The Toronto Blue Jays staggered through a weekend of heartbreak with their third loss in a row on Sunday.
A day after their popular first-base coach Mark (Bud) Budzinski and his wife Monica lost the eldest of three children, 17-year-old daughter Julia, to a sudden and unexpected death, the Blue Jays fell 7-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays before 35,757 at Rogers Centre.
On Saturday, the 48-year-old Budzinski left the Blue Jays in the third inning of the second game of the team’s doubleheader against the Rays after learning of the tragic news.
The Blue Jays issued a statement, saying that Budzinski would take some time away from the team to grieve with his family. There also was a moment of silence for Julia before the game as players and coaches from both teams stood in front of their respective dugouts.
The emotional damage was evident in the words and body language of the Blue Jays.
“My heart breaks for Bud,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said, his voice quivering with tenderness. “There’s good men and great men. He’s a great man. He’s a special kind of person. His family is great. The only thing I can share about what happened is that he left a note for the team. He did this while going through a tragedy, and that tells you everything about him.”
The Blue Jays reciprocated, with many players writing their coach in support. The outpouring was felt around the league, with Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora and his Detroit Tigers counterpart A.J. Hinch offering their sympathy.
Hinch was a minor-league roommate of Budzinski’s.
“He’s someone I consider a dear friend,” Hinch said. “His daughter is the same age as my daughters.”
“I just found out about his daughter passing away in an accident,” Cora said. “It puts everything in perspective.”
Montoya also left the nightcap of the doubleheader to be with Budzinski until he found a flight home to Richmond, Va. Montoya returned later in the game.
Blue Jays bullpen catcher Luis Hurtado coached first base in Budzinski’s absence.
Blue Jays management contemplated the possibility of not playing on Sunday.
“I was not aware of that,” Toronto starter Ross Stripling (4-3) said. “I think Bud would have wanted us to play, try to win the series. But that’s not the way it unfolded.”
The Blue Jays (44-36) lost their third game in a row to the Rays (43-36) to drop the five-game set 3-2 and split their week-long eight-game homestand at 4-4.
The Blue Jays were tied 1-1 through four innings after leaving eight runners on base, including six stranded in scoring position.
In the fifth inning, the Rays scored six times. Stripling yielded a leadoff double to Taylor Walls, who scored Yandy Diaz’s single to right field.
Harold Ramirez drilled a two-run shot to right field to end Stripling’s day. He lasted 4 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
Stripling had not allowed more than two runs in five straight starts.
Toronto reliever Trent Thornton replaced Stripling and was greeted with a solo homer from Ji-Man Choi and a two-run blast to straightaway centre field two batters later to Arozarena.
The Rays enjoyed a 14-hit offensive outing with Choi leading the way with three hits. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. also enjoyed a three-hit tour.
Tampa Bay starter Shane Baz (1-1) squeezed out of jams in the first four innings, leaving the bases loaded in the first and fourth frames.