In ‘urgent’ situation, Blue Jays fall short once again

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TORONTO – John Schneider’s choice of words to describe where the Toronto Blue Jays are in their season right now: urgent. It’s a pretty wise choice as his players face their most severe challenge yet this summer in less than the sum of its parts, amid questions big and small and shaky roster-wide play that devours their place in nature. -Card race.

To that end, the interim manager met with Bo Bichette a couple of times to discuss his decision to move the shortstop down to seventh in the batting order, the lowest he had started in a major league game, with Matt Chapman moving up. . to the fifth on Tuesday. He gathered the players together for what he said was a brief pregame talk about what they needed to do against the Baltimore Orioles, though it wouldn’t be surprising if more than that came out. And he left the door open for Yusei Kikuchi not to make his next start on Saturday, the rotation to be determined beyond Jose Berrios on Thursday and Kevin Gausman on Friday in New York against the Yankees.

The essence? There is a lot of management right now.

That victory has yet to follow is a growing concern, Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to the Orioles made it nine losses in the club’s last 12 outings, all against teams surrounding them in the race for the playoffs.

Ross Stripling returns from the disabled list to start Wednesday’s final game, and if the Blue Jays don’t avoid a sweep, Baltimore will take them to third place as a wild card, one of many testing moments to come in the coming weeks.

“With what we’ve been through the last two years in terms of where we’ve been playing and the kinds of games we’ve been playing, those experiences mean a lot going forward,” Schneider said. “A lot of guys have been to a lot of those places. That’s where the urgency comes in and you have to get it up and running pretty quickly.”

This one started out promising as Alek Manoah was his dominant early self and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., followed up George Springer’s opening infield single with an impressive two-run homer, hitting a 398-foot mid-down fastball despite a apex of only 43 feet.

The trajectory was remarkable.

“I was looking for that pitch and I got it and made good contact,” Guerrero said through interpreter Héctor Lebrón.

Still, the auspicious start wasn’t enough to stave off an inauspicious finish, as the game began to turn once the Blue Jays were left empty after loading the bases with one out in the third. Chapman quickly fell behind 0-2 to Dean Kremer before rolling over an outside cutter for a late-inning double play and the game went from there before a crowd of 37,940.

Manoah, sailing through four, gave up back-to-back solo shots to Cedric Mullins and Adley Rutschman in the fifth to tie the game and then allowed a two-out RBI single to Ramon Urias in the sixth that set up the go-ahead run. A rare error by Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field allowed Urías to take second and after Manoah walked Jorge Mateo, Anthony Bass gave up another RBI single to Ryan McKenna that made it 4-2.

Illustrative of how things are going for the Blue Jays, Teoscar Hernández made a strong throw at the plate, but it missed Alejandro Kirk, preventing him from scoring.

The Blue Jays burned down their challenge by questioning a safe play on a pick attempt at first base in that inning, and that came through in the seventh, when Raimel Tapia appeared to have an infield hit, but his team had lost their review.

That came a few pitches after Tapia parried an offer from Kremer on a hit-and-run attempt and Santiago Espinal, who had injected some life into the Blue Jays’ dugout with a bunt single, was ejected trying to steal the ball. second.

Everything fell into the category when it rains, it pours.

“We probably had our best contact guy in there on a 1-0 count and it didn’t work out,” Schneider said. “Watching the pace and cadence of the game, what was going on, trying to push the issue a little bit to get back on top with George, knowing that Dillon Tate was coming in. Best case is first and third with one out, worst case first and second, one out and we’ll take our chances there. It didn’t work.

That has been the case more often than not over the past two lopsided weeks for the Blue Jays. Guerrero pointed to the club hitting with runners in scoring position as a problem lately, believing that needs to change as Toronto has totaled just 24 runs in the last nine games.

At the same time, the Blue Jays allowed 49 runs in the same span and this is a moment to keep faith with.

“You have to trust yourself,” Guerrero said. “And I said to my teammates, keep trusting yourselves, keep working hard, somehow, at some point, things are going to change.”

Given that they are now 2-6 against the Orioles, with four games against the New York Yankees, against whom they are 4-8, then Schneider’s word of the day, urgent, applies even more.

“We’re still in a playoff spot. We are a playoff team. We know we are a playoff team. We’re going through a tough stretch and we’re going to continue to get better,” Manoah said, adding that the Orioles right now “are doing a good job. We are going to see many more of them in the final stretch. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

To that end, the Blue Jays are considering starting Mitch White in Kikuchi’s place this weekend against the Yankees and will continue to look to make things happen in their lineup.

Dropping Bichette was jarring, but his .727 OPS currently ranks seventh on the Blue Jays’ list, with his .427 slugging percentage in sixth and his .300 on-base percentage in eighth. While he’s clearly a more talented hitter than that, right now that’s where he’s at and with the Blue Jays needing to find ways to rack up hits, a lineup change is understandable.

“Just shaking things up and giving guys different looks and seeing how it shakes, really,” Schneider said. “Nothing in particular. Much like Chappy’s at-bats recently, the offense really hasn’t been sweeping. So I just try to shake it up.”

Shake harder, shake different as the Blue Jays continue to search for a combination to get them out of a funk that’s deepening by the day.

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