For nearly six innings on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre, it looked like it was going to be a good night for the Toronto Blue Jays. Hyun Jin Ryu was cruising, catcher Danny Jansen was back in the lineup for the first time since July and hitting homers, and the Blue Jays were leading the hapless Baltimore Orioles.
Then disaster struck. Ryu, who hadn’t been touched by the Orioles lineup for 5.2 innings, suddenly gave up three two-out hits and two runs before leaving the game. The Blue Jays could only manage one run—Jansen’s solo homer leading off the third inning—against Orioles starter Keegan Akin, who came into the game with the worst ERA in the league. By the time Jarrod Dyson struck out to end the game, the scoreboard read 4-2 for the Orioles, the playoff hopes for the Blue Jays taking a big hit.
It was the kind of game the Blue Jays can’t afford to lose right now. The Orioles hadn’t defeated an AL East opponent since Aug. 2, losing 16 straight. The Rays went 18-1 against them this season. Two weeks ago, the Red Sox outscored them 30-5 in a three-game sweep. The Blue Jays needed a similarly dominant series against the league’s worst team, and they didn’t get it.
Blue Jays waste a solid effort from Hyun Jin Ryu and suffer a devastating loss against the lowly Orioles on Tuesday
The Jays did have their opportunities on Tuesday. With two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. came to the plate representing the go-ahead run. Guerrero had already homered, hitting a ball to right-field in the sixth for his 38th home run of the season, and had flown out on two long, hard-hit fly balls in his other at-bats. He hit the first pitch from Orioles reliever Tyler Wells hard too, at 99.5 mph and with a .710 expected batting average. But it went right into the glove of Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins, the last potential rally the Blue Jays would have on the night gone.
Despite getting only six hits off Orioles pitching and going 0-6 with runners in scoring position, there were some positives the Blue Jays can take from this game.
Ryu, coming off giving up seven runs last Thursday, looked back to his dominant self, retiring 15 in a row before Ryan Mountcastle’s softly-hit double down the right-field line broke up his no-hit bid. He also got Jansen back behind the plate, with whom he entered the game with a 2.84 ERA (he has a 5.05 ERA with other catchers).
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“It was good to see that him and Danny Jansen were on the same page. Of course, there was no room for error because we’re not scoring any runs tonight,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He was good. He was really good.”
Guerrero was making hard contact all night, his approach at the plate returning to his pre-All-Star break form when he was the best hitter in the league. Leading off the sixth inning, Guerrero took a 97 mph fastball on the inside corner the opposite way for a solo homer. Before the break, 10 of Guerrero’s 28 home runs were hit to right-field or right-center. His home run on Tuesday was only the second he’s hit to the opposite field in August. He’s now batting .361 during a nine-game hitting streak and has three home runs over the last two days, matching his total from the rest of August.
“He’s a big part…of our offense,” Montoyo said. “To get him going like that like he was in the first half, it will be great for the next month. If he can keep going like that, hopefully the other guys will get hot at the same time and it will be great for us.”
Ryu and Guerrero provided the only glimmers of hope for the Blue Jays on the night. The Orioles won for just the fourth time in the past month and had the worst August record of any team since Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics went 3-26 in 1943. The Blue Jays had a chance to get closer to the second Wild Card spot but remain 4.5 games back of the Red Sox after Boston lost to the Rays on Tuesday. It was a missed opportunity, one the Blue Jays can’t have too many of the next month.
The calendar is changing to September. The clock is ticking on the Blue Jays. They need to start winning these games to have any chance of prolonging their season into October.