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Offence struggles in loss in Baltimore, where Jays could find out how low they can go

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 5 days ago Mark Zwolinski - Sports Reporter
a man swinging a baseball bat: The Jays’ Eric Sogard follows through on a solo homer to open Tuesday’s game. © Gail Burton The Jays’ Eric Sogard follows through on a solo homer to open Tuesday’s game.

The Blue Jays continued that sinking feeling in the American League East, managing just five hits in a 4-2 loss in Baltimore.

The loss, the Jays’ fifth in a row and 11th in the last 13 games, reduced their advantage from three to two games over the Orioles, the only team with a worse record in the division than Toronto.

The Jays are now 23-43 and if they can’t get it right against the lowly Orioles, they’ll replace Baltimore in the division basement by the end of this three-game set at Camden Yards.

The players and coaching staff have done an admirable job keeping a positive attitude in the clubhouse, with an upbeat, family-like vibe among the players. At some point, though, losing in this quantity becomes too familiar. It becomes an almost insurmountable struggle to win one game, or two games in a row. The Jays are now on pace to finish 58-104.

Even against the lowly Orioles, things don’t get any easier. Baltimore’s starters have posted a 3.00 ERA — and their bullpen a 2.47 ERA — in the last week.

Who’s got it? The Jays had an embarrassing defensive play came in the fourth inning when second baseman Eric Sogard and right fielder Randal Grichuk let a routine fly ball drop between them. Baltimore scored what would be the winning run as a result. Either the players lost the fly ball in the twilight, or they simply failed to communicate on a basic play.

A little pop: Sogard had two of the Jays’ five hits, including a leadoff homer in the first inning. That was the 128th homer surrendered by Baltimore pitchers, the most in the majors. But Toronto hitters struck out 13 times and failed to take any advantage of the four walks they managed off Orioles’ pitching. Toronto has scored two or fewer runs 28 times this season, worst in the majors.

Rookie watch: Jays super rookie Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 0-for3 at the plate. Guerrero is nowhere near any league lead, with seven homers and 16 RBIs, but his at-bats are still considered must watch baseball.

Another super rookie, Pete Alonso of the Mets, homered Tuesday night. He now has 22 homers and 49 RBIs and, so far, looks like a runaway winner of the NL rookie of the year award.

It could be an interesting feature in the home run derby at the all-star game in Cleveland next month, to have the two rookies participate in the long ball contest.

Short start: Trent Thornton worked five innings, which wasn’t good news for the Jays’ bullpen as the team negotiates a 16-game run without a day off. Thornton, after showing good command of his slider in the first inning, gradually began to lose his feel on the pitch. He walked three batters in the second inning, but survived the inning without a run.

Still, the long innings and inconsistent command have led to an inflated pitch-per-inning figure for Thornton. He is averaging just over 18 pitches per frame, fourth highest among American League starters.

Thornton (1-5, 4.78 ERA) is having a mostly good season in his rookie campaign. He’s certainly stepped up his performance, too, with the Jays losing three key starters to injuries at the outset of the season.

Mark Zwolinski is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @markzwol

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