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Blue Jays: Don’t put the blame on Tyler Clippard or the bullpen

TORONTO, ON - MAY 22: Tyler Clippard #36 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre on May 22, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 22: Tyler Clippard #36 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Rogers Centre on May 22, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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After Tyler Clippard blew another save on Wednesday night the knee jerk reaction is to blame him for the loss. Neither he, or the bullpen should have any fingers point in their direction.

The ninth inning of the Blue Jays game with the Angels on Wednesday night was about as frustrating as it gets. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the top half, the offence looked poised to tie things up with runners on first and third and the score up to 5-4, but a fly out, strike out, and an outfield assist preserved the victory for Los Angeles.

We could talk about the base running mistakes made in the ninth inning by the Blue Jays, but instead I’d rather focus on the parties that I’m not blaming for this loss, or for the team now being three games below .500 at 23-26. In a game that you could place the blame on Tyler Clippard‘s shoulders, I’m saying we should be doing anything but.

This is a guy who entered the ninth inning with a 1.82 ERA despite the blow up against Oakland last week (up to 3.24 after Wednesday’s game). A minor league signing that made his 26th appearance on Wednesday night, tying him for second in all of baseball. A veteran who signed hoping to make the team and now finds himself thrust into the closer’s role in the absence of Roberto Osuna. This is the guy we wanna blame for one loss?

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I certainly hope not.

Losing is a team effort, and most of this team’s problems were on display against the Angels in the second game of the series. They received an encouraging outing from Aaron Sanchez, but even though it was scoreless it still left John Gibbons in a tough spot, given that he managed just five innings for his 97 pitch effort. That left the bullpen doing what it’s done for most of the season, trying to carry a heavy usage burden. Even on a night when Sanchez left with the lead and without having given up any runs, the stress was on the bullpen once again.

The Blue Jays also failed to plate more runs when it mattered, wasting a tremendous opportunity to make things right in the bottom of the ninth, and generally looking pretty lifeless at the plate again. The last two nights have brought early leads for the team, and after that it’s like the engine is turned off and the burden is placed on the pitching staff. That’s not a recipe for success.

I’m not going to place any blame of John Gibbons either, as he used his bullpen arsenal to the best of his ability, and on some nights things aren’t going to work out how you planned. For that same reason I don’t think it’s fair to hold much against Clippard either, as he’s been quietly excellent in Toronto this season. It’s also possible that asking him to be a closer is something he’s just not equipped to thrive at, and we might see someone like Seunghwan Oh or Ryan Tepera get the next opportunity.

To me, this one is on a struggling offence that needs to start capitalizing on opportunities with runners in scoring position, and a unit that just needs to get going in general. Tyler Clippard and the rest of the bullpen are going to have their off nights, and they’ve been pretty few and far between so far this season.

Next: 10 Minor Leaguers off to impressive starts

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