BOSTON -- Aaron Sanchez is a full two months into the season, but he has yet to rediscover the magic that made him one of the best starting pitchers in baseball just two short years ago.Last season was marred by injury. This year has been plagued by inconsistency, with the
BOSTON -- Aaron Sanchez is a full two months into the season, but he has yet to rediscover the magic that made him one of the best starting pitchers in baseball just two short years ago.
Last season was marred by injury. This year has been plagued by inconsistency, with the latest example taking place on Monday afternoon at Fenway Park when Sanchez allowed a career-high seven earned runs while the Blue Jays also lost Josh Donaldson to a left calf injury in an 8-3 loss to the Red Sox.
• Donaldson day to day with left calf tightness
Sanchez, who allowed five runs in the fifth inning, did not pitch more than five innings in any of his five May starts. He has surrendered at least four runs in three of his last five starts and now sports a disappointing 2-5 record with a 4.77 ERA over 11 outings. Velocity hasn't been an issue, but hard contact -- and at times erratic command of the strike zone -- certainly has been.
"I was pretty pleased pretty much the whole game," said Sanchez, who chose to focus on the positives after this latest loss. "I felt like I was down in the zone. I felt like my pitches had good action. They had a couple of singles in that [fifth] inning, then a bloop and a blast. Those are the things that hurt you, but it's baseball, it happens. For the majority of the game I felt like I had good action on it. It was just one of those days."
Toronto's rotation entered this series on a bit of a roll. The starters have been a glaring weakness for most of the year, but the group entered play on Monday with three consecutive quality starts for the first time this season. The starting five began a recent three-game series with a 5.31 ERA, and while it dropped to 5.14 at the end of that set, all it took was one game to rise again to 5.27, which sits 11th in the American League.
Sanchez has been a primary culprit of the season-long issues. He appears to be having some difficulty repeating a consistent release point, and while the native of California issued just one free pass against Boston, he has walked 17 batters over his last 22 2/3 innings. Sanchez also has yet to win back-to-back starts this season and he posted a 5.96 ERA in May.
"I missed a lot of time. I feel like the only thing that's going to help this is reps," said Sanchez, who missed almost all of last year with a lingering blister issue. "I'm trying to get them. The more and more I get deeper, the better off I'll be. It's just a matter of getting there. I feel like, like I said, I don't feel like there was anything wrong with how I pitched today. A couple bloops and a blast, five runs later you're down, 6-0."
The loss will be harder than normal for the Blue Jays to take because it also involved the departure of their star third baseman. Donaldson was forced to leave in the top of the fifth inning with left calf tightness and is considered day to day. Prior to his departure, Donaldson had reached base in all three plate appearances, one of the only bright spots in the struggling lineup.
Former Blue Jay David Price battled control problems and a high pitch count early in the game, but he found a way to limit the damage to two runs over five innings. Devon Travis and Teoscar Hernandez each tripled, but Toronto couldn't do much against the Red Sox's bullpen, as Richard Hembree and Steven Wright combined for four innings to close out the game.
Despite winning the recent series in Philadelphia, the Blue Jays have now lost 12 of their last 17 games. Toronto's record in May dropped to 9-17 (.346) with two games to go. The Blue Jays' lowest winning percentage for May in franchise history was in 2001 (.357).
"It's just a mixture of things," Donaldson said when asked about Toronto's issues. "A couple of breaks here and there early on. Giving them the lead early on and they just continued to add on after that. We just need to do a better job."
Travis and Hernandez hit back-to-back triples in the top of the seventh. The last time the Blue Jays accomplished that feat was back on July 27, 2012, when Brett Lawrie and Omar Vizquel tripled against the Tigers.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Kendrys Morales was robbed of extra bases in the sixth when his shot to deep center field was caught by Jackie Bradley Jr. in what has to be considered an early-season candidate for catch of the year. Morales stung the bat at 104.4 mph and it had a projected distance of 414 feet with a hit probability of 91 percent. Bradley didn't seem to care about any of that as he turned his back to the ball at one point and made a leaping grab at the wall.
HE SAID IT
"It's definitely not fun to say the least, but you just have to take it day by day. Not get too far ahead of myself and just continue to go out there, prepare and do what I can."
-- Donaldson, on his injury plagued 2018 season
Marco Estrada (2-5, 5.40 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series on Tuesday night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET. Estrada will be looking for his first win in three attempts against the Red Sox this season. The veteran starter has allowed nine earned runs and 15 hits to Boston over 11 innings this year. Boston will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello (6-2, 3.74 ERA).
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.