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Bats blanked again in Sanchez’s quality start

@gregorMLB
May 8, 2019

TORONTO -- Aaron Sanchez enjoyed one of his best starts of the season, but it was all for naught as the Blue Jays’ struggles at the plate continued for another day on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. Sanchez allowed three runs while setting a season high with seven innings pitched. He

TORONTO -- Aaron Sanchez enjoyed one of his best starts of the season, but it was all for naught as the Blue Jays’ struggles at the plate continued for another day on Tuesday at Rogers Centre.

Sanchez allowed three runs while setting a season high with seven innings pitched. He finally appeared to figure things out after surviving a 31-pitch first inning, but all it took was a couple of mistakes for the Blue Jays to be saddled with a 3-0 loss to the Twins.

Toronto’s lineup was held scoreless for the second consecutive night and the fourth time this season, which is the most in the American League. The Blue Jays haven’t scored since the seventh inning of Sunday’s 10-2 loss to the Rangers, a span of 20 innings. It’s the first time Toronto has been shut out in back-to-back games since July 9-10, 2015.

Box score

“Honestly, the last two days it has been their pitching,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “[Martin] Perez came in hot, pitching really well, and Berrios is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Not making excuses. They’re coming in hot to this town, those two guys. That’s a good lineup, that’s a good team and their pitching has been very good.”

Sanchez’s lack of innings this season has been directly tied to high pitch counts early in games. The native of California has experienced a lot of difficulty avoiding long innings in 2019, and it appeared he was in for another short night after a long one-run first. The good news for Sanchez is that after the first frame, his command and aggressiveness returned and he needed just 48 pitches to get through the next four innings.

Even though Sanchez allowed more than two earned runs for just the third time this season, the outing arguably was his best of 2019. Sanchez scattered six hits and three walks, two of which came in the first inning, while matching a season high with six strikeouts, as he threw 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes. The big blow came in the top of the sixth inning, when Mitch Garver hit a two-run shot, while Sanchez also caused his own problems in the first with a bases-loaded walk.

“That inning could have went so much different,” said Sanchez, who has a 1.59 ERA at home this season. “[Max] Kepler got a ground ball that he beats out. … Just a couple of things that you can’t control in the course of a game. But to go seven innings and give that bullpen a much-needed rest is my job to do and that’s what my focus is on.”

The Blue Jays' lack of offense has been an ongoing concern for the past several weeks. Montoyo admitted after Monday’s series opener that his club was going to have to change its approach, particularly early in games. Toronto has been held hitless the first time through the order 14 times this season and is now batting .160 in the first innings of games, the lowest mark in the AL.

The lack of run support led the club to hold a hitters' meeting on Tuesday afternoon, which typically only happens before the first game of a series. The extra preparation time didn’t change the results, as the Blue Jays managed just four hits off starter Jose Berrios over seven scoreless innings.

The Blue Jays are batting .213 at home this season, ahead of only San Francisco (.207) for the 29th spot in the Major Leagues heading into Tuesday's games. Toronto also has scored just 3.69 runs per game at home, last in the AL and 26th in the Majors. By comparison, Blue Jays pitchers have done their job at home with a 3.38 ERA, which is fourth in the AL to along with a .219 opponents’ batting average, which ranks third.

“It was about making an adjustment and having a better approach at the plate,” Montoyo said. “Stop chasing bad pitches. ... I think we’re going to get there. But we just faced two really good pitchers. Berrios is very good and he had his game on. He was on today.”

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook.