Sports Baseball

BLUE JAYS

Blue Jays lose doubleheader in St. Louis

By Rob Longley, Toronto Sun

St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong jogs in to score as Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher J.P. Howell walks off the field following a walk-off grand slam by Matt Carpenter in the 11th inning on April 27, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis Cardinals' Kolten Wong jogs in to score as Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher J.P. Howell walks off the field following a walk-off grand slam by Matt Carpenter in the 11th inning on April 27, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ST. LOUIS — All that was missing from the mound at Busch Stadium was the stench of burning rubber and a flame.

Otherwise, the tire fire was in full burn late Thursday afternoon as an 8-4 Jays loss to the Cardinals may have been the most odoriferous of the growing pile of defeats this season.

Up in smoke went the Blue Jays bullpen in the first half of the day-night doubleheader and the blaze kept on raging through the early innings of a 6-4 defeat in the nightcap.

From Roberto Osuna’s third blown save in four attempts in the opener to a mostly listless display from a meeker lineup early in the second, the Jays may have actually hit rock bottom.

After building a 3-0 lead in the opener behind starter Mat Latos, the day slowly began to unravel then picked up speed as afternoon turned to night. In the next seven innings, over several hours and parts of two games, the Jays were outscored 12-0 by a middle of the pack Cards team.

First to the implosion in the opener, a horror show that was capped off by a Matt Carpenter walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the 11th.

Staked to a 4-2 lead, Osuna was summoned to finish what should have been a routine task.

Instead, the 22-year-old allowed a two-out, two-run homer to Randal Grichuk to tie it at 4-4 and set up yet another disastrous defeat.

“To be honest, I feel really good right now,” a clearly perplexed Osuna said. “I just don’t know what’s going on right now. I don’t know, man. I feel good every time I go out there.

“I can’t understand it.”

Manager John Gibbons doesn’t get it either, but knows there is clearly something off with Osuna, who hasn’t been effective since injuring his neck while in Mexico for the World Baseball Classic.

“Yeah, there’s always concern,” Gibbons said. “(Osuna) still has plenty on the ball, but they’re capitalizing on him, which is very unusual. So we have to figure it out.”

Once the Grichuk shot left the park to tie it, the Jays seemed doomed. And sure enough, they lost it in spectacular fashion when Carpenter walked it off.

They were one out away from a win that would have given them victories in three of their previous four and some possible momentum. And they got six shutout innings from Latos.

Instead, the Jays were left with more of the misery that has plagued them all through this awful month.

“We were in a good position,” Gibbons said. “We had the lead, you always like to win that first game of a double dip and it got away. It’s frustrating.”

DOUBLE DOOM

Coming at the end of a long road trip that already had three extra-inning contests, it had to be difficult for the Jays to summon energy for the second game.

And sure enough, the Cards pounced on them early, scoring at least one run in each of the first four innings to jump out to a 6-0 lead.

It was a rough outing for starter Casey Lawrence, who lasted five innings but scattered 10 hits for all those earned runs.

The Jays made a bid to make a game out of it with a four-run fifth inning capped by Kendrys Morales’ fourth homer of the year to pull to within two.

“It was a long, tough day no doubt, getting swept,” Gibbons said. “We haven’t been able to lock down anything lately. The game can be a cruel game. It doesn’t let you off.”

NOW WHAT?

The sting of ending the road trip with a whimper will be magnified by weariness and the fact that there is no break or rest in sight.

After flying from California overnight on Monday, the Jays played an extra-innings game on Tuesday plus the two on Thursday.

They lost another hour to time zones on the return to Toronto where they will have a night game Friday followed by a day game Saturday, another day contest on Sunday after which they’ll travel immediately to New York.

DOUBLE DOWN

Speaking of the schedule, the Jays lobbied unsuccessfully to the Cardinals and MLB to have Wednesday’s rained out game replayed next month rather than part of a day-night double header.

There were several reasons for the request, most notably that Thursday’s double dip came at the end of that gruelling trip.

From a competitive standpoint, the Jays also would have benefitted if a later makeup date included an opportunity to have Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup and Aaron Sanchez facing the Cards rather than either Latos or Lawrence.

The Jays were hoping the league would agree to a May 22 date back in St. Louis, an off day between road series in Milwaukee and Tampa.

QUICK HITS

With that nasty 6-16 mark, the Jays have the worst record after 22 games in franchise history … After a handful of Jays attended Wednesday’s Preds-Blues game as a guest of P.K. Subban, the Nashville defenceman had the favour returned for Thursday’s first game. Subban, a noted Jays fan, sat near the Toronto dugout … After coming in to pinch hit in the seventh, Jose Bautista remained in the game defensively and played at third for the first time since April 14, 2003 … The game-winning grand slam in the opener came off of Jays reliever J.P. Howell, the first one he’s given up since 2008.