Blue Jays find the bottom, and there’s nowhere to go but up

During a week that the Blue Jays needed to win nearly all of their games, the wheels have fallen off for this talented young group, and frankly it’s been hard to watch.

Sunday’s series finale may have been the perfect example of just how bad things have been going lately, especially for a frigid lineup that can’t seem to score many runs. After getting yet another quality start from their rotation, this time from Steven Matz, they failed to score more than one run until the bottom of the eighth, when they finally re-took the lead from the Tigers. They came within one throw to first base away from victory, and this time the mistake came from arguably their most reliable player in Marcus Semien. His throwing error on a routine ground ball led to extra innings, and unfortunately another loss.

Sometimes it feels like nothing can go right, and now would be one of those times for the Blue Jays.

It wasn’t just Semien’s gaff that cost them on Sunday though, as the offence had opportunity after opportunity to put the Tigers away. In total the lineup left 13 runners on base throughout the game, and finished just 1-14 with runners in scoring position, a cold streak that was finally snapped with Lourdes Gurriel Jr’s go-ahead single in the eighth inning that gave them a lead. For a team that started the week with the best batting average with RISP in baseball, it’s been a mighty struggle for the entire roster, and it never should have been a one-run game to begin with.

What makes Sunday’s giveaway all that more difficult to swallow is that it was a common theme throughout the week. At a time when the Blue Jays desperately needed to beat up on weaker competition in the Nationals and the Tigers, they’ve played some of their worse baseball of the season, at least on the offensive side of things.

They managed a 3-0 win on Saturday on the back of Hyun Jin Ryu’s excellent performance, but they wasted excellent starts from both Matz and Robbie Ray in this series. The latter had one of the best outings of his career, striking out 11 over 8.0 innings pitched, and giving up just one earned run on five hits. Despite lining up against the likes of Drew Hutchison and Tyler Alexander, the Blue Jays just couldn’t deliver at the plate.

It’s bad enough that they’ve lost winnable games when they simply can’t afford to, but it’s the way they’ve lost that makes me feel like this is the bottom for the Blue Jays in 2021. They may lose their fair share of games over the next month against the likes of the White Sox, Yankees, and Rays, but I doubt they’ll be able to match the kind of missed opportunity from this week, especially of their own doing. Between throwing errors, questionable decisions from Charlie Montoyo, and a team-wide inability to hit with runners on base, these kind of losses are arguably more frustrating than losing by double digits.

If there are any silver linings out of the way the last week, it’s that the rotation has continued to performed well, and hopefully this will be an important lesson for this core group. They say that players have to “learn how to win” at the highest level, and at the very least I hope the Blue Jays’ core pieces can take a lesson or two away from this mess. At this point there’s really nowhere to go but up from here.