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'Catchable ball' dooms Blue Jays in Bronx

@KeeganMatheson
September 15, 2020

One of the biggest games of the Blue Jays' season turned into one of their biggest losses Tuesday night, and it all started with a routine fly ball in the bottom of the second inning. When Derek Fisher settled underneath a deep fly ball from Clint Frazier, you'd be forgiven

One of the biggest games of the Blue Jays' season turned into one of their biggest losses Tuesday night, and it all started with a routine fly ball in the bottom of the second inning.

When Derek Fisher settled underneath a deep fly ball from Clint Frazier, you'd be forgiven if you glanced away from your screen, certain it would be caught, or used that free moment to check your phone. If you did, you missed the ball clank off Fisher's glove, setting in motion a three-inning stretch where the Yankees sent 29 batters to the plate and scored a whopping 16 runs.

When the dust settled, the Blue Jays had dropped the opener at Yankee Stadium 20-6, but the loss goes well beyond the score itself and highlights the challenges Toronto will face with the postseason fast approaching.

Box score

"Nobody wants to make an error. It was a catchable ball and he dropped it," said manager Charlie Montoyo. "There's nothing more you can say about it, really. Of course it got that going, we all know that. It would have been a different inning."

By prolonging the second inning with not just that error, but a missed play on another catch in the gap that could have been made by Fisher, starting pitcher Taijuan Walker was forced to stretch well beyond what he should have needed to do. After surrendering back-to-back home runs with two outs in the inning, including a three-run shot off the bat of Luke Voit, Walker was pulled after just 1 2/3 innings.

"Errors are going to happen, it's just part of the game," Walker said, putting no blame on the error or his defense. "I've got to find a way to pick up my teammate there. I had opportunities to [end the inning] with Wade and DJ [LeMahieu]. I had two strikes and just couldn't put him away. They got those base hits there and it just really unfolded after that."

Walker was left with one of the strangest pitching lines you'll see, as just one of his seven runs allowed was earned. The strain on the pitching staff certainly didn't end with Walker, though, as the Blue Jays were then forced to burn through several of their more valuable multi-inning arms on the first day of a stretch that will see them close out the season with 14 games in 13 days.

It also brings the urgency of the moment to light. With the loss, the Blue Jays fell behind the Yankees in the American League East and now sit seventh in the AL postseason picture, with Cleveland behind them as the other Wild Card team. Toronto has two more games against New York in this series and four more next week, all of which have major playoff implications and all of which will require a significantly stronger effort than Tuesday.

When these fundamental errors have piled up throughout the season -- all too often -- Montoyo and the Blue Jays' staff have kept an emphasis on teaching and development. The specific type of error that Montoyo saw mattered, too.

"There's a difference between mental errors and physical errors," Montoyo said. "I don't get on people for making physical errors, that's just part of the game. Nobody wants to make an error. Mental errors are a different story, but the ones today, they were physical."

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Shun Yamaguchi was first to grab a mop, but he opened the third inning with three consecutive walks, a balk, then two hit batters to bring in a pair of runs before a ball had even been put in play. After Yamaguchi allowed seven runs on 59 pitches over 1 1/3 innings, Anthony Kay was touched up for another pair of runs on 49 pitches over two frames, meaning both could be unavailable for the rest of this crucial series.

Ken Giles got in his second inning of work since returning from the injured list. He allowed a solo home run while needing just seven pitches to complete his inning, but the three fastballs Giles threw averaged just 93.3 mph, so there's still some ground for the star closer to cover before he returns to his 2019 average of 96.9 mph and re-establishes himself in the ninth inning.

The Blue Jays then had to turn to Santiago Espinal in the final inning for the second time in four days, which is less than ideal given that Espinal is a utility infielder. Montoyo said after the loss that Toronto may need to look at adding a fresh arm before Wednesday night's game.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.