From day to day, it doesn’t vary much — strong start, low run count, bullpen gives up the lead. Rinse and repeat.
It’s no different today. Even after another impressive start from Marcus Stroman, who continues to dominate at the mound, and an impeccable night at the plate for Kevin Pillar, the Blue Jays follow the formula and lose, 7-4, to the Tampa Bay Rays.
In Stroman’s last start, he pitched a complete game against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing two runs in his second complete game of the season. He had already faced the Rays once this season, in his first appearance of the year, pitching 6.2 innings of one-run ball in the win.
It was more of the same today. Over 7.1 innings, Stroman allowed two earned runs on five hits and one home run, which came in the eighth inning. He struck out 10, double his previous season high, and walked just one batter. He ended the game at exactly 100 pitches, 73 of which were strikes.
Kevin Pillar reached base five times in the game, a career first. He had four hits — two doubles, a home run, and a single. His 2017 batting average now stands at .326. Suffice to say, Pillar has won over the leadoff spot in this Blue Jay lineup.
What’s especially frustrating about this loss is that the pieces were there. Stroman pitched in a way that should get the win. Pillar hit in a way that should get the win. There have been sparks of improvement in this team — Devon Travis got on base twice in four at bats, J.P. Howell pitched a shutout inning — but, by and large, the team is still struggling.
The lead may have still been within range of the Blue Jays if it hadn’t been for Dominic Leone. It’s hard to place the loss solely into Leon’s hands — manager John Gibbons seemed to have trouble gauging the potential of the bullpen all night, and, technically speaking, Jason Grilli took the loss. Still, Leone allowed three runs on four hits while recording just one out, putting the lead firmly out of Toronto’s grasp.
Before him, Grilli faced the same trouble. He recorded just one out while allowing two runs on one home run, which let the Rays tie the game.
A short-lived rally in the ninth, scoring one run from a Jose Bautista sac fly, made the loss more painful in a way. Like the other 16 losses this team has faced in the 2017 season, Toronto seems to be able to score in the late innings. It makes one wonder why they can’t score earlier.
Jays of the Day: Pillar (+0.293 WPA), Stroman (+0.262), Darwin Barney (+0.129)
Suckage: Leone (-0.441, technically a Super Suckage), Grilli (-0.241), Goins (-0.207), Morales (-0.171), Smoak (-0.151)
Tomorrow afternoon the Jays will look to get back on track with Francisco Liriano opposing Matt Andriese at 1:07 EDT