A small three-game losing streak has seen Toronto slip out of a wild-card spot in the competitive American League, but the Blue Jays are not overly concerned.
Christopher Morel’s late RBI double handed the Chicago Cubs a 5-4 win over Toronto (65-54) on Saturday. Blue Jays starter Chris Bassitt said he won’t even look at the standings at this point in the season.
“It never works out if you’re scoreboard watching or standings watching. It never works out, ever,” said Bassitt, who allowed four runs on four hits, striking out six over six innings. “Talking about another team never works out ever so don’t worry about anyone but yourself.”
Whit Merrifield’s two-run homer in the sixth inning trimmed the Jays’ deficit to 4-3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s single and Santiago Espinal’s double also drove in runs. Yimi Garcia, Erik Swanson and Jordan Hicks (1-7) came out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen.
The loss put Toronto behind Seattle in the wild-card race, with the Mariners hosting the Baltimore Orioles later Saturday.
“There’s a lot of baseball left to be played and we’ve been through this before,” said Blue Jays manager John Schneider. “I think we’re playing good coming off a 5-2 road trip and a tight game today and kind of a mehh yesterday.
“It’s not concerning at all. There’s a lot of time left.”
Dansby Swanson had a three-run homer to give Chicago (61-56) a lead in the fourth after Cody Bellinger’s RBI single tied it 1-1.
Justin Steele struck out seven but allowed three runs on six hits over five innings. Relievers Michael Fulmer, Mark Leiter Jr., Jose Cuas, Julian Merryweather (4-0) and Adbert Alzolay followed him to the mound.
Toronto rookie infielder Davis Schneider got a rousing ovation from the sold-out crowd of 42,585 at Rogers Centre. He was called up to the Blue Jays major league roster from triple-A Buffalo on Aug. 4, making his debut in Boston. He hit an impressive .409 on that road trip.
Saturday’s game was his first ever in Toronto and he said beforehand that he wasn’t expecting anything for his Rogers Centre debut.
“The fans have been really, really, really cool so far to me,” said Schneider on Friday. “I see them in the street sometimes and they ask for autographs and pictures, which has been cool.
“It’s crazy to me because I’m from a small town in New Jersey. I never really expected anything like this before.”
Guerrero got the Blue Jays on the board in the third when his single went just over the outstretched glove of jumping Cubs second baseman Nico Hoerner, giving Daulton Varsho enough time to round third and score.
Chicago responded in the next inning, with Bellinger’s single off the right-field wall driving home Hoerner. Swanson cleared the bases in the next at bat, launching a three-run homer into the second deck above Toronto’s bullpen to plate Ian Happ and Bellinger for a 4-1 Cubs advantage.
Merrifield cut into that lead in the fifth, smashing his 11th home run of the season 406 feet over the centre-field wall. That bomb also scored Espinal.
Espinal tied it 4-4 an inning later when his hit bounced off the ground and over the centre-field wall for a double. That scored Davis Schneider from second, who had reached base on a double for his first-ever hit at Rogers Centre.
Because it was a ground-rule double, Cavan Biggio — who had reached base on a walk — was held at third instead of scoring the go-ahead run for Toronto.
“Yeah, that rule sucks. (Espinal) works the count, hit the ball on the nose, Cavan’s going to score easily but such is life with runners in scoring position for us, it seems, right now,” said John Schneider. “But just keep doing that and things will be all right.”
Bellinger led the ninth off with a double to deep right field. Two hitters later, Morel drilled an 86.4 m.p.h. sweeper from Hicks to left field, narrowly avoiding a tag from Davis Schneider at second for the double as Bellinger trotted home to make it 5-4 Chicago.
Former Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista was celebrated in a 45-minute pre-game ceremony. His name was added to Toronto’s Level of Excellence beside Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay.
An emotional Bautista was joined by his family, as well as several former teammates, coaches and managers, for the ceremony. He is the 11th person added to Toronto’s Level of Excellence.
Bautista and fellow former slugger Edwin Encarnacion received huge cheers from the sellout crowd of 42,585, as did former Toronto managers John Gibbons and Cito Gaston. Bautista threw out the first pitch to current Jays slugger and fellow Dominican star Guerrero.
— with a report from the Associated Press