Blue Jays squander another good start from Gausman as offence held in check again

TORONTO — This is a time for the Toronto Blue Jays to get greedy, and in order to do that they must first continue the process of fixing themselves.

It’s not ideal to settle for two-of-three against the similarly wayward Seattle Mariners after Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss, but the dreadful Cincinnati Reds are set to visit from Friday, giving the opportunity for some wins in the current home stand to achieve still exists hand.

Of course, capitalizing on this is easier said than done, and the Blue Jays’ offense is still so scattered that nothing can be taken for granted. No one deals damage consistently, and while general manager Ross Atkins went to great lengths before the game to surpass the caliber of pitching his team faced, this lineup should give even elite arm strokes.

Find-a-way nights like Tuesday’s 3-0 win over BB-throwing Logan Gilbert need to become more regular, and against sly left-hander Marco Gonzales on Wednesday they eke out measly bases from Vladimir Guerrero Jr.-loader Stroll.

Well that walk was a good process, part of Guerrero didn’t expand the zone, accepted the offer and was ready to pass the baton to clean-up man Teoscar Hernandez, who is still working to regain his timing at the plate and is grounded. But when runs are hard to come by, every little missed opportunity becomes more noticeable, and that’s exactly what happened in the sixth when Gonzales Hernandez vigilantly picked off a one-out double on second base.

At that time it was still 2:1, the Mariners opened the game from then on and the Blue Jays no longer threatened in front of 20,472 spectators.

“This is an offense where we usually swing the bats and everyone is fine and you can come back in a 4-1, 5-1 game. But it looks like now someone’s getting four runs and it seems like 10, and that’s what happens when your offense is struggling,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “When (games like Hernandez being picked up) happen, it’s magnified. Just like when an emergency worker walks in and gives up a run or something, it’s like oh my god. But the boys played well, every game is a close game.”

Relying mostly on a sinker-changeup mix, Gonzales mixed in his cutter and curveball just enough to plant the options in the minds of the Blue Jays hitters en route to six innings of one-run ball. But he was also helped by 12 pursuit swings along with several cracks in border lies.

That fits a pattern Atkins recognized when he conceded, “Yes, we hunted more than we’d like to.”

“But it was really good pitching and I don’t want to lose sight of that,” he quickly added. “At the same time, we execute our game plan exceptionally well when we’re good.”

Obviously that’s not happening at the moment and it continues to cause the Blue Jays to miss good starts, this time another from Kevin Gausman. Though he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was at the time — he only had seven swinging strikes in his five innings of work — he deftly limited damage while going BABIP often.

“To be honest, a lot of those first inning hits are just well hits on their part,” Gausman said. “I made my pitch and none of them got hit that hard but somehow they found their holes. I just knew if I stayed there I wouldn’t have another inning like this. I just felt confident.”

The first inning may have been crucial, as he escaped a base-packed jam by allowing just one Jesse Winker sacrifice fly, and he was unharmed until Cal Raleigh took him deep to open the fifth inning and close the Mariners by 2 bring. 1.

Hernandez’ pick-off was the Blue Jays’ sixth in the season, pushing them to the second-highest spot in the majors, and then Trevor Richards, who was extended into a second inning of work, gave Adam Frazier a two-out single and then a two-out off. Run homer to Ty France who effectively pushed the game out of reach.

The Bullpen, still devastated by Jordan Romano, who suffers from a daily gastrointestinal infection, and Tim Mayza, who is on the injured list and is getting a second opinion to confirm his left forearm sore is indeed just that , continues to face unrelenting pressure every night.

According to one of Baseball Reference’s leverage indices, the Blue Jays started the day at 55, tied with Arizona for most high-leverage bets. It’s unfair to expect them to be perfect, and too often the offense has forced them to this very spot.

Nonetheless, they will still go into the day off at 20-18 after winning a series for the first time this month. Gausman’s performance on Wednesday extended the club’s only consistent strength of the season and started pitching, and that really was the pillar for the Blue Jays up to that point.

“I feel like we have a beast caliber guy every day,” Gausman said. “In addition, we have a lot of different looks that teams are coming up with. From the left side (Yuseii) Kikuchi throws 97 with a split and then you (Hyun Jin) have Ryu from the left side too and it’s a completely different thrower. Then there’s Jose (Berrios) and obviously (Alek) Manoah, all these guys are completely different. So I think we play very well against a lot of lineups because of that.”

It’s an excellent starting point and has propelled them to sixth place in the American League as they near quarter mark of the season. The Blue Jays will need their offense to get better.

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