Blue Jays: Blunders, questionable decisions, and wasted opportunities
Despite another outstanding performance from Robbie Ray on Friday, the Blue Jays found a way to blow another important game against the Tigers. One could even argue that it was a must-win game that drastically hurts the Jays’ chances of pushing for a playoff spot.
What makes this one especially frustrating is more than just how important it was for this team as they try to climb back into the postseason race. It’s that the win was there for the taking, and yet they fell short just as they have far too frequently lately, now just 3-7 in their last 10 games.
For those that missed it, I would point to three instances in the game in particular that truly hurt them, and each situation represents something to consider going forward.
First of all, the Blue Jays wasted a gem from Robbie Ray, who pitched 8.0 extremely effective innings, allowing just five walks and no walks, and also racking up 11 strikeouts in the outing. At a time when the bullpen has gotten back to blowing leads on the regular, an eight-inning outing from Ray was the kind of lift the team needed. And yet, they couldn’t produce more than one run against the Tigers despite their countering with a soft-tossing lefty in Tyler Alexander. That simply can’t happen in late August when you’re 4-5 games back.
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What made Ray’s performance an even greater waste was how he allowed his only earned run, which came on slider that got away from Alejandro Kirk. Not to put too much blame on the young catcher, but that’s a ball that needs to be blocked, and the fact that he’s frequently catching on one knee is a constant source of criticism from guys like Buck Martinez and Joe Siddall on the broadcast. It’s a fair criticism, and may be a sign that the talented young hitter still needs some seasoning on defence.
If there was one situation in the game that frustrated Blue Jays on social media (including yours truly), it was Charlie Montoyo’s decision to pinch-hit for Kirk in the 9th inning. With no one out and runners on first and second base, Kirk was scheduled to hit against Tigers closer Gregory Soto. Rather than let the hit-first catcher swing away, the third-year skipper decided to pinch hit for him by bringing in Breyvic Valera. Yeah, that really happened.
It was pretty obvious that Valera’s job was to bunt the runners over, and unfortunately he wasn’t able to get that bunt down until there were two strikes. To their credit, the Tigers made an excellent defensive play when Jonathan Schoop charged on the bunt and threw out the lead runner. Having said that, the unfortunate break highlighted the questionable decision to take the bat out of Kirk’s hands to begin with. To make matters even worse, Randal Grichuk grounded into a double play right after Valera couldn’t move the runners over, ending the potential game-winning rally.
To rub some salt in the wound, the Tigers scored a run with two outs that came on a good pitch from Trevor Richards in the 10th inning. That bloop single was bad enough, but it looked like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had a clear shot to throw the runner out at the plate, which he’s made a name for himself doing. Instead, Gurriel Jr. completely missed the mark and the Tigers took the lead, adding two more before the implosion was complete.
I hate to say it, but it was one of those back-breaking losses that represents another nail in the coffin of the Blue Jays 2021 season.