Blue Jays’ playoff chances take hard dip amid losses to Rangers
The Toronto Blue Jays suffered one of their worst losses of the season Wednesday night, a 10-0 rout to the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers now sit a game-and-a-half ahead of the Blue Jays in the wild-card race and two in the loss column, while Toronto trails the Seattle Mariners by a full game for the final American League playoff spot. Each team holds the tiebreaker over the Jays.
Toronto heads into Thursday’s finale being outscored 26-7 in the first three games of the series to a Texas team that had lost seven of their previous 10 coming in. Fans booed at times, with the loudest coming after a three-run home run by Mitch Garver extended the Rangers' lead to 10-0.
Outfielder George Springer told reporters he understands the fans’ frustration.
"They expect us to win, and that's fair. I think everybody understands that," Springer said. "There's nobody that wants to win more than us in this locker room.
"I don't think it's for lack of effort. I know that the guys in here are trying. We're doing our best, but it may not seem that way because of the result, but at the end of the day, [the booing] is understandable."
"Not great, but I understand," manager John Schneider said of the boos. "The fans want to see exciting, winning, baseball.
"Us, as competitors, players, staff, myself, everyone included, don't like to hear it, but at the same time we appreciate when they're voicing their frustration when it is deserved."
On one hand, the Jays sit 14 games over .500 (80-66) and enter Thursday with a chance to make up ground at home against a team they’re chasing. On the other hand, the Jays have been playing some of their worst baseball at the most important time of the season and have seen their playoff odds plummet during this week’s series as a result.
According to Baseball Reference, the Blue Jays began their four-game series against Texas on Monday with an 82.5 per cent chance at making the postseason. That’s now down nearly 30 percentage points to 53.4, including a drop of more than 16 per cent from a day ago, considering the Mariners also won in addition to the Rangers beating the Jays.
Things don’t get much easier for Toronto after the Rangers leave town.
The Blue Jays open a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Friday, who have won seven of 10 games against Toronto this season. They’ll next go on the road to New York and then to Tampa – two places the Jays have historically struggled – before wrapping up the season on a six-game homestand against those same Yankees and Rays.
The 16 games the Jays have remaining constitutes the second-toughest schedule in MLB in terms of opponent winning percentage. Toronto’s opponents have a winning percentage of .548, second only to the Washington Nationals’ 16 games against teams with a combined winning percentage of .572.
One way Toronto could get back on track is for its key hitters to start producing. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are a combined 1-for-23 against the Rangers this series as the offence has been unable to dig out of early deficits in all three games.
Yusei Kikuchi was rocked for six runs in five innings Wednesday, making it the third straight game the Jays starter has taken the loss.
Despite having one of the best rotations in MLB, Schneider said he needs to see more from his starting five.
"You've got to get ahead, and you've got to put people away," said Schneider. "[The Rangers are] a tough lineup. They're not budging, they're not chasing, and you can see exactly what they can do to a staff and a bullpen when they're swinging at good pitches and doing damage with guys on."
Toronto’s ace, Kevin Gausman, takes the mound Thursday, five days after he held the Kansas City Royals to one run over eight innings with 10 strikeouts. Nathan Eovaldi will counter for the Rangers, who has pitched a total of 3 2/3 innings in two starts since returning from forearm inflammation.