A disappointing series for the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend as they looked to pad their lead in the American League East. Losing two of three to the last-place Boston Red Sox is a tough pill to swallow. Some are pointing to Roberto Osuna’s inability to close out the game on Saturday or John Gibbon’s handling of the bullpen as reasons for the late-inning collapses. Sure the bullpen could have been managed better but I think it should not have gotten to that point. I believe two factors led to the two losses: a lack of patience at the plate and shoddy defense.
Now to be honest, the Red Sox had some help from the umpiring. No way Wade Miley and Rich Hill can pitch like Cy Young contenders overnight. And I don’t think they ingested something to enhance their performance the day before their respective starts. Both Alan Porter on Sunday and Dan Iassogna on Saturday did a brutal job calling balls and strikes behind the plate. Iassogna especially missed the swinging third strike by Brock Holt that eventually led to Holt getting a lead-off double three pitches later and Boston winning the game on Saturday. Both he and Porter owe us big time.
But you can only blame the umpires for so much. And while Porter and Iassogna will continue to be in the crosshairs of Blue Jays fans, the players need to put that out of their minds and get back to where they were successful. First off, the hitters are swinging at too many pitches outside the strike zone. Being patient at the plate meant taking close pitches and waiting for the right one to hit. Hill did not give up a walk in his outing on Sunday. Miley surrendered 4 free passes in his start on Saturday but only one came around to score. The Blue Jay hitters were not patient enough to get a big hit at a critical time even when they were ahead on the count. Even if some pitches were out of the zone and called a strike, they let those calls get into their heads and they began to swing wildly afterwards.
Second is the defence (you know, the area where some “experts” consider overrated). Again, it is easy to point to the number in the error column but defence is also measured by the ability to get to a batted ball and make the play even if it is ruled a hit. Mark Buehrle got a lot of ground balls in his last two starts but the defense behind him were unable to get to those batted balls and they made its way out of the infield. And those that the infielders did get to were not turned for outs. There is no reason those ground balls are hits unless your defence is losing its range and like I said before about the Boston pitching, it did not change overnight.
The New York Yankees are in town for an important series. It is perhaps a good thing the Blue Jays will have David Price starting game one of the series as he has performed well when the team is coming off a loss. But the Blue Jays can’t expect to remain a contending team if they can’t be patient at the plate and play air-tight defence. As the Red Sox proved over the weekend, you can’t get away with that even to a last place team.