The Blue Jays are a .500 ball club — and given all the lineup turmoil around the team, they’ll probably take it.
From injuries to inconsistency, at times it has been a rough start to 2021, the latest blip being a 4-1 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday night at Oakland Coliseum.
In dropping their second in as many nights to the American League West leaders, the Jays fell to 14-14 and suffered from some of the inadequacies that have dogged them on the road this season.
With all the lineup shuffling because of injury, remaining in touch of a winning record has been an accomplishment. For all but one day of the season (7-10) on April 20) the Jays have been within two games of .500. But a 14-14 start isn’t a disaster as the Jays at least remain in touch in an American League East that has seen its share of ordinary play through the first month and change.
Though they were never a threat to win on Tuesday thanks to the dormant offence, the game was decided by four consecutive A’s batters in the second inning who went single, double, double, homer off of starter Anthony Kay to score all four of their runs.
There is the issue of being unable to score runs on the road, where the Jays are averaging slightly more than three per game, less than half of what they are producing at Dunedin’s TD Ballpark.
Athletics starter Cole Irvin had the Jays lineup stumped in his eight innings, the lefty holding Toronto to just three hits while striking out a career-high nine.
The Jays got their lone run — and just their second hit of the night — in the sixth inning when red-hot Marcus Semien lined a double up the gap to score Santiago Espinal from first.
On the rotation front, the Jays got some positive news on Tuesday when Nate Pearson made his season debut for triple-A Buffalo, striking out eight in 3.2 innings. Pearson is still weeks away from joining the big team, but the hard-throwing righty, who was projected to be a big part of the Jays staff, is at least on his way.
While the costly second inning was the undoing of lefty starter Kay, who didn’t allow a hit beyond that inning, the Jays pitching was decent overall. Trent Thornton threw 2.2 shutout innings, allowing just one hit in his longest outing of the season.
For Kay, there was signs of promise but with it a recognition that he needs to avoid big-damage innings. In his only previous start this season, he allowed four earned runs in one frame in a loss to the Royals back on April 15.
“I feel like I’ve got to eliminate that one big inning,” Kay said. “At best hold them to a run or two. If I can do that, obviously I’ll have better results.”
Jays manager Charlie Montoyo maintained that Kay will remain as a starter and at the least provide some depth in that role.
“He’s got good enough stuff to be a starter in the big leagues,” Montoyo said.
As for the offence, Montoyo tipped his cap to Irvin, who had his hitters waving at pitches all night.
“He did a good job of keeping us off balance,” Montoyo said. “We didn’t make the adjustments and that guy deserves a lot of credit.”
The Jays were without George Springer for the second consecutive game as the prized off-season acquisition continues to nurse a nagging quad injury and remains day-to-day.
Springer did some running on the field prior to Tuesday’s game and according to his manager, it didn’t go all that well.
“Not great, not bad,” Montoyo said. “He’s still day-to-day. We’ll see how he feels on Wednesday.”
While the former Houston Astros star’s status has remained puzzling, the Jays refuse to succumb to a sense of urgency in rushing the centre-fielder back into the lineup.
There’s no pressure now, after all, especially with a winning record within reach. It’s the luxury of the calendar remaining fixed to early May and a team that has yet to reach its full strength and full potential.
The big blow in the second was a two-run homer from the A’s Mitch Moreland. The Jays have seen plenty of that in the past, as it was Moreland’s 17th career round-tripper against the Jays … With Springer out and a busy stretch ahead, manager Charlie Montoyo juggled his lineup on Tuesday, putting Semien back to leadoff and moving over from second base to shortstop. Bo Bichette, the regular on the left side of the infield, had a night at DH … Cavan Biggio got the call at second, the third different position he’s played in the past three games … After an 0-for-4 night, Vlad Guerrero Jr. failed to reach base for just the second time this season.