Marcus Stroman gave the Blue Jays exactly what they needed tonight. He pitched all nine innings, rested the high leverage arms in the pen, and held the Brewers to just a pair of runs with some help from his defense.
There was just one little problem - The offense, which came into tonight with the worst OPS in all of baseball, managed to sink through the rock bottom floor we thought they reached in the first seven games. After failing to score in the final eight innings on Sunday and plating just three runs on Tuesday, the Blue Jays were completely shut down tonight. They have now scored just three runs in their last 26 innings. After his 0-4 performance in this game which included a game ending double play, Kendrys Morales’ .314 on base percentage now ranks second best on the team (minimum ten plate appearances). That’s how ugly this has become.
Now in Toronto’s defense, Chase Anderson (Milwaukee’s starter) has pitched extremely well since he turned a corner last summer. Going back to July 30th, he’s now made 14 consecutive starts without allowing more than three runs, and you could clearly see that his breaking stuff was sharp tonight. Still, if you’re the Blue Jays, you can’t be tipping your cap to the opponent night after night after night. Eventually you need to break through.
Speaking of breaking through, Russell Martin collected his first hit of the season tonight with a two out double to right center field in the seventh. Of course, even this felt like a bit of a slap in the face because in his previous plate appearance, he struck out with the bases loaded. If he could have timed his double during this at bat, the Jays would have had three runs on the board and probably win the game, but when the team’s in a slump, these things don’t happen.
Instead we’re left to hope that the double in his final at bat ignites Marin going forward. Remember, this is the same guy who posted a .927 OPS in a 75-game stretch from May 24th through September 4th last year, which is pretty much the same general stretch where the Jays played their best baseball in 2016. We don’t need Martin to be that hot, but we do need him the look significantly better than the 0-20 he opened the season with in the first week.
Another bat the Jays need to see more from soon is the guy at the top of the order. Devon Travis went 0-4 in this one and now doesn’t have a hit in his last 22 at bats. I know the Jays don’t have a natural leadoff hitter, but you can’t keep handing the most at bats to that level of emptiness on a nightly basis.
The good news is that I think the trends leading into this game were worse than the game itself. Surprisingly, there was plenty to like in this one. Stroman pitched aggressive, the bullpen got their rest, there were several solid defensive plays, Kevin Pillar continued his season long stretch of not striking out in a game suggesting his new approach at the plate could lead to real success; Kendrys Morales looks very comfortable at first base which gives the team some flexibility going forward, and I think even a hot offense doesn’t chase Anderson very quickly with the movement he had on his breaking stuff tonight.
This is the game that makes the losses coming into this game hurt even more. If it occurs after a 4-3 start, Anderson’s performance is much easier to shrug off. Instead, it’s gasoline on a fire the Blue Jays are going to have waste time putting out now just to get back to .500. A fire that’s now either going to be controlled or turn into a raging inferno by the end of this home stand. That’s because over the next seven games, the Jays will be facing the Orioles and Red Sox; the two teams they need to keep close if they don’t want this situation to spiral out of control.
The first of these surprisingly important games begins tomorrow when the Francisco Liriano (who only got one batter out in his first start of the season) takes on Kevin Gausman at 7:07 p.m
Play better Blue Jays.
Jays of the Day: Marcus Stroman (.152). He pitched well enough to win most games.
Jays suckage: The entire offense (-.652 as a group). This is getting stupid and they will get shamed as a team until results improve.
Caution, one ugly graph ahead:
|11||Pillar for President||26|
|13||Matt Gross (RhodeIslandRoxfan)||15|