ST. PETERSBURG -- A couple of tough breaks and a continued lack of offence led Toronto to drop its third consecutive series, falling 3-1 to the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, for its second straight loss in the three-game set against Tampa Bay.
It wasn’t until the top of the ninth that the Blue Jays were able to scrape across a run, doing so after a ground-rule double from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. put runners at second and third with one out. A sacrifice fly was the only run the team would score in the effort.
The solution? Well there’s no easy one. As Randal Grichuk put it -- just have good at-bats.
“Good at-bats are contagious and we aren’t having as many of them as we need to,” said the outfielder, who is 1-for-8 in the series. “You have to give some credit to their pitching staff but we have to do better one through nine.”
New day, new attitude. Every game and every plate appearance is an opportunity to reverse the fortunes.
“Young guys struggle and a little bit, it can get in your head, and snowballs from there,” Grichuk added. “You have to think positive thoughts and go in there with a new mindset, new attitude. It snowballs in the sense of good at-bats and bad at-bats, and grind through some at-bats to get things rolling.”
If there was a bright spot in Tuesday’s game, it was Clayton Richard. The left-hander, making just his second start this season after returning from the injured list, turned in a serviceable four-inning performance in which he allowed just two runs. Manager Charlie Montoyo said before the game the left-hander would be limited to roughly 75 pitches, and he finished the game with 81, allowing three hits and four walks while striking out three.
Richard was able to escape a 31-pitch first inning surrendering one run on a sacrifice fly, after loading the bases with one out. Though he was pleased with his performance, Richard wished he could have gone deeper.
“It’s unfortunate, with the way our bullpen have been ridden the last week, not to be more efficient,” Richard said. “As a starting pitcher, in these types of situations, you want to get a little deeper into the game. I know we had a pitch count, but still to be out of there in four innings is disappointing given our circumstances.”
In the third, Richard gave up an inside-the-park home run on what should have been a routine fly ball that Grichuk appeared to lose in the Tropicana Field roof. Avisail Garcia initially didn’t run hard out of the box on the play but once it looked like it could drop, he hustled his way around the bases. But what was fortuitous for Tampa Bay was simply a bad break for Toronto.
“Once it got above the seats, I lost it,” Grichuk. “I heard [Jonathan Davis] say ‘Back,’ I looked back, saw it, and was obviously nowhere near where the ball was at. It just happened so fast. I was shocked I was that far off of it.”
Thus far in the series, only Justin Smoak has put together a multi-hit performance, as he went 2-for-3 with a pair of singles on Tuesday. All-Star Game candidates Eric Sogard and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are hitless in the series.
Toronto is now one day shy of completing a 16-day stretch without a day off. It started out innocently enough, splitting a two-game series on the road at San Francisco and then splitting four in Chicago against the White Sox. Since then, the club has gone just 2-7 against Boston, San Diego and Tampa Bay.