good manager earns his money. The jackals of the press are sitting there parsing your vocal tone and body language for symptoms of early-onset hysteria. If they sense weakness, they will launch a pack attack. They can’t help it. It’s in their nature.

Once the media decides this plane is going down, it’s a matter of time before the manager has to start telling people the plane is just fine. And that’s when the plane starts going down.

Schneider did a good job of sounding confident and breezy, without appearing detached or delusional. It’s a hard balance to strike. It even looked real.

But he must be feeling the wobbles. The odds are this was an outlier, and that the team is somewhere close to as good as it looks on paper. But better teams have had seasons undone by one awful streak. All it requires is a month’s worth of bad baseball luck in the space of a week.

The Jays just had a week like that. It’s hard to say if that’s down to the quality of opposition (estimable), problems with their own fundamentals (not inconsiderable) or bad karma.

However what just happened happened, it’s not an emergency yet. Good baseball teams are allowed to have really bad weeks. They just can’t have two in a row.

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