TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been searching for answers all season, but they have yet to find any solutions. If that doesn't change soon, the top of the division could drift out of sight.
With Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the Rays, Toronto's season-high fifth straight defeat, the 19-23 Blue Jays dropped to seven games back of American League East-leading Baltimore.
The Blue Jays -- who were outscored, 31-7, in their three-game series against the Rays -- have been in this position before and bounced back, so all hope is not lost. There is time to make a run, and the players in Toronto's clubhouse insist that is going to happen. They just don't know when.
"We have to play better baseball, that's the bottom line," said acting manager DeMarlo Hale, who is in charge until John Gibbons returns from a three-game suspension.
"This is a good club in here -- accomplished hitters who have done things in this game. There is a trust factor that you definitely have. ... It will change."
Toronto has been down this road before. In 2013, the Blue Jays entered the season as the talk of baseball but struggled out of the gate. By Game No. 42, they were eight games below .500 at 17-25.
That team never recovered, but the 2015 club was six games below .500 (18-24) and found a way to survive long enough to make a run. The Blue Jays went 46-18 down the stretch last season to overcome an eight-game deficit in the AL East and overtake the Yankees for the division crown.
The difference between then and now is that there may not be a magical makeover at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Last season, Toronto overhauled its roster for the stretch run, and while some moves can be made again this year, the farm system is not as rich, and a huge turnover can't be expected. That means the Blue Jays need to rely on their current core to turn things around.
"The same team is in here; we're all capable," said R.A. Dickey, who allowed five runs (four earned) in Wednesday's loss. "We ran into a team that has a lot of momentum. They're swinging the bat really well, we are not and we're not pitching really well. When you combine those things together, you get swept.
"That's just part of baseball. That's what's hard about it. But we have 'a jillion' games left. We don't have the time to sit around and pout. We're going into Minnesota, and we need to claim some games there. I think we will."
The main problem for Toronto has been its offense, and that was the case again on Wednesday. Toronto hit three home runs, but all were solo shots and the club went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
The Blue Jays have yet to win a game this season in which they've allowed more than four runs. Toronto is ranked 14th in the AL with a .234 average, 11th with a .395 slugging percentage and ninth with 168 runs. The Blue Jays have the second-highest strikeout total in the AL with 368. Few could've expected that after 42 games.
"It felt a little bit awkward because you can [see] the team struggling," said newcomer Jimmy Paredes -- who homered on Wednesday -- when asked about joining the club earlier this week. "So you're trying to come out here and bring some energy to the team to just try and help the team to do better."