BALTIMORE – There are tough losses, and then there are tough losses courtesy of Rougned Odor. On Monday, the Blue Jays experienced the first variety. On Tuesday they tried the second.
With a runner on first and no outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Yimi Garcia was trying to preserve a 5-4 lead. But he left a changeup at the plate and Odor, the scruffy, bearded infielder who once hit Jose Bautista, crushed him.
Not long after, the Orioles were celebrating a 6-5 victory and the Blue Jays had nothing to show for a long night at the stadium that included an hour and 18-minute rain delay. While the Blue Jays still hold a narrow lead for the first AL wild card spot, they are now just two games ahead of the Orioles with the Rays, Mariners and Guardians all clustered close as well.
“That sucks,” interim manager John Schneider said. “I think the rain delay hurt us with what little momentum we had. I wasn’t quite sure why they pulled the tarp when they did and then we burned (Zach Pop) for it.
“But every loss sucks. And I think now we have to score a few more runs and if we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Quite simply, the 60-50 Blue Jays need some separation in the standings and aren’t creating it.
Earlier in the night, the Blue Jays seemed well-positioned to even the series thanks to a pair of opposite-field homers by Bo Bichette. In the second inning, Bichette drove starter Kyle Bradish deep and with the rain closing in in the sixth, the shortstop sent a 99 mph fastball from Bryan Baker over the right field wall for his seventh career multi-homer game.
It’s certainly been an uneven offensive season for Bichette, but the two-homer game gives him 17 on the season along with a 105 wRC+. It’s not where he was last year, when he hit 29 home runs on a 122 wRC+, but he’s still productive.
“When he does that, it’s a really good thing,” Schneider said. “Since (the weekend series in) Minnesota, he’s had his best swing and been a little more selective. I know the walks aren’t there, but I think he’s hitting the pitches he should be hitting. batting”.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. extended his hitting streak to 20 games Tuesday and Jackie Bradley Jr. made his Blue Jays debut as a defensive replacement in center field.
“It’s going to be fun,” Bradley Jr. said before the game. “They are a very talented group and I am excited to help in any way I can.”
On the mound, Alek Manoah gave the Blue Jays a solid five innings, working around eight hits, one walk and one hit batter to limit the Orioles to three runs. A near triple-play would have erased two of those runs in the first inning, but umpires ruled that Whit Merrifield hadn’t made a clean catch on Anthony Santander’s line drive to center.
Either way, the right-hander struck out five while increasing his season innings total to 137, which ranks sixth in the MLB and atop the American League.
From here, the Blue Jays will continue to carefully monitor Manoah’s inputs, using advanced metrics and biometric information to ensure he is recovering well. Of course, they will also use the eye test as they regularly check on the 24-year-old to ensure he finishes the season strong and comes into October as strong as possible.
If the Jays have a big lead or Manoah runs into particularly stressful innings, the Jays will take that into account, but there’s no hard limit on his workload, which creates flexibility for the Jays as they enter the stretch.
When Manoah left the game, the Blue Jays initially turned to Zach Pop only to change plans after the lengthy delay. But once Odor took Garcia deep, the Blue Jays’ narrow lead disappeared, costing them against a team that must now be considered a playoff contender.
“I think we’re right where we need to be,” Manoah said afterwards. “We’ve added a couple of guys and we’ve come together as one unit. We will continue to push ourselves and try to become a complete product by playoff time.”
On Wednesday, the series finale awaits them, and with it, a chance to make up some of the ground they’ve now lost.
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