3 takeaways as Blue Jays struggle in Cleveland

April 7th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Left-hander could not make it out of the third inning and reliever Elvis Luciano did not fare any better, as the Blue Jays lost for the sixth time over their last seven games on Saturday afternoon.

Pannone was roughed up for four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out six over 2 2/3 innings in a 7-2 loss to Cleveland at Progressive Field. Luciano then entered out of the bullpen and was charged with two more over 1 2/3 innings. The struggling Blue Jays could not find a way to get back into the game.

Toronto has lost all three games in its current series vs. the Indians, and will attempt to avoid the sweep when No. 1 starter Marcus Stroman takes the mound against Mike Clevinger on Sunday afternoon. The Blue Jays have been held to three runs or fewer in seven of their 10 games this season as the lack of offense continues to be the most prominent storyline of the first two weeks.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco was the one responsible for extending the Blue Jays’ offensive woes on Saturday. The 32-year-old allowed two runs on six hits while walking just one and striking out 12 over five innings. Dating back to 1908, the 12 strikeouts by Carrasco were the most in franchise history for a starter in five innings of work or fewer.

“I think this is part of the game,” Blue Jays left fielder Teoscar Hernandez said. “We’re not the only guys it’s happening to right now. We’re struggling a little bit. Sometimes it’s the pitching, sometimes it’s the hitting. But that’s how the game goes, and we’re just going to continue battling. Run out there, playing hard, trying to do our best and trying to win the game.”

Here’s a closer look at The Good, The Bad and The Ugly from Saturday afternoon:

The Good

The Blue Jays’ offense might be struggling, but veteran shortstop Freddy Galvis is one player who is swinging a red-hot bat. In the series opener on Thursday, Galvis walked three times and broke up a potential no-hitter in the top of the ninth with a single off Brad Hand. Galvis homered the next night, and on Saturday afternoon followed that up with yet another shot over the wall.

Galvis was signed because of his glove, not his bat. But as the rookies around him struggle to produce, the 29-year-old has been the one steady presence in the batting order. The Venezuelan native is batting .333 with a 1.061 OPS through the first 10 games of the season. While that production will drop over time, the Blue Jays intend to ride the bat for as long as they can.

“Everybody knows he’s one of the best players on the team,” Hernandez said. “He’s got a lot of years here and he knows what he’s doing. I think he knows how to control everything that is happening right now. We have a lot of young talent in here, but it’s part of the game and we’re going to figure it out.”

The Bad

Toronto’s bullpen entered play on Saturday with a respectable 3.38 ERA, which ranked ninth in the Major Leagues, but the group wasn’t able to shut the door vs. Cleveland. Rule 5 pick Luciano relieved Pannone and tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings before his outing completely fell apart in the fifth, as he loaded the bases with nobody out on back-to-back singles and a walk to Hanley Ramirez. A run-scoring wild pitch followed and later Galvis made a questionable throw in an attempt to get the runner out as a second run scored.

Luciano had success early, but overall threw just 20 of his 37 pitches for strikes.

“He’s just a kid and he hasn’t pitched,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “I thought he did OK for his second outing in 10 days. … If we make that play, the infield hit, it’s a different inning. That’s how I see it. I thought he did a good job. He hasn’t pitched in awhile and I’ll tell you what, he’s not scared.”

The Ugly

Strikeouts continue to be a major problem for the Blue Jays’ lineup. Toronto entered play on Saturday ranked fourth in the American League with 81 strikeouts, and that number jumped to 95 by the time Cleveland’s work was done on Saturday. It’s not just the number of strikeouts that has raised red flags, it’s how the Blue Jays are getting them.

The Blue Jays struck out looking seven times on Saturday. Brandon Drury has been one of the biggest culprits so far this season with 16 strikeouts in 37 at-bats but he’s far from being the only one. Justin Smoak, Hernandez and Billy McKinney all had multi-strikeout games vs. Cleveland, and the Blue Jays simply aren’t making enough contact to generate any offense.