Frustrations reach a boiling point in blowout loss to Phillies

May 8th, 2024

PHILADELPHIA -- The Blue Jays' early-season frustrations reached a boiling point in the fourth inning of Tuesday night's 10-1 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Moments after José Berríos served up a grand slam to Bryce Harper on a night when Berríos allowed more runs than he had all season, manager John Schneider was ejected following a testy exchange with the umpiring crew. Schneider was irked by a call two batters earlier, when third-base umpire Paul Clemons ruled that Kyle Schwarber held up on a check swing on a 2-2 pitch that hit him on the back foot to load the bases.

Though Berríos responded by striking out Whit Merrifield for the second out, he wasn't so fortunate on an 0-2 offering to Harper that was supposed to be in the dirt, but instead crossed right at his knees -- and ultimately ended up in the right-field seats.

"I just felt bad for José; should have been out of the inning after he struck Whit out,” Schneider said. “That was it. Judgment call -- I thought he swung, [Clemons] thought he didn't."

Harper's grand slam ended the night for Berríos, who was tagged for eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings. He had given up just seven runs in 43 2/3 innings over his first seven starts this season, which was good for an MLB-leading 1.44 ERA entering the night.

But as Berríos walked off the mound with an ERA that nearly doubled to 2.85, Schneider took a detour on his way back to the dugout. He first lit into Clemons, then turned his attention to crew chief and home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher, who gave him the hook.

The check-swing call certainly could have changed the complexion of that particular inning -- as Schwarber would have struck out instead of getting a free pass to load the bases -- but Berríos had already run into plenty of trouble by that point.

One of the few bright spots for the Blue Jays so far, Berríos had not allowed more than two runs in any start before quickly finding himself in a 3-0 hole through two innings. He battled to strand a pair of runners in a scoreless third, but finally hit a wall in the fourth, when he plunked Edmundo Sosa, who scored on a Kody Clemens RBI triple, then walked Garrett Stubbs before hitting Schwarber.

“Outings like this one are going to come, but we want to flush it and turn the page,” Berríos said. “But also, I have to learn from what I did wrong and make adjustments for the next one.”

Though Schneider's displeasure on this night stemmed from that check-swing call, it's fair to wonder if that wasn't simply a tipping point with his club losing for the 10th time in 13 games.

Toronto had its chances before Harper's back-breaking slam, but the Blue Jays' bats once again fell silent in big spots. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, including stranding three in scoring position within the first four frames.

And while Berríos' struggles were a first in 2024, the lack of timely hitting has been a problem all season for a Toronto team that entered hitting .199 with runners in scoring position. That ranked 29th in the Majors, while the Blue Jays also sat dead last in slugging percentage (.279), OPS (.570) and home runs (three) with runners in scoring position.

The Blue Jays (16-20) are the only team in the AL East that does not have a winning record. Only three AL teams have a worse mark: the Angels (13-23), Astros (12-23), and White Sox (8-28).

“We’re still in May, so right now, we’re talking about being closer and supporting each other more,” Berríos said. “Obviously, the record isn’t where we want it to be and we’re not playing the ball that we want, but we still have the opportunity.”

To that point, Toronto hasn't played even a quarter of its season yet. But things aren't about to get any easier. Following Wednesday's finale against a red-hot Phillies team that has the league’s best record, the Blue Jays will face a Twins club that just recently rattled off 12 straight wins. Then it's right back to the AL East gauntlet against the Orioles and Rays next week.

"You've got to try to continue to put the season in kind of segments a little bit, and really -- I've said it -- the season doesn't get any longer," Schneider said. "No matter who you're playing, you've got to go out and try to do what you need to do to win. ... It's going to be an important stretch."