Great starting pitching, lack of offense sinks Blue Jays once again

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TAMPA — They’ll tell you publicly that races are coming, though there’s little evidence that it actually happens.

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Publicly, those around the Blue Jays will tell you it’s only a matter of time and once they stop pressing home plate, the runs will come in bunches.

Privately, however, there is much more concern despite the season being just 33 games long. The problem, of course, is that 33 soon becomes 53 and then 83 and suddenly the season starts to fizzle out.

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The struggles continued Friday night at Tropicana Field, where the Blue Jays fell 5-2 to the Rays, the second Toronto team to lose in the region in the past 24 hours.

The shaky offense made a half-hearted attempt to tie the game in the eighth, but when starter Kevin Gausman allowed three straight hits, a brilliant night for the right-hander ended.

The loss was the Blue Jays’ fifth straight, matching their longest losing streak in the past two seasons. Going 2-8 in their last 10, the team’s record has plummeted to 17-16, the exact spot it was after 33 games in 2021.

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In the final out, the Blue Jays found themselves seven games behind the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East, a spot the Blue Jays held just 2 1/2 weeks ago.

And to make matters worse, the team lost outfielder George Springer, who fell awkwardly against the center-field wall while trying to make a play in the second inning.

How long, if any, Springer will be out of the lineup remains to be seen, but the team’s initial diagnosis was a sprained left ankle.

The Blue Jays are saying the right things about bats eventually coming, which is the way it works. But during spring training and the first few weeks of the season, the Blue Jays regretted finishing one game out of the playoffs last September.

But behind the scenes, there’s definitely some concern about how slow it is. Hitters are pressing at the plate and those sustained rallies that were exciting to watch for much of 2021 are nowhere to be found.

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The Blue Jays now find them firmly entrenched in third place in the division, three games behind the Rays. And an offense that has scored three runs or fewer on 11 of its last 14 teams is still looking.

GAME ON

When it goes wrong, it goes wrong. The Rays’ first two runs were giveaways, the kind of plays that happen when a team is struggling. The first was the play that injured Springer. After he missed balls in the lights on Brandon Lowe’s fly ball, he couldn’t get into the game and the Rays running back got as far as third … In the fifth, Kevin Kiermaier reached on what should have been a routine out. , but instead it was a Gausman cast error. Mike Zunino’s runaway single scored Kiermaier from the first … The Blue Jays made it interesting in the eighth when Vinny Capra led off the inning with a pinch-hit single, the first hit of his major league career. Capra and Santiago Espinal turned around to score on a single by Raimel Tapia.

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AROUND THE BASES

Some would say the Blue Jays are impossible to watch when their offense is going like this. They are also unbettable, especially when favored in betting. The Blue Jays entered Friday’s game as minus-140 favorites. In their previous five games as favorites, they were just 1-4… Wide receiver Danny Jansen is back with the team after a rehab stint on the road with the Class A Dunedin. There is a chance he could be activated for Saturday’s game here, where he would catch scheduled starter Hyun-Jin Ryu.

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