Rosie DiManno: The Blue Jays didn’t get the message from Montoyo. That losing skid is now a no-fun six games

Team meetings called are always an indicator that something is amiss. Because who needs a conclave when a ball

توسط NASERINEWS در 30 شهریور 1399

Team meetings called are always an indicator that something is amiss. Because who needs a conclave when a ball club is raking?

Unless, apparently, when the convenor is Charlie Montoyo, endlessly upbeat and promoter of positive thinking.

So, at the pointy end of a five-game losing skid — a tine that had pierced and deflated the Blue Jays’ swollen bona fides, sinking just shy of .500 after climbing the American League East ladder — the skipper addressed his troops on Saturday afternoon, a few hours before they re-engaged with the Phillies.

The message was simple: You’re groovy, guys. Just chill, all fine-o.

“I told them how proud I am of our team after everything we’ve been through.” No need to revisit that multiplicity of challenges here. “That we’re still in a good spot. If somebody told me in July that on Sept. 19 we were going to be in this spot, I would have said: I’m in.

“I told them, have fun, embrace it. I saw their faces and it looked like they are going to embrace it and have fun.”

Saturday was un-fun, the Jays on the wrong end of a 3-1 outcome. Two hits, one of them a Travis Shaw home run.

That’s six consecutive defeats. Toronto hasn’t plumbed those skid depths since last September. It dropped them to .500 after being six games above.

Maybe cuddling isn’t the antidote for what’s ailing them. Maybe group hugs are counterintuitive.

“Our approach today in this game was not really good,” Montoyo, not so cheerful, said afterwards. “We chased a lot of bad pitches.”

Better played, albeit, for what that’s worth. Still, slouching toward baseball Bethlehem.

Hoo boy, the Jays have played some godawful baseball in the last week, epically dreadful. Yet the blech has hardly impacted their post-season inclusion ambitions. Dropping a doubleheader in Philadelphia on Friday, on the heels of a three-game pounding in the Bronx of historical proportions, may have dropped Toronto four games behind those Yankees for second place in the division but they were still sitting four games ahead of Seattle, heading into Saturday night’s program, with a fairly firm grasp on the eighth seed in the playoff race.

The Jays had last brushed up (down) against .500 on Aug. 25, within a surge that had begun a week earlier, their 19 wins since Aug. 17 third-most in the AL and sixth-most in the majors.

It was head-spinning, intoxicating, particularly the manner in which the team had pulled it off — 23 one-run decisions on the season, 13-10 in those heart-thumpers, racking up explosive innings and some flabbergasting comebacks, withstanding injuries to key personnel and a heap of head-smacking baserunning and defensive blunders.

Now they’ve come back down to Earth because baseball reality bites. Easy to forget, however, as Montoyo pointed out in his sermon from the manager mount, that .500 had been a lofty goal when the season launched for this rapidly maturing outfit. It was expected the Jays would be playing the long game rather than significant September games. Way ahead of the projected curve.

But they need to settle themselves down, straighten themselves out, to be viewed as anything other than a playoff patsy for whichever opponent they confront, assuming Toronto doesn’t execute a nosedive of horrific proportions in the remaining eight contests, four of them against those re-energized Gotham goliaths back in Buffalo. Surely it won’t be disaster déjà-vu. As coach John Schneider said of that fiasco, the Jays outscored 43-15: “I’ve never seen anything like that. We kind of just ran into a buzz saw.”

With ace Hyun-Jin Ryu soothingly on the bump on this night, there were fingers crossed for a reversal of misfortune. But it’s a sad state of affairs when a club has only one starter left in whom they can place their full trust. Not so long ago, the bullpen enjoyed similar faith. But the relief cadre’s ERA had plummeted to 4.45 in the wake of Friday’s 8-7 loss after a month of hard-boiled performance, 10th in the AL. They’d been fourth what seems like an eye-blink ago.

With starters imploding, relievers have borne too many innings. Pitching, man. Where’d all that alleged depth go? Collectively, 24 walks surrendered over the previous four outings.

With closer Ken Giles out for the season and putative closer Jordan Romano rehabbing an injured middle finger, the Jays received a glimmer of good news on the status of Rafael Dolis, who’d departed Friday’s game after slipping on the bag on a botched-all-around fielding play. Right knee discomfort, but day-to-day. Nothing structural.

“He’s fine,” assured Montoyo.

Let’s revisit that episode, shall we? If only because it cuts to the quick of poor decision-making that has plagued this team in pandemically accursed 2020, embodied frequently in the corpulent presence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base.



Dolis was trying to salvage a tie after blowing the save — the Jays had taken a 7-5 lead in the fifth — when a two-out ground ball, eminently playable, dribbled between first and second. For reasons known only to him, Guerrero was far right of the bag, going after a ball he should have left to Joe Panik, abandoning his base. Dolis, late off the hill, was slow covering, Panik had to wait for him to get to the bag before making the throw. Which he shouldn’t have attempted. The ball ticked off the glove of Dolis, who slipped off the base, tweaking his knee to boot. Go-ahead runs crossed the plate.

These are routine plays, misjudgments that have bitten the Jays on the arse repeatedly.

Yes, it was only Guerrero’s 26th game at first. But geez. With a pull hitter at the plate, it was patently obvious he should have been playing closer to the bag.

In the cold — and windy — light of the day after, Schneider explained Guerrero’s misadventure at first. It was third baseman instinct, when Guerrero had started his career.

“First base is a totally different angle. That particular play was a weird defensive starting point for him, with a right-handed hitter, and his natural reaction as a third baseman is always: go get the ball.” Adding: “When you’re that far over, your natural reaction is ‘I’m here, I should do something about it.’ As opposed to, ‘I’m here, let me go back that way and trust that Joe is going to make that play.’”

Patience, more reps, counselled the coach.

“He’ll figure it out. He’s a baseball player. He’s a bright guy on the field. But it’s definitely been addressed and we’ll continue to hammer it home.”

Hammer it, but gently.

Guerrero wasn’t in the starting lineup Saturday, though he pinch-hit in the eighth with the Jays trailing 2-1.

Not punishment, Montoyo made clear. Just prudence because Guerrero had been hit by a pitch Friday, the full force luckily absorbed by his batting helmet flap before deflecting. Was feeling a mite dizzy.

“He wasn’t 100 per cent,” said Montoyo, pre-game.

Neither are the Jays, nowhere near. With Ryu starting, there was solid reason to hope the skid would be stuffed, losing halted.


Rosie DiManno
Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist covering sports and current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno



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