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Another case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Stro as another slips away from Blue Jays

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Rangers 6 Blue Jays 4

Marcus Stroman had another inconsistent start in 2018, and the Blue Jays let another close game slip away this week. This message is not a recording.

Texas jumped on Stroman right out of the gate, scoring four times in the 1st inning. Stroman was in trouble right from the beginning, as the first two batters reached on an infield single and walk. They scored on a single by Nomar Mazara, which was bad enough, but Joey Gallo followed with a two run bomb to double the trouble.

The Jays chipped away diligently at that early hole, as Mike Minor was not very good and the Jays jumped on him pretty hard. They got one back right away when Justin Smoak had the first of four hits to drive in Teoscar Hernandez after he doubled. Unfortunately, they couldn’t grab another as Smoak was thrown out at home on a two out double by Kevin Pillar.

The deficit was cut to one in the 2nd inning, thanks to Steve Pearce doubling home a pair to avoid stranding a leadoff double by Russell Martin (and an iffy HBP of Aledmys Diaz that survived replay).

That brings us to the 3rd inning, where the Jays managed to knot the score but may have cost themselves the game with how much money on they proverbially left on the table. Smoak singled leading off, but got TOOTBLAN’d trying to go first to third on a ground ball up the middle by Yangervis Solarte. Inexplicable, considering he was leading off the inning. And costly considering Pillar followed with a “triple”, that is, a single that bounced over Gallo’s head.

That scored Solarte to tie the game, but it’s not too often an inning starts single-single-triple and only one run is scored. But that’s what happened, as Martin couldn’t get Pillar home home third with one out and Kendrys Morales struck out to strand the go ahead run at third.

And that was basically it, as the bats continued an ugly recent trend of largely shutting down in the second half of games. Other than Smoak, all the Jays had to show for the last six innings was Teoscar reaching on an error (a well hit ball) and a Morales walk. So that was not great.

While the Jays were chipping away and then erasing the lead, Stroman has settled in nicely. After the Gallo home run, he retired 14 of the 16 hitters he faced through the end of the 5th inning, including a nice run of strikeouts and a couple stretches of weak contact on the ground.

The 6th inning was a different story, starting with back-to-back singles. A sac bunt moved the runners to 2nd and 3rd, and it was deja-vu as Mazara singled both home. That was the end of Stroman’s night, and essentially the game as well. Tyler Clippard prevented any further damage; Aaron Loup and John Axford combined for three shutout innings of relief. So that was nice to see from the bullpen, though it was ultimately all for naught.

The bottom line: the Jays have to stop letting (very) winnable games slip through their fingers as they’ve done the past week. And the bats have to stop disappearing after the first couple innings.

Jays of the Day: Smoak (+0.178 WPA), despite getting thrown out twice on the basepaths.

Suckage: Stroman (-0.374), Solarte (-0.191, he still earns the number even adjusting for Smoak’s baserunning blunder attributed to him), Diaz (-0.097), Travis (-0.096). For that matter, Morales (-0.086) can have one too since I’m in the mood.

Tomorrow, the Jays will attempt to even up the series with Jaime Garcia against the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon. Note the start time is the new later start time of 4:05 EDT.