Road woes continue for Blue Jays 0
Toronto Blue Jays batter Brett Laurie returns to the dugout after hitting a fly out during the first inning of their MLB baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland August 2, 2012. (Reuters/BECK DIEFENBACH)
No sooner had Josh Reddick’s two-run homer landed in the seats than a press box cynic turned and announced: “This game’s over.”
The Reddick homer, in the third inning, powered the red-hot Oakland Athletics into a 3-0 lead and with the Blue Jay bats turning completely sour on this road trip, he was spot on.
In the end the Jays made it 0-4 on their road trip and with Thursday’s 4-1 defeat have now lost five in a row to match their season high. The Jays have scored a combined eight runs in those five defeats.
With the loss the Jays slipped to three games under .500 at 51-54.
The A’s, meanwhile, are now 14-5 since the all-star break.
With Jose Bautista, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia out of action due to injury and Travis Snider no longer with the team, the offence has come to a stall and is close to a reaching a dead stop.
Against veteran Bartolo Colon, the Jays rarely threatened.
Of their 10 hits, one was for extra bases and four were infield hits.
As for big hits, forget it.
“We have to find ways to manufacture (runs) and some of the innings we started with outs and that really limits the ability to sacrifice, hit and run, move the guy into scoring position,” manager John Farrell said. “We were able to scratch a run across in the ninth.
“They (Jays) know that at certain points in time runs are going to be a premium and we’re in one of those stretches right now. But this is who we have. This is who is on our club and this is what we go to battle with.”
Of the healthy bodies that remain in the lineup, none are producing.
Brett Lawrie has gone 3-for-17 on the trip, while Edward Encarnacion snapped an 0-for-13 slide with the first of his two singles in the sixth.
Farrell was asked if Lawrie was in a funk right now.
“Yeah, a little over-aggressive,” he said of his leadoff hitter. “At times he’s chasing pitches up in the strike zone and what you’re seeing is maybe trying to do a little too much rather than seeing the ball in the strike zone and putting on a good consistent swing that he’s shown for the vast majority of this season.”
The lack of offence can’t be laid just at Lawrie’s feet but in the absence of Bautista, he’s the straw that stirs the drink and gets the troops fired up.
“We’ve been having trouble just stringing stuff together, getting a few hits in a row and just try and get in the flow of things,” Lawrie said. “When you can’t do that it’s tough to score some runs.”
In the fourth they applied some pressure with two on and two out but that threat didn’t turn into anything as David Cooper flied out to centre to end the inning.
Two innings later the Jays had the bases loaded and two out but failed to come up with the timely hit as Rajai Davis ground out to first.
The Jays avoided being shut out by scoring its lone run in the ninth on a fielder’s choice RBI by Moises Sierra.
In his last start, Henderson Alvarez was aces against the Detroit Tigers as he picked up the win by holding them to a single run on five hits over seven innings. It was one of his strongest outings of the season and allowed him to post a 4-0 record in his past six starts.
However, that run would soon come to an end.
In the third, Eric Sogard opened with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch, a breaking ball in the dirt that catcher Yan Gomes couldn’t come up with.
Coco Crisp then flied out to deep right and while Sogard tagged and advanced to third, the laser-like throw from Anthony Gose to Brett Lawrie on the fly drew some oohs and awws from the sparse crowd of 10,823.
Seth Smith followed with a RBI single to right and on a 2-2 count, Reddick — who ended a dreadful 0-for-21 skid with a single in the first — drilled one into the seats in right atop the scoreboard.
It was just the third inning and a three-run deficit but for the Jays and their woeful hitting, it was truly over.
The Athletics had a golden opportunity to add to their lead in the fifth, the inning being set up when Davis lost Coco Crisp’s line drive in the lights. Crisp made it to third and the scorer hung Davis with a tough error.
After an out and intentional walk to Reddick, Alvarez walked Yoenis Cespedes to load the bases. The right-hander escaped unscathed, however, as Brandon Moss ground into a double play.
On the night, Alvarez, 7-8, allowed three runs on four hits but also walked five (one intentionally) over five innings plus a batter.
It wasn’t close to his best effort but compared to the offence, it was top notch.
IMPROVING HIS GAME
At 22, Alvarez is the youngest starter on the team and on Thursday he was making his 21st start of the season.
Just what area of his game does Farrell believe he’s made the greatest strides in?
“I think it’s the understanding of what is working on a given day,” Farrell replied after a lengthy pause. “There’s been starts where he’s relied on his slider a little bit more. There’s been starts where he’s gone to his changeup a little bit more. That was the case in his last outing (seven innings, five hits, one run vs. Detroit) where his changeup was a little bit more of an effective pitch when he went to his secondary pitch.
“The thing that I see is in-game awareness.”
In his last start, due to the hand injury to J.P. Arencibia, Yan Gomes, who is now the backup catcher, was behind the plate. Given how the two worked together against Detroit and the need to give Jeff Mathis the day off, Gomes was catching Alvarez for a second consecutive game.
Farrell liked the way they worked together and believes Gomes lack of experience at the major league level caused Alvarez to be more involved.
“Yan caught him the last time out and he (Alvarez) had a little more involvement in the game-calling,” Farrell said. “He took more ownership of it and I think he pitched with a lot more confidence because of it.”
Going forward, you can expect Gomes and Alvarez to be dance partners.