The view from Deep Left Field on the Blue Jays’ 7-1 loss in Baltimore Friday:
After a solid month of playing the Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and White Sox, with only two games against the under-.500 Marlins, a three-game series with the 22-46 Baltimore Orioles had been circled on the Blue Jays’ calendar for a while.
But there’s an old saying: “Be careful what you wish for.” And the O’s certainly weren’t gracious hosts in the first of 10 meetings before the all-star break.
Tom Eshelman, just called up from Triple-A before the game, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, the popgun Orioles offence turned relentless, and despite facing a lesser opponent the Jays’ bullpen was up to its old tricks, giving up a five-spot in the eighth inning that knocked out any chance for a comeback from the offence.
While facing Baltimore is absolutely still a breather on any team’s schedule, that doesn’t translate to an automatic win. Despite their record, they’re 4-6 against each of the Red Sox and Yankees.
Unlike, say, basketball and football, a really bad major-league baseball team is going to win at least a third of its games and usually more, and a spectacular team is still going to lose at least a third.
One game certainly isn’t a referendum on which team is better. Losing to the worst team in the league doesn’t make you the worst team in the league. But it sure would have been nice to see the Jays start off what should be a relatively easy road trip on the right foot.
- Foul play: With the Jays having used seven pitchers in Thursday night’s loss to the Yankees, they were looking to starter Robbie Ray — who has been their best pitcher so far this season — for some length. They didn’t get it.
Ray didn’t pitch poorly by any means, allowing just two runs, but he threw 106 pitches and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning.
The Orioles came into the game averaging 3.86 pitches per plate appearance — the third-worst mark in the American League — but only three of the 21 hitters Ray faced saw fewer than four pitches, and 16 of them saw five pitches or more.
The Jays’ lefty simply had trouble putting hitters away all night.
Sixteen times, a Baltimore hitter fouled off a two-strike offering from Ray.
This isn’t something that’s been an issue for Ray to this point in the season — he had averaged 3.99 pitches per plate appearance, even with his high strikeout numbers — but the lack of a put-away pitch hurt him on Friday night, and left the bullpen having to work early and often.
- Whither Rowdy? In the top of the eighth inning, with the Jays down by a run, Charlie Montoyo went looking for instant offence and brought in Rowdy Tellez to pinch-hit for rookie catcher Riley Adams. Tellez struck out on five pitches — despite the fact that only one of those pitches was actually in the strike zone, and it was called a ball.
The Jays hoped that Tellez would be a big left-handed slugger in the middle of their order after it appeared he had come into his own in his final two weeks of last season, but he hasn’t been able to get going at all this year.
Friday’s strikeout left him hitless in his last eight at-bats and dropped his June numbers to .189/.250/.324. Awful numbers for the month, and that .574 OPS is only slightly worse than the .614 he’s put up for the season as a whole.
With George Springer’s return in the offing, Tellez has to be looking over his shoulder, and rightly so.
Tune into Mike Wilner’s weekly Blue Jays podcast, Deep Left Field, wherever you get your podcasts.
Mike Wilner is a Toronto-based baseball columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @wilnerness