TORONTO – There are times in baseball when a team simply must give its opponent credit for a job well done, to acknowledge that the other side was better in a given at-bat, game, or series.
The way Chris Sale and Jose Quintana stymied the Toronto Blue Jays in the final two games of the Chicago White Sox’s three-game sweep this week certainly seemed to offer a case in point, the two left-handers combining to allow just one run on eight hits over 14 innings of dominance. Sale is a perennial Cy Young Award candidate while Quintana is at minimum a steady No. 2 starter. Hey, tip your cap and move on.
Josh Donaldson, however, isn’t having any of that.
The reigning American League MVP believes his team’s non-existent offence in the two losses is as much a product of what the Blue Jays weren’t doing in the batter’s box as much as it is what the White Sox were doing on the mound.
“One hundred per cent, 100 per cent,” Donaldson, 2-for-3 with a double and a walk, said in an interview with sportsnet.ca after Thursday’s 4-0 loss. “I feel like we need to do a better job of being good hitters.”
He also added: “We need to re-evaluate some things and hopefully an off-day does us some good [Thursday].”
At 10-13 after dropping six of their last eight games heading into a series against theTampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field starting Friday, the Blue Jays could certainly use some reflection.
They lead the majors with 217 strikeouts – an average of 9.4 per contest – in 757 at-bats, a worrying K-rate of 28.7 per cent. More concerning to Donaldson is that, according to brooksbaseball.net, Quintana threw 52 four-seam fastballs and 17 two-seamers, generating 48 strikes and eight swings and misses, all off the four-seamer.
Against a right-handed heavy lineup that usually punishes the heater, that shouldn’t happen.
“I think some people need to evaluate their approach,” he said. “Chris Sale is Chris Sale, but we have a lot of big-time right-handed bats in this lineup that should be able to handle Quintana. He’s had a good start to the season so far, but it looked to me like he was throwing a lot of heaters, and I don’t believe there’s anybody who should be able to come through here and throw a lot of fastballs and have the kind of success he had against us.”
The Blue Jays offence looked to have turned the corner after scoring 20 runs while taking two of three from the Oakland Athletics over the weekend, but then the surging White Sox, leading the American League at 16-6, put them right back into a funk.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Donaldson. “At some point you’ve got to tip your cap to the other team, they’re doing a good job of pitching, but I’m a big believer in this team and there shouldn’t be a left-handed pitcher, especially two of them on back-to-back days, to come in here and pitch the way they did.”
The club’s current struggles aren’t solely on the offence.
The bullpen blew a 5-1 lead with seven outs to go in the series opener against the White Sox, and has now allowed 19 of 37 inherited runners to score. The Blue Jays continue to not run the bases particularly well, either, the latest example coming in the second inning Wednesday, when Troy Tulowitzki failed to tag up from second to third on Matt Dominguez’s liner to deep right because he had strayed too far from the bag. Had he advanced, Russell Martin would only have needed to hit a fly ball to cash him in. Instead, Martin struck out swinging and Kevin Pillar went down looking.
“We’ve got to do a better job on the bases,” said Donaldson. “It’s too late in the season [for mistakes to be happening].”
Still, the Blue Jays are built around their offence, and they need the bats to drive the bus. The schedule offers no let-up, as lined up for the Rays this weekend areDrew Smyly, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi.
“We’re going to be challenged again, right away,” said Donaldson. “And hopefully we come back from the off-day fresh, ready to go, just up there competing. I want to see guys up there competing and doing everything they can to help the team be successful.”
Shi Davidi Sportsnet
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