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Pitching delivers, bats don't in loss to Rays

Troubling trend has seen Blue Jays manage six runs in past four games
July 26, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays couldn’t string any offense together behind Jacob Waguespack and a solid bullpen effort in a 3-1 loss to the Rays on Friday night at the Rogers Centre. That has emerged as a recurring theme over a difficult week at the plate. Toronto struggled to put

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays couldn’t string any offense together behind Jacob Waguespack and a solid bullpen effort in a 3-1 loss to the Rays on Friday night at the Rogers Centre. That has emerged as a recurring theme over a difficult week at the plate.

Toronto struggled to put up numbers over their three-game series against the Indians to open their homestand. They’ve scored a combined six runs over the past four games, with 18 hits and 35 strikeouts, a regression after 12- and seven-run efforts last weekend in Detroit.

Box score

The two-run deficit didn’t feel threatened by the Blue Jays as they recorded just four hits and three walks against Tampa Bay, which used Diego Castillo as its opener before handing Ryan Yarbrough the bulk of the game.

“We were so hot for a while, but we’re also facing good pitching,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We have to make an adjustment. The Rays have good pitching and Cleveland had good pitching. We’ve just got to make an adjustment. We’ve got to go out and battle harder now.”

The Blue Jays put three balls in play with exit velocities north of 100 mph, according to Statcast, but only one went for a hit, a single off the bat of Randal Grichuk. This could be the nature of a young team down the stretch, too, as its immense potential shows its ceiling in bursts, but with letdowns along the way.

Waguespack limited the Rays to three runs over five innings, but the 6-foot-6 right-hander didn’t have the same strikeout pitch working as he did his last time out in Detroit. Waguespack allowed six hits and three walks with just two strikeouts. But given some of the encouraging signs he has shown and the high potential of a Marcus Stroman deal before Wednesday’s Trade Deadline, Waguespack has earned a longer look, and Montoyo said after the game that he’ll get one.

There was some loud contact against Waguespack, which he managed to keep in the park, but the 25-year-old feels that he’s close. In his recent starts, he has had opportunities to make the right pitch at the right time and escape with a better line, which will be the next step in his development at the Major League level.

“Later in the game, I just didn’t execute a couple of pitches,” Waguespack said. “Most of my runs are coming with two outs, so I think it’s bearing down on those last few hitters, making the pitch and executing it.”

Toronto appeared to pull out to a lead in the fourth, when Freddy Galvis doubled into the left-field corner. That brought home Justin Smoak, but when Rays outfielder Tommy Pham played the ball, it bounced off his glove and back over the low wall into the crowd. Grichuk was rounding third and about to score the go-ahead run, but the umpires ruled that Grichuk had to return to third base with Galvis staying at second.

After the game, crew chief Jerry Meals explained that, for a ball that was not in flight and unintentionally deflected out of play, the runners were awarded two bases from the time of the pitch being thrown, not the time of the ball exiting the field.

The bullpen was sharp behind Waguespack, beginning with Justin Shafer and Tim Mayza. Right-hander Joe Biagini then covered 1 1/3 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 3.42 in a year that has seen him quietly be one of the club’s more consistent relievers. Ken Giles warmed late with contending teams certainly interested ahead of the Deadline, but Derek Law handled the clean ninth inning instead.