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Frustrations mount as Blue Jays drop series

@KeeganMatheson
August 16, 2020

Matt Shoemaker was one strike away from escaping a jam in the fourth inning to keep his shutout alive over the Rays on Sunday in Buffalo. A few moments later, the Blue Jays were down a run and Shoemaker was being restrained by teammates after being ejected from the game.

Matt Shoemaker was one strike away from escaping a jam in the fourth inning to keep his shutout alive over the Rays on Sunday in Buffalo. A few moments later, the Blue Jays were down a run and Shoemaker was being restrained by teammates after being ejected from the game.

The Blue Jays eventually fought back to grab the lead before finding a painful new way to lose late, 7-5, but that wild fourth inning was full of fireworks and helped set the tone for a frustrating day.

Box score

With two on and two out, Shoemaker had Yoshi Tsutsugo down 0-2 in that pivotal at-bat, and thought he had strike three with a fastball high and inside. Home-plate umpire Vic Carapazza called it a ball, and two pitches later, Tsutsugo launched a three-run home run to put the Rays ahead.

After a verbal exchange with Carapazza between batters, Shoemaker struck out Willy Adames to escape the inning. It wasn’t done there, though.

Shoemaker was ejected from the dugout between innings, at which point he came back onto the field to continue the exchange with Carapazza. Soon after, manager Charlie Montoyo was ejected right along with him. This whole series was a blow to the Blue Jays not just because of the home run, but because Shoemaker had been absolutely rolling through an efficient outing that would have been a great help to the bullpen.

After the loss, Shoemaker opened by saying he’s never been tossed from a baseball game in his life, stretching back to when he started playing at five years old.

“I’m still shocked by that, because I didn’t use one word of profanity, I didn’t personally attack him and still got tossed,” Shoemaker said. “I think it didn’t help that there weren’t any fans in the stands, because he could probably hear everything I was saying but, even then, I was just saying stuff like, ‘That can’t happen.’”

Bichette (knee sprain) to IL

From the dugout, Shoemaker says that he shouted, “It’s not my career, right?” which is when he was tossed. What upset Shoemaker the most, though, is the fact he felt better than he has all season on the mound before his early exit.

The veteran right-hander looked locked in from the first pitch, striking out the side swinging in the first and cranking his fastball all the way up to 95.4 mph at one point, the first time he’s topped 95 since 2016, according to Statcast. He struck out seven Rays batters over four innings, but that Tsutsugo blast muddied what looked like a much better pitching line.

Blue Jays honor Negro Leagues

The Blue Jays quickly picked Shoemaker up though, starting with a towering solo shot from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. into the netting beyond the left-field fence, then a two-run home run off the bat of Anthony Alford, just the second of his MLB career.

Toronto had every opportunity to close out a win in the final inning, but another blatant fundamental error cost the team dearly. With a runner on first, Yandy Díaz hit a soft, line-drive single to right field, which Teoscar Hernández bobbled, then booted. By the time Hernández tracked the ball down, he quickly threw to the area of second base instead of trying for home.

Montoyo defended Hernández after the game, but the larger pattern here is clear. The blunder extends, once again, a troubling trend for the 2020 Blue Jays, as basic defensive and baserunning errors have cost them runs far too often. With a depleted bullpen, Wilmer Font was tasked with the ensuing eighth -- the first extra inning in the seven-inning game -- and allowed a two-run home run to Adames.

At this point, Montoyo says all the Blue Jays can do is stay positive and keep working at it, but it’s past the point where the results need to show themselves.

“Nobody wants to make errors and lose games, which happened today,” Montoyo said. “That’s the third-best team in baseball. If we don’t play clean baseball, you’re not going to beat them. That’s what happened. In the first game, we lost a relay ball that cost us, then what happened in this game today. We’re almost there, but to get to the next point, we need to play clean baseball, and we haven’t been.”

Keegan Matheson covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.