TORONTO -- To call the Blue Jays a roller-coaster ride would be a disservice to roller coasters.
Those are designed by trained engineers, towering marvels of physics, energy and imagination. If you keep your eyes open, you’ll know whether a drop, rise or hairpin turn is coming next. The 2022 Blue Jays are something far more unpredictable.
Fresh off a 6-1 road trip through Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park that saved them from an earlier freefall, the Blue Jays fell completely flat against the Angels at home this weekend. Sunday’s 8-3 loss to the Angels ended a series sweep with a muffled thud. The Blue Jays didn’t just lose, they were thoroughly beaten by a non-contending team that came to Canada riding a six-game losing streak.
This weekend caught everyone off guard, and coming off a stretch defined by the word “urgency,” interim manager John Schneider had a simple message for his club.
“Look at the standings and understand that every game is important,” Schneider said. “Three hours out of your day needs to be completely focused on trying to win. That’s the goal moving forward.”
Ross Stripling knows as well as anyone on this roster what the ups and downs of a talented team can look like. In 2017, with the 104-win Dodgers, Stripling saw his club lose 11 straight. It felt like the sky was falling, he remembers, but that club still rebounded and made it to Game 7 of the World Series.
“I think the word that’s going to follow the 2022 Blue Jays for years to come is ‘streaky,’” Stripling said. “We’ve had more highs and lows this year than any team I’ve been a part of. You won’t see us get too down, because after lows, we’ve had a lot of highs. I think we’re ready to start playing good baseball again. Coming off a really good road trip and we get swept by the Angels. We didn’t expect it, but they came and punched us in the mouth.”
In the very next inning, the Blue Jays had two runners on again with two outs when Whit Merrifield sent a ground ball up the middle that caught shortstop Andrew Velazquez in an awkward, in-between spot. Unable to make the throw to first, Velazquez pivoted to second base, where Teoscar Hernández had all the time in the world to beat him to the bag. Running with a bad foot, though, Hernández eased into the base instead of running full speed, going in standing rather than sliding and allowing Velazquez to step on the bag and end the threat.
Even for Schneider, though, who’s perfectly capable of delivering a rousing speech, this isn’t the time.
“You have to be consistent and understand that it’s a really talented group,” he said. “There are going to be ups and downs. Over our last 10, it’s been good, but the sequencing of it sucks. I’m never the guy that will go in there and flip a table. At this point, it’s up to the players to say, ‘This is not good enough.’ I’m sure they’re talking about that right now. I trust that the guys who are veterans and leaders on the team take care of that.”
The Angels did everything the Blue Jays didn’t do Sunday, wedging their foot in the door each time the Blue Jays cracked it open and capitalizing on their extra opportunities.
After those failed attempts from the Blue Jays in the fifth and sixth, Mike Trout hit a fly ball to center field with two out, but George Springer just missed making the diving catch. Gurriel picked it up and fired home in time to get the runner, but that ball skipped away from Danny Jansen. An inch on both ends kept the inning alive for the Angels, and Shohei Ohtani made them pay by launching a two-run home run to the opposite field. Dagger.
Therein lies the frustration that comes with this team, because when they’re at their best, they look like the World Series contender so many around baseball projected entering the season.
The Blue Jays have left it all to September now, when consistency will be the deciding factor between disappointment and October thrills. These daily dice rolls are fun when they roll a six, but they’d far prefer that fate was in their own control.