TORONTO — The type of bad baseball that buried the Toronto Blue Jays early, and required a seven-homer outburst to overcome, resurfaced again in extra innings, as they went from ew to awesome and right back to ew again.
A misplayed bunt, a ball in the dirt that surrendered 90 feet and an errant pickoff throw fuelled a three-run top of the 10th, and the Miami Marlins locked it down in the bottom half for a 14-11 victory Wednesday.
The result was, in many ways, a just one, as a team that plays as poorly in the ways the Blue Jays did doesn’t deserve to win. Still, one homer at a time against the good hitting on the Marlins staff, they nearly masked what was developing into — by a clear and wide margin — their worst game of the season.
“That was great to see them coming back and hopefully that’s the start of a good offence and what we think that we can do,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “The other part was our defence was not very good. We didn’t make the plays…
“If we want to win games, we need to get better.”
Yes, and quick.
To undo the five — five! — unearned runs they allowed over the first five innings, the Blue Jays hit at least one homer in six consecutive innings to erase deficits of 8-0 and 11-4.
Two-run shots by Teoscar Hernandez in the third, Rowdy Tellez in the fourth, Travis Shaw in the fifth and Danny Jansen in the sixth cut the Marlins lead to 11-8. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., whose two errors helped key all those unearned runs, delivered a solo shot in the seventh before Bo Bichette — who at 22 became the youngest player in franchise history with a five-hit game — and Shaw went back-to-back to open the eighth and knot things up.
The last time the Blue Jays hit seven homers in a game was Aug. 19, 1998 in Seattle, and the loss was only the fourth in big-league history when a team goes deep that many times. The Chicago White Sox were the last to do it, falling 10-8 to the Blue Jays on June 25, 2016.
“We’ve had a lot of rough innings this year so far, and to be honest I think it kind of hit a tipping point for all of us,” said Bichette. “We said enough is enough, we’re going to put our heads down and play ball.”
Still, they couldn’t finish it.
Rafael Dolis took the ball in the 10th and watched as Jon Berti slapped a leadoff bunt into a defensive Bremuda Triangle that prompted third baseman Brandon Drury to retreat to the bag instead of charging in, and put men on the corners.
“Drury messed it up,” said Montoyo. “That’s a tough play for a third baseman because you’re in between, but we always say, if you have any doubt, go get it. He had a doubt, but he didn’t go get it. And that made for a big inning. That wasn’t a good play.”
A splitter in the dirt then advanced Berti to second before Magnerius Sierra golfed another splitter into right to bring home another run. Dolis then made a wild throw to first that pushed Sierra to second and after he was bunted to third, Jesus Aguilar’s base hit brought him home.
Josh Smith walked Bichette to open the bottom half but recovered to close out the win.
In a sense, that brought the game full circle, as Nate Pearson was messy in his mechanics and all over the zone in his third big-league start, while the Blue Jays were all kinds of gross behind him, spewing out a troubling amount of bad baseball on Sahlen Field.
Shaw was thrown out after straying too far from first base on a routine flyout in the first. A miscommunication between Cavan Biggio and Hernandez in short right allowed a catchable Jonathan Villar popper to drop in between them in the second. A Guerrero error on a Sierra one-hopper would have ended the third with only one run in instead of five. The compounding of that mistake with a passed ball that led to one run, and a botched back-pick play at second that allowed former Olympic speedskater Eddy Alvarez to sneak home with another. Another Guerrero error, this time carelessly allowing a Bichette throw to pop out of his glove, to open what ended as a three-run fifth.
It was like they were shooting an instructional video on how not to play baseball.
Now, miscues happen. A one-off stinker after all they’ve been through over the past three-and-a-half weeks would be understandable, too. But the Blue Jays have made a number of avoidable mistakes on the bases and in the field, and as they settle in for an off-day Thursday before the start of 28 games in 27 days, there will be lots to lament in their 6-9 record.
“I think overall we’re trying too hard right now, because we’re hungry to win, which I love,” said Montoyo. “We came back in this game because we’re not going to give up. But we need to get better, we need to tighten that up for us to start winning games.”
Pearson was all out of sorts during his third big-league outing, unable to locate his fastball and lacking the usual bite on his weapon slider. After two quick outs in the first, he walked Corey Dickerson and allowed a Matt Joyce single ahead of a three-run Brian Anderson homer.
After a better second, he went single, single, strikeout, walk, walk to open the third, and that was his night, down 4-0 with the bases loaded. Only 33 of his 65 pitches were strikes and he uncharacteristically generated only three whiffs.
“It just goes back to fastball command,” said Pearson. “I’ve been throwing really good sides but it hasn’t translated into my starts. I got by my last start (in Atlanta), it wasn’t that bad of a start, but with what I’m capable of, I know I can do a lot better. Today was just really terrible. I expect better out of myself. I’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out what’s causing my fastball command and overall command to be so bad. We’ll just get back to work.”
Jacob Waguespack nearly kept the third from slipping away, striking out Berti before inducing a one-hopper from Sierra that should have ended the inning. But Guerrero couldn’t field it cleanly, was late to the bag and things devolved from there, with four more runs crossing.
Guerrero’s error after Francisco Cervelli hit a grounder to short to open the fifth led to another three runs, but Shun Yamaguchi delivered 2.1 perfect innings, striking out four, to stabilize the game, and set up the wild but disappointing finish.
“It felt like, OK, let’s just keep on chipping away, keep chipping away, and we did that,” said Bichette. “Obviously it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I think everyone in there is happy with the effort we gave and just continue to try and put that kind of effort every day.”
At the plate, for a change, they should be. Defensively and on the bases, the Blue Jays remain far too loose a team, and despite hitting seven homers, they got what they deserved.