The Toronto Blue Jays open a three-game series Friday with the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., hoping they left at least some of their frustrations back in New York.
The exasperation spilled over Wednesday night in Toronto’s 5-3 loss to the Yankees. After a fifth-inning strikeout, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. snapped his bat over his left knee.
The Blue Jays stranded 15 runners and went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position during a pair of losses in Yankee Stadium.
After a strong 15-8 start that had them keeping pace with the Yankees, the Blue Jays have lost four in a row and seven of nine, and suddenly enter Thursday six games off the pace in the AL East.
“I think what gets lost on a lot of people is that we just had a long stretch and played some very, very good teams,” veteran Toronto outfielder George Springer said. “We had some close games, had a lot of mentally draining games and physically draining games.
“This is not an excuse for why we’re not doing what we expected to do as a team, but it happens. We’ve played 30 out of 31 days to start the year against really good teams. It’s hard to do.”
Springer said the Blue Jays are just pushing too hard.
“At this point in the year, we just have to slow some things down and not try to do too much,” Springer said. “Don’t try to hit the five-run homer if there’s nobody on base. Slow down, stay within ourselves because there’s a long way to go and a lot of time to right the ship.”
The Rays could have been in the same boat as the Blue Jays if it wasn’t for some late-game heroics by Vidal Brujan, who might be the latest gem up from Tampa Bay’s productive farm system.
After starting a 10-game West Coast trip with six consecutive wins, the Rays lost three in a row. Tuesday, they called up Brujan from Triple-A Durham, and Wednesday he was in the lineup. In the 10th inning, he smacked an RBI double, stole third base and scored on a single by Harold Ramirez as the Rays defeated the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 in 10 innings.
“Seven and three is a lot better than 6-4,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of the West Coast swing. “No doubt, avoiding four consecutive losses helps a lot.”
Toronto and Tampa Bay will open the series by putting the ball in the hands of one of their top pitchers. For Toronto, it will be veteran right-hander Kevin Gausman (3-1, 2.13 ERA). The Rays will turn to right-hander Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 2.89).
Rasmussen has allowed just two earned runs while winning his last three starts. The Blue Jays have won Gausman’s last four starts, as he has picked up three of the wins with one no-decision.
In 17 career games against Tampa Bay, including 15 starts, Gausman is 7-6 with a 4.00 ERA. Rasmussen is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three appearances (two starts) against the Blue Jays.