It keeps getting harder to say something positive about the Toronto Blue Jays these days.
Heading into the weekend, it looked like their offence was on the verge of returning at just the right time. They powered themselves to a 8-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, posting 11 hits in the process. This put them in a good position to pull-off the nearly impossible: win a series in Tampa Bay.
Unfortunately, the offensive outburst would prove short-lived. The Jays were never able to overcome a(nother) rocky start from Drew Hutchison on Saturday, losing 10-3 while going 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position. This lead to Sunday’s lame effort against David Price where Toronto’s once mighty offence was limited to five hits (the Rays, for what’s it worth, only managed six hits so it wasn’t a blowout in any sense of the imagination).
There’s no doubt injuries have taken their toll on the Jays. Without Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie in the lineup, the Jays look very different from both an offensive and defensive point of view. This may be true, but it also gives Encarnacion, Lind and Lawrie more credit than they deserve: Toronto’s woes began long before these three players landed on the DL.
You can trace Toronto’s current slump all the way back to early June when they lost a three-game series at home to the St. Louis Cardinals. Their offence hasn’t been the same since this series and it shows in the standings: the Jays now sit two games above .500 after peaking at 14 games above .500 to start June.
Toronto’s also lost its hold on first place in the American League East. They now sit four games back of the Baltimore Orioles, barely staying ahead of the New York Yankees for second place. The all-star break is certainly welcome and hopefully it affords the Jays an opportunity to figure things out.
Coming out of the break, there is some good news for Toronto.
Encarnacion and Lind should be back soon. The schedule looks relatively easy, too. They finish the month by playing four series (13 games) against teams at .500 or below. Moreover, two of these series are against the Boston Red Sox and one of them is against the New York Yankees, which could help the Jays solidify their place in the division.
In turn, Baltimore faces a pretty tough finish to June, playing the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Seattle Mariners on the road before returning home for a three-game series against the Angels. This stretch of games could very easily determine if the Orioles are legitimate heirs to the American League East crown or mid-July pretenders.
If the Jays need any help to reclaim first place in the American League East, this looks like it.