Sports Baseball

BLUE JAYS

Blue Jays bats silent in shutout loss to Orioles

By Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun

TORONTO — Following a demoralizing loss on Wednesday, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons had maintained that his charges were “resilient” and would bounce back in the series wrapper against the Baltimore Orioles.

Gibbons was wrong and the Jays dropped what might have been the last game played at the Rogers Centre in the 2016 season 4-0.

The pitching remained more than capable, but the once-mighty lineup continued its alarming fade to black, a disappearance that is threatening the club’s chances of making the Wild Card game, let alone hosting it.

Ubaldo Jimenez, he of the unimpressive 5.71 ERA heading in, one-hit the Jays through 6.2 innings and the Orioles scratched out a few runs to pull even with the Jays at 87-72 with three to play.

“We are not getting a lot of hits that’s for sure,” Gibbons said. “You have to give (Jimenez) credit he basically shut us down tonight. We couldn’t get anything going.”

Coming off of a dispiriting 3-2 loss that featured relievers Roberto Osuna and Jason Grilli both getting rocked, the Jays started off with a single and a walk, but stranded leadoff hitter Ezequiel Carrera at third. Devon Travis got left on third as well in the third inning and the Jays didn’t even get a runner to second base the rest of the way.

Jimenez has been much better in the second half of the season and has baffled much of the Toronto lineup historically (Jose Bautista had hit .086 with one extra-base hit coming in, Josh Donaldson just .192, Troy Tulowitzki .125), but he shouldn’t have looked this good.

Toronto has scored four runs or more only eight times since Sept. 7 in 20 games. In that span there have been two shutouts and three one run performances.

The big bats have been silenced by a variety of opponents. The clearest symbol of this futility at the worst possible time — lit up like some kind of mocking Bat Signal is the fact that Thursday was the 16th consecutive Jays loss when the team failed to hit a home run. A one-trick pony seldom accomplishes much.

Bautista took his share of the blame and expects things to turn shortly.

“We had seven chances today with runners in scoring position and we didn’t do that and obviously that falls on guys like me to drive the runs in and we’ve got to do a better job,” Bautista said.

“(The starters have) done outstanding, we’ve just got to give them better support.”

Not even the return of top hitter Travis could get the Jays going. On the good news front, Travis, looked fine fielding a tough early ground ball at second.

He will likely be back in the leadoff spot in Boston for the final three games of the regular season.

The offensive struggles aren’t anything particularly new. Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey ranked No. 9 and 10,respectively, in the American League in worst run support per start heading into Thursday’s games. The Jays have not given an improving Stroman much run support either, he is now in the top-20 himself for fewest runs provided by his offence per start and it has only gotten worse lately.

The Duke product has now lost his past five decisions, with the offence only managing five total runs in support over that span. Even last week’s no-decision against New York was a huge let-down, since Stroman one-hit the Yankees through seven innings, without conceding a run, with the Jays not scoring until he left the game in the victory.

Still, Stroman and Bautista are confident all is not lost.

“It’s the same mentality we had when we went down 2-0 to Texas (in the playoffs) last year,” Stroman said. “We are hoping that our luck starts to turn and we can go into Boston and get some wins.”

On Thursday, Stroman ended a remarkable run by Toronto starters of only giving up two runs or less in a franchise record 13 straight games. Of course, even conceding one run would have left Stroman short once more and the Orioles manufactured one each in four different innings, none of them getting knocked in by anything stronger than a single.

The Jays have wasted some fine pitching from the diminutive fireballer, but he doesn’t see it that way.

“(Pitching 200 innings for the first time) was one of the goals coming in but you have to keep your team in the game and at the end of the day I didn’t do that,” he said.

Too bad his teammates haven’t picked him up. If this hitting malaise continues, Toronto’s season will soon come to an end.

“We are still tied for the wild-card lead so I would say the other teams are in more of a pressure situation than us,” Bautista insisted.

“We are a confident group no matter what short-term results we get. They’re (Boston) a pretty good team, obviously they won the division, but so are we. If I had to bet, I’d bet on my guys. We’ve got a great group of guys, we’ve got to go out and do it.”

rwolstat@postmedia.com