TORONTO — After a very stressful win in Boston late Thursday night, the Toronto Blue Jays arrived home at 4 a.m., got whatever sleep they could, and headed back to the stadium for more.
While the short run time has been less than ideal, playing fatigued is part of the challenge, especially at this point in the season. Ideally, the Blue Jays would have overcome it, building on the momentum of their 6-1 road trip with a win behind No. 5 starter Mitch White.
What followed was far from ideal, however. The Blue Jays got in their own way from start to finish on Friday, throwing poorly, making it worse with their gloves and only getting six hits on their way to a 12-0 loss to the Angels in front. 40,754 at the Rogers Center.
“You rinse it off,” manager John Schneider said. “It’s been a bad day in the last eight. And you continue. It wasn’t our best brand of baseball and that’s okay.
The first hints of trouble appeared in the first inning when an overexcited Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made a pitching error that allowed Mike Trout to reach base. White escaped the inning without giving up a run, but Guerrero Jr.’s aggression backfired again when he was caught stealing late in the first.
Yet what happened three batters later was perhaps more troubling for the Blue Jays. Teoscar Hernandez, who suffered X-rays of his left foot after fouling a ball in New York last weekend, committed another foul in the same area. Initially he stayed in the game, but he took to the field cautiously early in the second and looked unable to reach full speed when a fly ball from Shohei Ohtani hovered over his head for a triple.
“It was just misread,” Schneider said. “And you put that on top of fouling the ball with his foot twice, we just wanted to be careful.”
After a discussion with Schneider between sets, Hernandez went out with what the team calls a left foot contusion. He still looked uncomfortable after the game, but x-rays were negative again and he is being considered day to day.
Worse still, the Blue Jays challenged a Jo Adell single on which the left fielder was clearly safe and two batters later, Guerrero Jr. looked second instead of taking an easier outing early on a bunt single. ‘Andrew Velázquez.
Granted, unbalanced losses occur if you play 162 times, and there is probably little to be gained from over-analyzing these errors. Overall, Guerrero Jr. was a vastly improved defensive first baseman and as odd as Hernandez’s route seemed in real time, the bruised foot adds crucial context to this play.
With better defense behind him, White may have ended the night with less than seven earned runs, but in reality he wasn’t at his best allowing eight hits and three walks. At least he’s gone five innings for the first time since moving to the Blue Jays — a welcome development for a team coming off an extra innings game.
After allowing five runs in the second, he decided to throw as deep into the game as possible.
“It wasn’t a good one,” White said afterwards. “As soon as I get punched in the face there, it’s like ‘it’s going to be a chore and you just have to be ready’…it’s about protecting the bullpen.”
Of course, there were still four rounds to cover once White was gone, which opened the door for Yusei Kikuchi. The southpaw walked the first batter on four pitches — which he did in each of his three relief appearances — then struck out six of the next eight batters he faced. But he also allowed two home runs, including a two-run shot by Trout.
Given early control issues and lingering home run issues, Kikuchi shouldn’t be used in high leverage moments, but Schneider later praised the southpaw.
“A lot of very good things,” he said. “Just two errors, really…he saved our bullpen and (I) really couldn’t have been happier with the way he threw the ball.”
With the game out of control, Whit Merrifield pitched the ninth inning, allowing Adell’s second of two home runs while sparing the bullpen from further use.
With Hernandez’s mobility now in question, the Blue Jays are optimistic about the progress of George Springer, who felt good after throwing from the outfield at base during pregame drills Thursday. If his right elbow continues to heal at this rate, he could play center field at some point during the current homestand.
With 38 games left in the season, the 68-56 Blue Jays have to weigh the need for rest against the need for wins right now. It’s not a new balancing act, but the Blue Jays are starting to approach it a little differently.
“We want him to be the best version of himself and we don’t want to take anything away from what he does offensively,” Schneider said. “But if he’s ready to go at this point – we’re almost in September – if he’s good enough, he’s good enough.”
At least the Blue Jays have Springer’s bat in the lineup and given what lies ahead on Saturday, they’re going to need it. Facing Alek Manoah in front of a sold-out crowd on Saturday afternoon is reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani.
Struggling on all counts, the Blue Jays suffer a crushing defeat against the Angels