Hours before one of the more disheartening efforts of the 155 games the Blue Jays have played this season, general manager Ross Atkins talked bullishly about his team’s prospects for a deep post-season run.
Moments after it ended in a 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees, manager John Schneider talked about the need for some of his highest-profile players to be more attentive to detail.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth for a team that in a 24-hour span displayed the maddening inconsistencies that have plagued them this year.
While Yankees players celebrated to loud beats and spraying champagne down the Rogers Center hallways, Schneider lamented a frustrating display of base-running in the sixth inning.
Most notably, Schneider was discouraged by a lazy play from the previous night’s hero, Vlad Guerrero Jr., who admired a loud fly ball off the left-field wall long enough to get caught easily at second base.
With the Jays trailing 5-1 — and Bo Bichette preceding Guerrero with another bad play at second when he popped up off the bag and was tagged out — it was the type of brain cramp that won’t fly this time of year.
And Schneider, justifiably, wasn’t pleased.
“Vlady flat out needs to run harder,” the manager said. “That’s inexcusable. I’ll tell him that. We’re at the point where every little thing matters. Every 90 feet matters and it should matter every day of the season.
“That wasn’t the best right there.”
Schneider has had a long enough history with Guerrero to approach the young Jays star about the play. And he’s also not shy about keeping his players accountable, a quality that could play well if handled properly.
The point, of course, is that with eight games remaining and the business of trying to secure the top AL wild-card seed still at hand, the Jays need to be better.
It was one game, yes, but the confounding inconsistencies of this Jays group was on display as the team looked spring-training sloppy rather than playoff prepared. It couldn’t have been in greater contrast to the effort the previous night when the Jays walked it off in the 10th for a 3-2 win.
Still, as the architect of a major rebuild that began in 2016, Atkins is bullish on this team’s prospects.
“I don’t think there’s anything that should limit them,” Atkins said. “We’re certainly capable of playing with the best teams in baseball and hopefully we end up being the one.”
Of course, much of what could hold them back was on display in the two hours and 55 minutes it took to play this one.
From another at-times dodgy outing by starter Jose Berrios to further entrench lingering doubts on the starting rotation, to the snafus on the bases, the mistakes were somewhat concerning.
To add to the insult, the loss allowed the Yankees to celebrate a clinching of the AL East right there under the dome, posing for pictures on the infield mound afterwards.
The beauty — frustrating as it can be — of this Jays team has shown it can flush the equivalent of the aftermath of Loonie Dogs night in a hurry, often rebounding as early as the next day.
And to Atkins’ point, the Jays work through the past couple of months has inspired enough confidence to suggest the team is capable of going on a sustained run.
Winning a World Series isn’t always the accomplishment of the best team, after all, but it often goes to the hottest — shout out to the reigning champs from Atlanta.
“The biggest questions on what we are focused on is how we can set ourselves up for the most success for a push deep into the post-season,” Atkins said. “Obviously that starts with Game 1 of the playoffs but we want to make sure we are cognizant of playing as long as possible and as deep as possible.”
Actually, the larger unknowns remain when they will clinch, whether that includes the top seed in the AL wild-card race and who their opponent will be when the action begins on Oct. 8.
With Boston beating Baltimore, the Blue Jays magic number is reduced to two. They can clinch a post-season spot on Wednesday with a win over the Yankees and another Orioles loss.
On Tuesday, the Jays ran into the electric stuff of Yankees starter Jameson Taillon, who after allowing a leadoff homer to George Springer, retired 16 of the next 17 Jays batters he faced.
“Everything gets magnified this time of year,” Schneider said. “Everyone’s tired. Everyone’s grinding. You just have to leave no margin for error and play hard.”
BATTLE OF BERRIOS
As much as the Jays are thrilled with the one-two punch of Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah at the top of the rotation and the outstanding, upstart season of Ross Stripling, the Berrios situation is a confounding one.
The righty lasted 5.1 innings, scattering nine hits for five earned runs. Sure, it was better than his previous outing which lasted just two innings, but he’s nowhere near ready to be declared a reliable arm for the post season.
Schneider disagrees with that assessment, however, even with Berrios being last in the AL in ERA (5.37) and opponents average (.292.)
“We trust Jose. He’s really good,” Schneider said. “It was great to see him go out and throw the way he did. A pitch here or a pitch there and it’s probably a little different outcome.”
Springer’s 431-foot homer to get things started was his ninth leadoff home run of the season and 52nd of his career… The Jays stuck to their plans of not pitching anything worthwhile to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, keeping his home-run chase stalled at 60 The Rogers Center crowd didn’t appreciate the cautious approach, booing loudly after Judge’s eighth-inning plate appearance resulted in a fourth consecutive walk.
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