Blue Jays' bats deathly silent in loss to Red Sox
TORONTO — Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista has won three Silver Slugger Awards in his career, but Thursday against the Boston Red Sox he picked up a golden sombrero.
In baseball lore, the golden sombrero is ‘awarded’ to a player who strikes out four times in four at-bats, which Bautista did against Red Sox ace Chris Sale in a 4-1 Toronto loss at the Rogers Centre.
And he wasn’t the only one. Jays catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia also struck out four times as the Jays dropped to 3-12 in what has been a miserable start to the season.
As manager John Gibbons said prior to Thursday’s tilt, if Bautista doesn’t have a good year, the Jays will probably do nothing this season. And so far, Bautista is not doing a lot of anything. There’s no way of sugar-coating it, other than perhaps to point out that his mobility in right field and his arm look good this year. But at the plate, it’s been a disaster. Bautista is currently on an 0-for-16 streak at the plate, is batting .109 overall and has no home runs in 55 at-bats this season. Worse, he looks lost at times at the plate, and he knows it.
“I’m just swinging at balls outside the strike zone and chasing pitches I normally don’t chase unless I’m looking for them,” said Bautista, who has hit more than 20 home runs in seven seasons for Toronto, and 40 or more three times. “I caught myself guessing a couple of times and normally that’s not what I do when I’m at the plate.
“Anytime that you’re (supposed) to be a contributer and you’re not, it kind of weighs on you a little bit, but I’ve got to get past that and just figure out a way to get back on track and start doing more at the plate and put us in better situations to win games,” Bautista continued.
The Dominican star said he has to watch not to try to do too much at the plate while he’s in his slump.
“That could mean a number of different things, but keeping it simple always helps,” he said. “(So I) definitely focus on that. More importantly I want to have good at-bats. I’m not proud of the last two days and the way that I’ve looked at the plate because my approach hasn’t been consistent. I can handle the lack of success base-hit wise and stuff if I execute what my game plan is supposed to be. And the last two days have been pretty bad and I just need to get better at that.
“He’s in a tough rut,” added Jays manager John Gibbons. “He probably hasn’t experienced one like this before I would think. But he’s out there battling. Nobody wants to do better than he does. Maybe getting him on the road might do him so good.”
The Jays departed for Los Angeles following Thursday’s game where they face the Angels for four games starting Friday night before heading to St. Louis for a three-game series starting Tuesday. As a team, the Jays are hitting a dismal .213 and are second-last in RBIs and home runs in the American League. Of course facing a left-hander with Sale’s stuff doesn’t help. The Boston starter threw eight complete innings, giving up four hits and no runs while walking one and striking out 13. In total, Boston pitchers recorded 18 strikeouts.
“He can throw any pitch for a strike,” Bautista said. “He can take velocity on and off with the fastball as he pleases and with his change-up. He’s throwing strikes with every pitch, not necessarily relying on just one to get ahead. I mean it’s tough. He’s very deceptive too.”
The loss spoiled a solid performance by Toronto starter Marco Estrada, who went six innings, giving up three hits, no runs, walked two while striking out seven.
In fact, it was both team’s closers — two of the best in baseball — who let down their starters on Thursday.
Toronto closer Roberto Osuna gave up a run in the top of the ninth to allow the Red Sox to jump ahead 1-0 before Craig Kimbrel, taking over from Sale in the bottom of the ninth, gave up a leadoff home run to Toronto DH Kendrys Morales. Morales launched a 1-0 offering over the centre-field fence to tie the game 1-1.
In the end, it was Jays reliever Jason Grilli, usually Toronto’s set-up man, who handed the victory to the Red Sox, giving up a bases loaded double to Mookie Betts in the top of the 10th to score three runs and ultimately give Boston a 4-1 victory. Kimbrel stayed in the game to pitch the 10th and got the Jays out in order, all strikeouts, to end the game.
The Jays have dropped their first five series to start the season for the first time in club history and have failed to win back-to-back games this year.
READY FOR THE ROAD
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons couldn’t get on the team’s charter to California fast enough on Thursday night.
After losing to the Boston Red Sox 4-1 at the Rogers Centre to fall to 3-12 on the season, Gibbons suggested that a road trip might be a good thing for his club. Get away from the disappointed crowds, meddling media and all that.
“Yeah, I think it’s a great time (for a road swing),” said Gibbons. “We’ve been here a while (and) it’s been a tough — and that’s probably an understatement — home stand. So maybe this will do us some good.”
The Jays went 2-7 at the Rogers Centre against Milwaukee, Baltimore and Boston and now head out to face the Los Angeles Angels and the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We like being at home,” said Toronto starter Marco Estrada. “We love our fans, we want to play here and I feel like we play better here. But it’s a long trip to Anaheim, maybe we’ll clear our minds.”
The Jays were a solid 43-38 on the road last season.