Blue Jays: You can’t contend until you do the “little things”
The Blue Jays have started the year with a 3-4 record, and it’s tough not to lament how doing a few more of the “little things” could have changed their luck.
Thursday night’s “home” opener against the Los Angeles Angels was a great example, as the Jays failed to capitalize on multiple opportunities to take control of the game, or even win it extras. Unfortunately it was the Angels that came out on top at the end of 11 innings with a 7-5 victory.
It could have been a much different outcome if the Blue Jays had executed. For starters, they blew an opportunity in the 7th inning when Joe Panik doubled to begin the frame and still couldn’t come around to score. With a runner on and nobody out, Danny Jansen grounded out to shortstop and couldn’t move the runner over, followed by a line out to centre from Marcus Semien, and Cavan Biggio grounding out to the pitcher. In the 10th inning they started with Alejandro Kirk on second base and failed to move him any further as well.
I’m not necessarily suggesting that the Blue Jays should have bunted in either scenario, but one way or another they have to find a way to move the runner to third base, especially with no one out. Whether that’s a deep fly ball, a ground ball to the right side, or ideally even a hit, that’s a small part of the game that can make a massive difference.
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Speaking of the late innings, the Blue Jays not only failed to move runners over, they barely made contact with the ball at all. Marcus Semien grounded out to start the 10th inning, and was followed by five straight strikeouts to finish that inning and then continue in the 11th. Watching at home, it looked like each of Biggio, Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were trying to win/tie the game on one swing. That wasn’t really the necessary strategy until the final out or too either, especially in the 10th.
If we’re talking about the “little things” then I have to mention Jonathan Davis being picked off in the ninth inning after coming on as a pinch runner. That can’t happen, especially Davis was caught trying to steal third base with two outs earlier in the week (another baseball no-no), and even more so because he’s supposed to be one of the best baserunners on the team. That said, in this case I’ll give him a pass mostly because I think he was the victim of a missed balk call on Thursday.
As much as some of the blame falls on the young roster of the Blue Jays, some of the heat should and will fall with Charlie Montoyo and the coaching staff. Whether that means they need to work on situational hitting a little more, or even sharpen up the bunting skills, these little things add up to a big problem over time.
We’re only seven games into a long schedule so it’s not at all time to panic just yet. That said, if the Blue Jays are serious about having designs on returning to the postseason, they’ve got a lot of tightening up to do.