The Blue Jays September struggles continued with another loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday. The 8-1 loss gives the club a 3-9 record in September, and another series loss
The Blue Jays are going to be thrilled to see the Tampa Bay Rays leave town after Wednesday’s loss. Toronto finishes the season 8-11 against the Rays, but it has been the recent mounting losses that have stung in particular as Toronto pursues fading playoff hopes while Tampa Bay plays the role of spoiler.
Unfortunately the problems for the former AL East leaders have extended beyond their struggles with the Rays, with the Jays having lost 9 of their last 12 since the calendar turned to September. Josh Donaldson is still nursing a sore hip, and may be out longer than originally thought.
We’re expected to get the results of the MRI on Thursday, and despite the reigning AL MVP’s claim that he hopes to play, it’s extremely doubtful at this point.
The problems are definitely bigger than Donaldson though, despite the huge impact he brings to the lineup. The offence has gone cold in recent games, and it can’t be blamed on Darwin Barney alone (Donaldson’s replacement). Russell Martin was red hot in August, only to come falling back to earth in September with a slash line of .129/.270/.323.
Jose Bautista hasn’t been much better, hitting .190/.370/.262, while being the primary DH. Michael Saunders has even worse at .156/.151/.188, and suddenly it makes a lot more sense why manager John Gibbons called on Ezequiel Carrera a few times recently, likely looking for a spark where he could find it.
The rotation hasn’t been performing at the same strong level either. Marco Estrada wasn’t terrible on Wednesday, but he wasn’t great either, finishing with four runs allowed on eight hits over 5.2 innings. His record drops to 8-9 on the season and 1-5 in his last seven starts.
Aaron Sanchez hasn’t been nearly as effective either, and really hasn’t quite been the same since the Blue Jays started using a 6-man rotation/occasionally skipping his turn. He has thrown 173 innings, which is a career high, but it’s hard to think fatigue would be the reason for his struggles, given the extra rest he’s been receiving of late. Marcus Stroman has had flashes of his old self recently, but hasn’t been able to put it all together, and the same could be said for Francisco Liriano. The bullpen has been overworked and underwhelming.
The Jays enter a four game set on Thursday with the Angels in Anaheim, which now has even greater meaning that it did a week ago. The Angels are long ago out of the playoff picture, but so are the Rays and that didn’t stop them from taking four of six from the Jays in September. They follow that with a three games in Seattle with the Mariners before finishing their season against fellow AL East contenders in the Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox.
Time is running out as they only have 16 games remaining to jockey into playoff position. Getting a positive report on Donaldson’s MRI would be a massive boost for the ailing club, but they’ll need greater contributions from the rest of the club, MVP or not.