Guerrero, Blue Jays’ bats going cold at wrong time
The Toronto Blue Jays came into their series against the Texas Rangers in the second wild-card spot having just completed a sweep of the Kansas City Royals over the weekend.
According to Baseball Reference, the Jays had an 82.5 per cent chance at making the playoffs with 19 games remaining. Coming off a 10-5 stretch over five series against teams with losing records, the Blue Jays were finally beginning to get some momentum – especially with the Rangers coming to town having lost seven of their previous 10.
“We’re clicking at the right time and we just want to keep this thing going,” outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said over the weekend.
But like so much of Toronto’s 2023 season, things haven’t quite clicked into place. The Jays lost the first two games of their crucial series with Texas by a combined score of 16-7. The Seattle Mariners, who hold the tiebreaker should they finish with the same record as Toronto, also won Tuesday night, meaning the Jays find themselves outside the playoff picture once again.
“It’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a grind,” manager John Schneider said via MLB.com. “We have to control what we can and try to pile up the wins. It’s going to go right down to the end.”
Chris Bassitt allowed nine hits and five earned runs over 5 1/3 innings Monday night, while Genesis Cabrera was tagged for four runs in relief. Hyun Jin Ryu was solid over six innings Tuesday night, but the Jays were unable to recover from a 3-0 deficit despite Max Scherzer leaving after just 73 pitches with an apparent injury.
The Blue Jays have been unable to climb out of early holes in each game and haven’t got much production from their top hitters so far in the series. None at all, as a matter of fact.
“I thought we had our pitches to hit and [we] just didn’t get it done,” Schneider said.
Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are each 0-for-8 the past two nights with four of Guerrero’s eight outs coming via the strikeout.
In four games since returning from a quad injury, Bichette is a combined 2-for-16 with two RBI and a .125/177/.188 slash line. But Bichette has been solid at the plate all season and has a .143 batting average on balls in play over those four games. That’s almost certain to turn.
Guerrero’s struggles are more of a prolonged theme. In the month of September, the 24-year-old first baseman is slashing just .214/.340/.333 with one home run and five RBI.
Pretty much all of his 2023 offensive numbers leave something to be desired. Guerrero’s 21 home runs rank him in a tie for 63rd in MLB and his .769 OPS is fourth on the team among qualified hitters. For context, Davis Schneider has a 2.4 fWAR in just 81 big league at-bats. Guerrero’s fWAR for the entire season sits at 0.4.
Guerrero's 2023 Season
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“Everyone is going to target them as really good hitters. I don’t think it’s anything different,” Schneider said of Bichette and Guerrero. “They seem to get pitched really tough. At the same time, we’re going to continue to want those guys up in big spots.”
Toronto heads into play Wednesday 17-27 on the season against the six teams currently in a playoff spot in the American League. The Jays will take on the Boston Red Sox after the Texas series over the weekend, who they have gone 3-7 against this season.
Toronto faces left-hander Jordan Montgomery on Wednesday and Nathan Eovaldi Thursday in the series finale. Neither pitcher is coming in with much momentum as Montgomery has allowed 11 runs over his previous two starts and Eovaldi has lasted a combined 3.2 innings as he continues to build back up after a forearm strain.
“These guys are looking forward to this series and this challenge,” Schneider said. “It’s a good team. We just haven’t really strung the hits in a row together so far.”