Jays walk off empty in series finale
Estrada sees bright side after another early hook, but Liriano news good
DETROIT— An already unimpressive Blue Jays team may have hit rock bottom on Sunday in a 6-5 loss at Comerica Park, dropping seven games under .500 on a road trip where they had to begin to turn the season around.
After starter Marco Estrada managed just11outs, after the once-proud Jays defence made mistakes to contribute to every aspect of the defeat, after the bats fell silent from the fifth inning on forcing the bullpen to be perfect in order to win, it came down to Lucas Harrell facing Miguel Cabrera with two out and the bases loaded in the 11th inning.
The resulting loss was predictable, but the walk-off walk was not.
“Really, the way we’ve been playing, we’re where we should be,” manager John Gibbons said, looking defeated after the game. “The way we’re playing in all phases of the game, it was a tough one today.
How do you solve Estrada’s problems? When Gibbons spoke to the media earlier in the weekend, he praised the right-hander’s remarkable consistency. It turns out he was right. Unfortunately, the consistency of late has been mostly negative as Estrada, a big-game weapon for the Blue Jays in the last two post-seasons, failed to pitch at least five innings for the seventh time in his last nine starts. However, start after start, Estrada continues to see the silver lining.
“Just missing spots,” Estrada began. “The last time I pitched was 12, 13 days ago. It’s kind of to be expected, I guess. It just felt weird to me, but once I got out of that (first) inning, I felt great.
“I felt like myself again, thought I made a lot of good pitches. Certain things didn’t really go my way after that, but I’m looking back and thinking, other than (Justin) Upton’s hit in the first, I don’t remember much else being hit too hard. I’m taking those positives with me and moving on to the next one.”
This was a good news/bad news weekend for Jays starting pitching.
The good news was the seeming return to health and performance by Aaron Sanchez on Friday.
The bad news was the continuing inefficiency of Estrada, along with the neck tightness suffered by Francisco Liriano that chased him in the fourth inning on Saturday.
Liriano was examined Sunday afternoon by a Tigers team physician, who determined that he does not require an MRI and will be better with rest and treatment. In the meantime, though, his next start on Thursday is in jeopardy.
“I just wanted to stay for my team and do anything I can to stay in the game,” Liriano said of his physical struggle on Saturday. “I wasn’t going to help them just throwing like that. I couldn’t throw a strike and inside to a righty. So I just couldn’t throw.”
The Jays, as is too often the case, scored all five runs via home runs in Sunday’s defeat. In the first inning, Justin Smoak slammed his 24th. Kendrys Morales made it back-toback blasts with his 17th, giving the Jays a short-lived 3-0 lead.
It was the fifth time the Jays have gone back-to-back this year, the second time it’s been Smoak and Morales. They also did it on June 2 vs. the Yankees.
Trailing 4-3, a big blow came from the bat of leadoff hitter Jose Bautista in the fifth inning. After the Tigers had taken the lead in the fourth, Bautista crushed a home run off starter Anibal Sanchez that ricocheted off the face of a Jays fan in the second row. The two-run blast gave Toronto a lead to hand off to the bullpen.
With no add-on runs for the final six innings, the bullpen core of Ryan Tepera, Joe Biagini, Danny Barnes and Roberto Osuna allowed just a J.D. Martinez homer in the eighth.
Then came the walk-off against Jeff Beliveau and Harrell.
Blue Jay Jose Bautista, who homered in the fifth, couldn’t pull back this blast off the bat of the Tigers’ J.D. Martinez in the eighth inning on Sunday.