Jays going out with a whimper
In the finale of their second-last home stand of the regular season, the Blue Jays, as has been more common than not, couldn’t generate much offence and lost 2-1 to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.
The Jays were looking to win five in a row at home for the second time this year. Instead, they were stymied by Baltimore starter Kevin Gausman before an announced crowd of 31,714 at the Rogers Centre.
Toronto, its playoff aspirations long gone, entered the game last in the American League in runs scored with 619.
Wasted was a strong start by Marcus Stroman (11-8), who struck out seven in six innings, scattering six hits and walking three. Had Stroman won for the 12th time this season, it would have marked a career high.
The Orioles took a quick and dirty 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Tim Beckham led off and hit a sharp grounder at third baseman Josh Donaldson. The latter didn’t have trouble fielding the ball, but his throw to Justin Smoak was high and wide, drawing Smoak off the bag. Donaldson was charged with his team-high 13th error of the season and Beckham was safe.
Manny Machado was next up and struck out, and Jonathan Schoop grounded out to Donaldson, moving Beckham up.
With two out, Adam Jones doubled over the head of Teoscar Hernandez in left field, bringing Beckham home.
Kevin Pillar gobbles up just about everything hit his way in centre field, but could not make a superhuman play when Trey Mancini tripled off the wall to score Jones.
Catcher Russell Martin returned to the Jays lineup after he was reinstated from the disabled list a day earlier following his recovery from a strained left oblique. Martin received a hearty round of applause for his first at-bat, in the second inning, but wound up being a nonfactor at the plate, going 0-for-3.
Gausman (11-10) pitched seven innings, giving up six hits and a walk and striking out six. Zach Britton pitched the ninth for his 14th save.
After spotting the visitors a tworun lead, the Jays got one run back in the third inning.
Hernandez, hitting .313 in his previous nine games with the Jays, doubled to right field to lead off. Ryan Goins then sacrificed Hernandez to third base.
Richard Urena, hotter than Hernandez in the month of September, doubled to score Hernandez. Donaldson came up and beat out an infield hit, but the inning ended when Smoak grounded into a double play.
The Jays, hitting a major-league low .224 with runners in scoring position entering the game, couldn’t score in the fourth inning despite having runners at second and third with one out.
Martin grounded out to short, and Hernandez then flied out to centre field.
In the sixth inning, Kendrys Morales doubled off the wall in left field with two out but was stranded when Pillar struck out.
Stroman wriggled out of a heap of trouble in the fourth inning when the Orioles loaded the bases with none out.
Mancini led off with a double and Stroman walked the next two batters, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis. But Stroman struck out Seth Smith before getting Caleb Joseph to ground into a double play. As he walked off the field, Stroman emphatically pumped his fist and let out a joyful scream.
The Jays’ penultimate trip of the season — a four-game series in Minnesota starting Thursday — will feature a battle with a Twins club holding down the second wild-card spot in the American League. “I tip my hat over there, to what they are doing,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Great job. They have some pop in that lineup. It’s a differentlooking team. They have some athletes, they can all run pretty good for the most part. I have been impressed. They have juggled quite a bit of pitching around and they have hung tough.” … And of course, there’s the Cleveland Indians, winners of 21 in a row. The Jays have 16 games remaining, and though none involve Cleveland, Gibbons wouldn’t have minded another shot at the Indians. “Oh, gosh,” Gibbons said. “It’s almost a whole month (since the Indians lost a game). Might be a good time to play them though because the law of averages say … Pretty good, though.”
With training camps opening around the league on Thursday, here are seven burning questions facing the seven Canadian teams:
No one is anticipating that Smith will have to battle Eddie Lack for the No. 1 goaltending job. Then again, no one expected Brian Elliott would temporarily lose the net to Chad Johnson at this time last season. If anything, the Flames will be looking for Smith, who was acquired in a trade from Arizona, to provide assurances that he can rebound from a tough season last year and be the starter Calgary needs him to be. If he can’t, Lack might be more just the backup.
Playing on a line with McDavid turned Pat Maroon into a 27-goal scorer (he previously never had more than 12) and propelled Leon Draisaitl into the top-10 in scoring with 77 points. But with Draisaitl getting a chance to centre his own line, last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner is looking for a new running mate. Will it be Ryan Strome, who was acquired by the Oilers in a trade with the Islanders? Fourthoverall pick Jesse Puljujarvi? Or can someone, such as Jussi Jokinen or Drake Caggiula, win the most coveted spot in hockey.
When the Canadiens traded their top defensive prospect to the Lightning for Drouin, it heaped more pressure on a Quebec-born forward who was finally starting to find his game. That pressure was likely amplified in the last few days when head coach Claude Julien and general manager Marc Bergevin made it clear that Drouin — and not Alex Galchenyuk — would open training camp at centre. Forget that Drouin is only 22 and still developing.
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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, right, talks on the mound with catcher Russell Martin and pitching coach Pete Walker during fourth inning AL baseball action against the Baltimore Orioles in Toronto on Wednesday.