The Blue Jays entered the pivotal rubber match against Baltimore with a chance to all but lock up a wild card spot. The final home game of the season was also the potential last home appearance for a number of important and beloved Blue Jays. Rather than send the crowd home happy, the Jays frittered away another opportunity and have left their fate to twist in the Massachusetts wind. With a pitiful three hits on the night, they were outplayed by the Orioles in a listless performance under the dome that leaves the teams tied in the standings.
Marcus Stroman was good tonight and couldn’t get help from his teammates or the umpiring crew. Stroman, deserving of a far better fate, has now endured 20 consecutive innings with no run support. He went seven innings plus two batters, giving up nine hits, two walks and four runs while striking out three. Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera recorded the final six outs of the night without issue. It wasn’t a perfect outing from Toronto’s pitchers, but it might’ve been enough had the offense bothered to check in.
The Orioles struck in the third when J.J. Hardy came around to score following a punch to left that got past a diving Michael Saunders for a leadoff double. He advanced to third on a ground ball and scored on a sac fly from Manny Machado. They added on another in the fourth when two singles and a Michael Bourn fielder’s choice (thanks to a curious decision and a poor throw from Josh Donaldson) pushed the lead to two. Hyun-Soo Kim, last night’s hero, drove in Baltimore’s third run of the night with a two-out single following a leadoff walk and a stolen base from Bourn in the seventh. Mark Trumbo doubled and Matt Weiters singled in the eighth to plate Baltimore’s fourth and final run of the evening.
Meanwhile in the Legion of Blue, the Jays were absolutely stifled by Ubaldo Jimenez and his 5.71 ERA. Ezequiel Carerra knocked a leadoff single and the Jays wouldn’t record another hit until Jimenez departed the game. They struggled with Angel Hernandez’s transient strike zone all evening but have only themselves to blame for another poor offensive showing. While the defense can shoulder some blame for the game’s first two runs, the Jays and their alleged offensive attack make a small deficit feel like a gulf worthy of national landmark status. Some swing at junk. Some refuse to swing at pitches that they should know will be called strikes. Some do both. Either way, one hit in 6.2 innings against Ubaldo Jimenez is absolutely inexcusable for a team with postseason aspirations.
Toronto will now rely on the Yankees, Braves and A’s to handle the Orioles, Tigers and Mariners respectively, while the Jays battle Boston.
A September funk has left the season teetering on the precipice of disaster. The defense is occasionally leaky, the bullpen is prone to blowups and the offense is putting on a vanishing act that would make Houdini blush. They have three games left to figure it out, lest this new generation of Blue Jays fans discover the same disappointment that the old one knows so well.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
For the second night in a row, the top play of the game came off the bat of Hyun-Soo Kim. His RBI single with two outs in the seventh pushed the lead to three and was worth .077 WPA.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
With runners on the corners and one out in the top of the 1st, Jose Bautista stepped to the plate and was dispatched on three pitches. The strikeout earned a -0.65 WPA.
HDMIP-> Height Doesn’t Measure Innings Pitched
Marcus Stroman’s final start of the season was a good one. He kept the Orioles down and could’ve escaped trouble with some help from his defenders and was again saddled with a hard luck loss. While the performance was strong in its own right, Stroman managed to crack 200 innings pitched on the season tonight. It’s the first time he’s passed that threshold in his career and he becomes the first pitcher under 5’8 to hit the mark since Fred Norman in 1977 and just the 27th such pitcher since 1901.
Stroman was tabbed as the team’s ace headed into the season after his triumphant return from a torn ACL last season. While it’s fair to say that Stroman actually settled in as the team’s fourth-best starter, he fought through some mid-season struggles and turned in a fabulous September. He’d previously allowed no more than three earned runs in any start this month and did the same in four of his five August starts. There were ups and downs but Stroman settled down nicely to end the regular season.
Beyond the lack of hits lies the disturbing trend of failing to cash in on any fleeting opportunities the team receives. As we noted in our preview, Jimenez tends to improve as the game wears on so it was imperative that the Jays deliver a timely hit or two when the time arose.
They went 0-5 with runners in scoring position and left four men on base. The game opened with a single and a walk and resulted in zero runs. A leadoff walk in the third was sacrificed to second base and then squandered with a pair of groundouts. A leadoff single in the eighth was promptly followed by a three pitch strikeout and a double play. A loud crowd was silenced with each successive at bat.
With their final regular season game at Rogers Center now complete, the Blue Jays are headed to Fenway Park where they’ll wrap up their season against the AL East champion Red Sox. The Blue Jays will be battling Boston’s top starters as well as some inclement weather as they look to clinch a spot in the wild card game over the weekend. Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.53 ERA) takes on Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11 ERA) in tomorrow night’s opener with first pitch set for 7:10 ET.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports