The Toronto Blue Jays’ woes continued against the Houston Astros when the bullpen lost the team the game on Thursday.
By the end of the top of the seventh, the Jays had added an extra insurance run with a sacrifice fly from outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to give the team a 4-2 lead over the Astros.
Drew Hutchison’s night was done, as his pitch count was rising and he had finished a quality start with six innings pitched.
Then, reliever Aaron Loup came in, and for the Jays, that was the nail in the coffin. The Astros’ comeback started with a soft liner to the outfield, then Loup walked Chris Carter.
After a double from Preston Tucker, the lead was narrowed down to one run and the flood gates opened.
After another double, the Astros had a 5-4 lead and Loup pitched himself out of the ballgame – failing to retire one single batter after facing four. Robert Osuna came in to try to salvage the one run, getting one out and then, red hot second baseman Jose Altuve stole second base.
Catcher Josh Thole threw to Ryan Goins to pick off Altuve, and was almost successful, except the ball slipped right through Goins’ legs without his knowledge, and tried to show the second-base umpire an empty glove.
On the error, Jonathan Villar scored from third base, resulting in the game’s final run, where the Astros won 6-4, improving their record to 22-13, which ties them for first place in the American League with the Kansas City Royals.
The loss has given the Blue Jays a current 17-19 record, meaning a .472 average. In the highly competitive American League East division, they’re head-to-head with the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, and four games back the division-leading New York Yankees.
At one point in tonight’s game, the Jays had a 2-1 lead at the end of the first, where they had back-to-back homers in their half of the inning off of Roberto Hernandez, where Jose Bautista got his sixth homer and then Edwin Encarnacion hammered his eighth.
The Blue Jays’ problem isn’t its hitting at all. According to ESPN, they are leading all of baseball with 185 runs scored. Then why the heck do they only have a .472 average?
It’s the pitching.
While the batters are leading the league with runs scored, let’s just say that the pitchers are not. They’re on the other side of the spectrum entirely. They are 28th in the league, according to ESPN, with a 4.60 earned run average (ERA). That’s only better than Boston’s 4.90 ERA and the Colorado Rockies’ 5.33 ERA.
The Jays haven’t had the best luck – with rookie Marcus Stroman having to sit out the season with a torn ACL that he experienced fielding bunts in a pitcher’s drill in spring training, the Jays also had to send down starter Daniel Norris, as he was dealing with a case of dead arm – where a pitcher cannot pitch as powerfully as usual.
Their pitcher last night, young gun Aaron Sanchez gave up five runs by the second inning, resulting in a 6-1 loss to Baltimore. He came from the bullpen, as he pitched relief last year, and is struggling with control issues – walking far too many batters. It’s truly too bad that he cannot be sent back to the bullpen, because there just aren’t as many options for the Jays at this moment.
The batters simply cannot be relied on to hit every game, and then the pitchers let up five or six runs. If the pitching can’t get out of the basement from 28th in the league, the team’s not going to win many ballgames. They at least need to get to a respectable number, and the batting and the pitching need to get on the same page.
Remember: There’s still a lot of baseball to still be played, as the Jays just finished their 36th game and there’s 162 to be played in the season, and the fan in me thinks the Jays could get back on track soon.
The Blue Jays play again tomorrow night at 8:10 EST, and will play the Houston Astros three more times in the four-game series.