Streak over, Blue Jays look to start anew
Toronto can't win 12th straight as trip to NL park slows offense
NEW YORK -- It's not what a club does during a winning streak, but what it does after one, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons mused after Monday night's 4-3 loss to the Mets at Citi Field.
"I'm proud of these guys. We've been on quite a roll. It's a tough thing to do, to win 11 games," Gibbons said after the streak crashed in the 11th inning. "It was a tough one because it was right there and you had the lead. But it didn't happen and we'll move on tomorrow."
The Blue Jays were one strike away from winning a club record 12 in a row when Lucas Duda sawed off a full-count pitch from closer Brett Cecil and blooped it into the wide open pastures of left field.
Ezequiel Carrera, in the game earlier as a pinch-runner, was playing double prevention, swung all the way over to left-center against the lefty swinging Duda. Michael Cuddyer was running on contact and scored all the way from first when Carrera couldn't get to the ball.
"It was perfect placement," Gibbons said.
That scored the tying run. The winner scored a few minutes later when Wilmer Flores grounded a single up the middle. So much for that winning streak. Now let's see if they can start another one.
The Blue Jays were seven games under .500 when this one started, it should be noted.
"I mean, we were scuffling there for quite a while," Gibbons said. "We were very inconsistent, but we felt we were a better team than that. Now we'll see what happens from here on out. That's the key. We've been fortunate, too. We could have disappeared early on. But everybody else has their own problems."
The offense had been explosive in a three-game sweep of the Red Sox this past weekend in Fenway Park, scoring 31 runs on 43 hits. Those 31 runs were the most by any Major League team in a three-game series so far this season.
But rules change when an American League team has to play an Interleague series in a National League park where the pitcher hits and the designated hitter rides the bench. It puts the AL team at a deficit. Toronto is at or near the top of its league in just about every offensive category, including runs scored (359).
The Mets are fourth in the NL with a 3.53 ERA. Great pitching always beats great hitting, Gibbons noted, and the Mets did so in spades. Five Mets pitchers allowed only five hits, all of them to the three-four-five hitters and two of them being homers off the bat of Jose Bautista.
Noah Syndergaard, the big rookie right-hander, struck out a career-high 11 Blue Jays in only his seventh big league start. Syndergaard was one of the prospects who came from the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade prior to the 2013 season.
"Yeah, I know exactly where he came from," Gibbons said glibly.
And on Tuesday night, his club will have to face Matt Harvey.
The point is, Edwin Encarnacion, Gibbons' regular DH, had to play first base on Monday night. And he was the guy Carrera pinch-ran for after Encarnacion doubled during the ninth inning. Defensively, Carrera was sent to the outfield as Chris Colabello moved to first base. Plus, Encarnacion was out of the game when his cleanup spot came around again in the 11th. Ah, the irony.
As baseball and union officials ponder the possibility of standardizing the DH in both leagues, all this is as good a reason as any for using it every game in every park.
"We burnt through some guys, too. We had to do it going for the win," Gibbons said. "I like some of [the rule], but I don't like some of it because AL teams are built a certain way. You pay a lot of money for a DH, you know? When you have to put him on the field it takes away another good player being out there."
Encarnacion has been the DH since Bautista went back to right field. Justin Smoak, a .274 hitter with five homers and 20 RBIs, has been playing first base. And on Monday night, Smoak was relegated to a pinch-hitting role.
All of this might explain why a team that scored in bunches at Boston scored only three runs on five hits in 11 innings on Monday night. Of course, the Red Sox's team ERA of 4.53 is last in the AL and 29th out of the 30 Major League teams just ahead of Colorado's 4.72 ERA. That staff is not in the Mets' league.
"If Harvey's on tomorrow night, it's awful tough," Gibbons said. "We're getting challenged by really good pitching. The kid that pitched tonight was great. They have a good staff. They shut down a hot offense and that hasn't been easy to do lately."