There are nights when hard-hit balls are just outs
The view from Deep Left Field on the Blue Jays’ 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay at Rogers Centre on Tuesday:
It was as though the Blue Jays had to pay for the last two weeks in one night.
After rolling through the first half of September barely breaking a sweat, and scoring 52 runs over a four-game win streak that featured a pair of 11-run innings, the Jays finally had a game where nothing fell in.
The prolific offence was quieted, shut out by their nemeses from Tampa Bay, though they didn’t go down easy.
Ten balls came off the bats of Jays hitters at 95 miles per hour or harder, the definition of a “hard-hit ball,” and only three of them wound up being hits.
The hardest-hit ball of the game was a missile, hammered by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on a 3-0 pitch in the bottom of the fourth. That was the only inning in which the Jays threatened to score, with a leadoff hitter George Springer’s double followed by a walk to Marcus Semien.
Guerrero’s line drive to centre, at 113.4 miles per hour, had an expected batting average of .780 but wound up in the glove of his good buddy Manuel Margot.
In all, the Jays hit eight balls that had an expected batting average of .390 or better, and the end result was seven outs.
Reese McGuire was robbed of a third-inning hit by a diving Margot in centre, and Corey Dickerson’s line drive headed for the right-field corner in the seventh was stolen by Randy Arozarena.
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t drop for you, but even after being blanked by the Rays, the Blue Jays are averaging 10.4 runs over their past five games.
Leather: There were a couple of outstanding plays on the defensive end that, ultimately, didn’t change the result of the game — after all, when you don’t score any runs, you’re not going to win — but Bo Bichette and Semien each made the highlight reel.
Bichette, who has taken a lot of criticism for his glovework this season (he leads the league with 24 errors), laid out on a Margot ground ball up the middle with a runner on third and two out in the second inning. He got up and threw a laser to first to just nip the speedy runner, saving a run that would have doubled the Rays’ lead.
Semien made a spectacular tumbling grab of a sinking line drive off the bat of Yandy Diaz to end the eighth inning.
Both middle infielders shone again in the ninth, with Bichette sprinting out toward left-centre and stretching as far as he could to haul in a soft line drive hit by Joey Wendle. Semien took care of Diaz again, this time with a terrific diving grab of a hard ground ball to end the inning.
Gee, man: The visitors got all the offence they would need with one swing of the bat. Ji-Man Choi pounded his 10th home run of the season leading off the second inning. He drove a middle-middle pitch from José Berríos 437 feet to right field, arguably the only bad pitch Berríos threw over the course of his seven innings of four-hit ball.
Berríos threw only 87 pitches, but couldn’t answer the bell for the eighth inning because he felt tightness in his left side.
The right-hander, acquired at the trade deadline from Minnesota, had been pitching extremely well after a little dip in late August. Over his last four starts, Berríos has posted a 1.98 ERA and worked into the seventh inning each time. An extended absence would definitely strain what has been a dominant Jays rotation, although Ross Stripling is back and healthy if not terribly stretched out.
Stripling left his last start on August 10 with what the Jays called “left abdominal discomfort” and missed exactly a month, returning for five outs of relief work Saturday.