Blue Jays: Unravelling the heartbreak in Seattle and what could have been

Aug 13, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Tom Murphy (2) tags out Toronto Blue Jays pinch runner Breyvic Valera (74) during the ninth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Mariners catcher Tom Murphy (2) tags out Toronto Blue Jays pinch runner Breyvic Valera (74) during the ninth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The great Mickey Mantle once said, “Nothing’s ever been as fun as baseball,” and while his words may ring true, the Toronto Blue Jays showed last night that baseball can also be one hell of a heartbreaker; a gut punch in the worst way when things just don’t go your way.

The Blue Jays began their current road trip in Los Angeles, taking two of four games from the Angels before playing the Mariners last night in Seattle.

After a stellar performance from starter Robbie Ray, opposing pitcher Chris Flexen and the Mariners bullpen were able to keep the Blue Jays bats out of the run column last night, limiting one of the league’s top offensive batting lineups to only two runs despite nine hits and three walks.

After a dramatic top of the ninth that saw pinch-runner Breyvic Valera get thrown out at home on a pop-out on the foul side of first base ended in soul-crushing fashion during the bottom half with steady-handed relief pitcher Adam Cimber loading the bases before southpaw Brad Hand walked in the winning run.

There is a lot to unravel here and like most Blue Jays fans, there are some questionable decisions that need to be addressed.

The Toronto Blue Jays lose a heartbreaker in Seattle as a dramatic ninth-inning sees the Mariners walk-off the Jays via base on balls.

For starters, the Blue Jays bats were good but not good enough against Flexen and the Mariners bullpen. There were too many runners left on base and that ended up biting the club in the end, as it is tough to win any ballgame when you only put up two runs (even against one of the lowest-ranked hitting teams in the league).

Secondly, the decision to send Valera home with two outs and in the top of the ninth innings was one hell of a risky play, one that can be argued both ways when it comes to whether or not the infielder should have attempted to advance on the pop-out to first.

It was close at the plate, a call that was originally ruled safe but overturned after video replay. After watching the replay a few times, I can honestly not come to a definitive answer as to whether or not he tags the arm fully. There may have been other angles that showed a more definitive tag but it was super close and one that could be debated for a variety of reasons.

Sending the runner home on that play boils down to the fact that the first baseman was being carried away from the play and was somewhat deep enough that the risk was worth the reward. It should also be worth noting that the Mariners’ first baseman Ty France made a pretty nice catch and throw to home to nail Valera at home plate with an equally as nice tag by Mariners catcher Tom Murphy.

On the flip side, Valera sending home was a risk possibly not worth taking considering one of the Blue Jays top hitters in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was up next in the lineup. He has been in a bit of a slump lately but 99% of the time I feel Blue Jays fans would feel confident with their star slugger stepping up to the plate with the game on the line. Having Valera attempt to take home not only took the bat out of Guerrero Jr.’s hands but also resulted in the out, sending the Blue Jays back on the field. If there had only been one out then the risky decision makes more sense because the club’s best hitter still gets a chance to swing away but that wasn’t the case last night.

I personally have not seen yet whether or not the decision to go home was on Valera or third-base coach Luis Rivera. Regardless of who was the deciding factor, the play was risky and this time it did not end up in favour of the Jays’.

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After the emotional rollercoaster that was the top of the ninth, the Blue Jays brought in Adam Cimber, a right-hander who has been pretty effective in the bullpen since being acquired from the Miami Marlins in late June.

Having Cimber come into the ninth was a smart move in that Trevor Richards had pitched the previous inning and Montoyo could save closer Jordan Romano for a potential extra-inning scenario if the game went the distance. Could Montoyo have brought Romano in sooner? Sure, but at the same time, Cimber has been one of the more reliable arms in the pen this season and it’s not like Romano has been lights out lately.

After recording the first two outs with ease, Cimber could not find a way to get the last out of the inning, walking two batters in a row before allowing an infield single to load the bases. Montoyo chose to go with Brad Hand to face lefty batter Jarred Kelenic to try and send the game to extras, a bold move considering Hand has not been the most reliable arm out of the Jays’ pen lately. He does have experience in the closing role and high-pressure situations compared to the other pitchers available at the time, plus the lefty on lefty matchup, but it was a risky move considering he just hasn’t found a groove since joining the Blue Jays at the trade deadline.

The decision would prove costly, as Hand would immediately fall into a 3-0 count before eventually walking Kelenic and bringing in the winning run, handing the Blue Jays their second loss in a row. To be blunt, Hand was not really anywhere near the strike zone and one could argue that the ball should have either been given to Romano or possibly left-hander Tayler Saucedo if Montoyo wanted to keep the lefty on lefty matchup (this is where Tim Mayza being on the IL really hurts).

Losing by a walk-off walk absolutely sucks to the point where it almost feels better if Kelenic laced a double down the line or won off a hit up the middle. The Blue Jays essentially gave away the game because their bullpen couldn’t find the strike zone when it really mattered and the batting order couldn’t capitalize with men in scoring position throughout the entire contest, finishing the game with nine batter’s left on base.

To add insult to injury, losing this game also means that the Mariners gain some ground in the AL Wild Card, sitting one game behind the Blue Jays at 4.5 games back.

The interesting decision to DFA Patrick Murphy. dark. Next

The Blue Jays will send Hyun Jin Ryu to the mound tomorrow and will be facing Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who already has a win on the season against the Jays.

Hopefully, the bat’s clear customs and Ryu can pitch deep into the game, as the Blue Jays need to add some wins in Seattle before heading to Washington to face the Nationals later next week.