Blue Jays let one slip away in Seattle
Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar dives for home plate as Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino makes a tag during the seventh inning of a out game at Safeco Field on June 9, 2017 in Seattle, Wash. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
Kevin Pillar saw the stop sign issued by Blue Jays third-base coach Luis Rivera and kept on running.
From the time the ball left Josh Donaldson’s bat in the seventh inning of Friday’s 4-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Pillar’s mind was flashing nothing but green light.
So while the huge contingent of Canadian fans at Safeco Field roared, Pillar ran. He ran right through Rivera’s cue and ultimately into trouble waiting at home plate.
The Jays were leading 2-1 at the time and in Pillar’s eyes, with two out and what he thought to be a well struck ball, the prospect of adding an insurance run would have been huge. Add to the fact that Rivera’s signal came late and there was no reaching for the brakes.
As a result, a valuable run died on the base paths when Pillar was gunned down at home on a great throw from Mariners centre fielder, Jarrod Dyson.
Toronto Blue Jays' Kevin Pillar is tagged out at home by Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
And from then on, there was nothing but trouble for the Jays in a game that slipped away into the chilly Seattle night.
“I picked up (the stop signal) a little late but I think you’re taught as a baserunner to trust your eyes with what’s in front of you,” Pillar said afterwards. “Anytime I’m on base, I’m thinking score. By the time I saw (Rivera) holding me up I made a decision to keep going. You’ve got to live by the results.”
The game didn’t end with that play, of course. But it sure seemed to change in momentum.
The Mariners began their half of the seventh with a leadoff double from Robinson Cano, ending a run of 10 consecutive batters retired by Jays starter, Joe Biagini.
Add in a couple of walks and a pair of singles in the inning and suddenly a 2-1 Jays lead was a 3-2 deficit.
Pillar was left to kick himself in the aftermath, especially when the next Jays batter, Jose Bautista, singled to lead off the eighth.
“It’s unfortunate when you get thrown out, the next guy comes up and gets a hit,” Pillar said. “I know it’s the next inning, different pitcher, but you still as a baseball player see it like that.
“Jose was swinging the bat well today. It’s something you wish you could take back. At the same time, you’ve got to live with your decisions out there. I’d rather err on the side of being aggressive.”
Pillar didn’t stop there, either.
“You’ve got to do a better job as a baserunner of trusting your coaches. At the same time if you’re committed and you make a decision, then you’ve got to live with the consequences, which I do. I own up to it, I take responsibility for it.”
It was a frustrating night all around for the Jays, especially given the effort from Biagini, whose record fell to 1-4 as a starter. Before the fatal seventh, he was cruising along with just two hits allowed and looking comfortable in his relatively new role as a starter.
But just two runs out of a healthy 10 hits from the offence wasn’t going to cut it and as a result the thousands of Canadians in the crowd of 33,518 where sent to the streets in frustration.
Afterwards, Jays manager John Gibbons, was asked if he considered taking Biagini out for the seventh. The way things were going for the reliever turned starter, there was no reason.
“If there was (a reason to) I would have,” Gibbons said. “I thought the kid was pretty good. The bottom line is we scored two runs, if you want to look at it objectively. That’s pretty damn good. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s been good. Really good. But he didn’t get a whole lot of run support in his outings.”
With the loss, the Jays have now dropped three of the first four on this West Coast road trip which concludes with games here on Saturday and Sunday. Overall, the Jays record fell to 29-32 meaning their hopes of reaching the .500 mark won’t happen in this time zone.
While he doesn’t regret trying to get what would have been a significant insurance run, Pillar acknowledged his regret for coming up short.
“It ends up hurting when they go out there and score a couple of runs and you think about the what ifs,” the Jays centre fielder said. “But you learn in this game you can’t play the what ifs. You’ve got to live in the moment and learn from it and not let it happen again.”
Injured second baseman Devon Travis was scheduled to see a specialist in New York to decide the course of action for rehabbing the bruised right knee that put him on the disabled list earlier this week.
Until then, there’s not hint at a timetable for recovery although Gibbons acknowledged it’s not likely to be a short absence.
“I wouldn’t expect him back any time soon, regardless,” Gibbons said. “I wouldn't expect it to be quick.”
There could soon be some help available in left field, however. Steve Pearce, who has been out with a calf strain since May 15, played his second game in as many nights Friday in New Hampshire.
Pearce isn’t known for his defence, but was more reliable than either Ezequiel Carrera or Chris Coghlan have been of late. After DHing on Thursday, Pearce was in left for the Fisher Cats on Friday.
“If all goes well, I hope (he rejoins the team soon),” Gibbons said. “He’s getting to the point where he’s playing and the calf isn’t bothering him any more. Once he’s feeling fine (he’ll be back.) I say that because we need him. If we didn’t need him, it might be more conservative.”
ROGERS CENTRE PACIFIC NORTHWEST
On cue, when the gates opened shortly before 5:30 p.m. local time, Jays fans making their annual trek from Vancouver and other parts of Western Canada flooded into Safeco.
Hundreds lined the third-base line above the Jays dugout throughout batting practice, a rather vocal and well hydrated group at that.
“The thing I noticed last year was when they stand up for the national anthem,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said this week. “I turned to Tim Bogar, our bench coach, and said, ‘There are a lot of people here and they’re not rooting for us.’”