Six of the eight losses have come this month as the Blue Jays just can't seem to take the next step. Toronto helped save its season with an 18-10 record in May, but a 8-9 record in June has kept the Blue Jays stuck in the basement of the American League East.
"There are some nights when you get real good pitching, some nights you don't hit and vice versa," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That seems like the rut we're in right now."
Toronto didn't get much in the way of good pitching or good hitting against the Rangers on Tuesday night. Lefty Francisco Liriano put his team in an early hole by allowing four runs in the first inning. The offense had plenty of opportunities to get back in it, but finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
The loss dropped the Blue Jays 5 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the American League East. They also moved out of a tie with fourth-place Baltimore and once again find themselves alone in fifth place. Despite all of that, the Blue Jays are just two games back of the second AL Wild Card spot. The only problem is there are eight other teams in the Wild Card mix with equal or better records.
Toronto hasn't been closer than five games out of the division lead since April 12 when the club was 1-7. One of the biggest issues is that the Blue Jays have been continuously falling behind early. Toronto has allowed its opponent to score first in seven straight games and in 10 of its past 12. The rotation also has an AL-high 6.30 ERA in the first inning.
"To be honest, I don't really pay too much attention to that, but 10 days ago I was looking at that," Liriano said of the club's inability to get to an even record. "Trying to get to .500 is amazing for us. It has been tough but we have to keep playing, put this one behind us tomorrow and come ready to play tomorrow."
The other issue has been an inconsistent lineup. Steve Pearce has been on a roll since returning from the disabled list, Kendrys Morales appears to be heating up and Justin Smoak has been the club's most reliable hitter all season. Add in a healthy Josh Donaldson and the pieces are there, but the production from the rest of the team has not been.
Leadoff hitter Kevin Pillar was at .309 on May 21, and exactly one month later, his average has dropped to .246. Troy Tulowitzki is batting .213 (16-for-75) since coming off the disabled list and Jose Bautista is batting just .129 (8-for-62) with three extra-base hits in June. With numbers like that, no wonder it has been so difficult to reach that elusive .500 plateau.
"We've got a good team. We'll get there, it's just a matter of time," Pearce said.