Blue Jays look rusty after layoff in blowout loss ... Vlad Jr. hits a double-double ... Ryu hoping haircut gets him back on track ... Soroka will be missed after injury
Atlanta manager Brian
Snitker certainly had no intention of tempting the COVID-19 gods on Wednesday night, but the man had a point.
The Braves were chugging along in good form prior to the opener of a three-game series against the Blue Jays (minus the loss of Canadian star Mike Soroka the night before, of course) but significantly, avoiding the mayhem touching down on throughout baseball.
The virus that has disrupted so many teams — including the Jays who were idle for four days prior to Wednesday’s 10-1 blowout loss to the reigning NL East champs — has so far bypassed the Braves.
“We’re very fortunate to have played every game,” Snitker said on a Zoom call prior to his team improving to 8-4. “We haven’t had a layoff. I hope we continue to do that.
“It’s hard to ramp these guys up, get it going, then shut it down again.”
Harder yet for pitchers, which brings us to the action at Truist Park, where Snitker’s words were prophetic and the Braves used the long ball to chase Jays starter Matt Shoemaker after just 4.2 innings. The lopsided night was by far the Jays’ worst loss of the season, coming after spending the weekend in Washington after a three-game series against the Phillies was postponed.
Shoemaker wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen in any of his starts with the Jays, giving up as many earned runs (six) as he had in his six previous starts combined with the team. The three homers were as many as he surrendered in his 28.2 innings with the Jays in 2019, a promising start derailed by a season-ending knee injury.
So what gives?
The stop-and-start 2020 season has been hell on pitchers thus far. From the shutdown in February, to the abbreviated summer camp, to another delay because of postponements, it hasn’t been easy.
“I can only imagine what their arms are going through,” said Jays centre fielder Randal
Grichuk, who returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing time with a mild back injury. “From a pitching standpoint, it’s showing.”
Facing a tough Braves lineup, Shoemaker wasn’t at his best, allowing three home runs in a game for the first time since 2015 and suffering his first loss in seven starts with the team. With the Jays offence listless as well, the visitors fell to 3-5 and are now on a season-long three-game losing streak.
Team turmoil may still believe in itself, but one-sided losses like the latest are more worrisome than the tight contests earlier on.
Jays manager Charlie Montoyo decided to shake up his batting order on Tuesday to take advantage of a red-hot
Teoscar Hernandez by moving him to third while dropping Vlad Guerrero Jr. to fifth. So naturally, it was a double-double night for Vlad Jr., who had his first two doubles and first two-hit game of the season ... After solo homers from Matt Adams and
Tyler Flowers in the second inning, the big damage for the Braves came when Austin
Riley took Shoemaker deep for a three-run shot in the fifth to break it open ... The Jays finally got on the board in the visitor’s half of fifth, an inning in which they should have done more damage. A leadoff double down the third-base line by Guerrero was followed by a Grichuk walk. Meek pop ups by Danny Jansen and
Brandon Drury watered down the threat, however, and the Jays settled for one run on an Anthony Alford RBI single ... Though the game was out of hand by the time he came in,
Anthony Kay was impressive, going two scoreless innings for the Jays without allowing a hit ... The same could not be same for Wilmer Font, who allowed four runs on five hits in just a third of an inning.
RYU READY TO ROLL
So what did Hyun-Jin Ryu do after his second of two starts with the Blue Jays that wasn’t up to his exacting standards? The South Korean southpaw opted for a haircut.
“The last two games weren’t too good so it’s a new beginning,” Ryu said through interpreter Bryan Lee on a Zoom call prior to Tuesday’s game.
After allowing five runs against the Nationals last week, Ryu will get right back at it on Wednesday, jumping ahead in the rotation to keep him on a normal rest pattern.
“It was something that the team told me to do and something I whole heartedly agreed with because I think the team wanted to get me back on the mound and show what I can do,” Ryu said. “It’s our job to get out there and perform and adjust.”
Ryu is a self-admitted creature of habit and said that even with his struggles, he didn’t alter his routine.
“Despite the fact the season didn’t start the way I wanted, I decided to maintain the routine that has made me successful to this point,” Ryu said.
SOROKA LOSS STINGS
When Calgary’s Soroka went down hard in pain with a season-ending Achilles heel injury on Monday, the Braves lost not only the ace of their starting rotation, but one of the more popular players in the clubhouse.
The reaction certainly speaks to the popularity of the just-turned-23-year-old hurler who is among the most exciting Canadian-born big leaguers in recent years.
“When you lose, in my mind, one of the top pitching arms in the entire game for the whole season, it’s pretty tough,” Atlanta first baseman
Freddie Freeman said. “For someone so bright and so determined to be great at this game, it just knocks you off the 2020 season. We all know he’s going to come back stronger and better.”
It was clear that the Braves were still shaken up by the loss of Soroka, who was emerging as one of the bright young pitching stars in the National League.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you,” Snitker said. “We move on and give the opportunity to somebody else.”
AROUND THE BASES
Doesn’t sound like Grichuk is softening his view on having Buffalo’s Sahlen Field as the team’s home starting next week. “Obviously just something we’ve got to live with,” said Grichuk, who had previously called Buffalo “the worst case” option for the team. “They’re working hard at doing some adjustments to the facility. But obviously you want to be in a major league stadium. But we’re going to make do with it.”
Atlanta Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. dives into home safely against Toronto Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen during Tuesday night’s 10-1 Braves victory in Atlanta.