May 18, 2017 11:59 am
Updated: May 18, 2017 7:16 pm

Dave Rowe: Blue Jays are losing their way

WATCH ABOVE: Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar yells a homophobic slur at an Atlanta Braves pitcher during Wednesday's game.

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Wednesday night’s dumpster fire in Atlanta might just turn into a defining point in an MLB season that’s already all but flushed down the drain.

First, an overwhelmed relief pitcher forced into a starting role was beaten up for half a dozen runs before he got an out. Then, an injury-riddled offence was unable to mount a comeback. And the two star players? More distraction than difference-makers.

Kevin Pillar’s been a rare bright light for the team this year with his highlight reel catches in the field and improved performance at the plate.

But as of right now, he’s the guy who directed a homophobic slur at Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Jason Motte. To his credit, he offered an apology and no defence of his actions right after the game. Still, he should be, and I expect will be, suspended.

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Jose Bautista? What was he thinking about with a bat flip and an arrogant stare in a game his team was losing – and losing badly – after a meaningless home run?

I blogged last season about how Bautista had hit his best-before date in Toronto and needed to move on. The Jays disagreed and brought back Bautista and his dwindling skill set for a not exactly bargain-basement $18 million for one year.

Then there’s the injuries: Josh Donaldson, hobbled by an injury he’s been battling since last year. Russell Martin, showing the effects of years of battering behind the plate. Troy Tulowitzki, suffering a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury.

And as for the pitchers? J.A. Happ and Francisco Liriano remain sidelined – crippling a starting rotation touted as one of the best in the majors.

Running the show is John Gibbons. Yes, he’s the guy who filled out the lineup card in back-to-back ALCS appearance seasons. But in both those seasons he was blessed with a lineup that seemed able to come up with a rash of home runs whenever a blemish somewhere else needed covering up.

Entering the final year of his contract gave a new management team the excuse to sit back, evaluate and if necessary, make a move. Instead, they offered up a two-year extension, making Gibbons essentially unfireable.

The Jays were able to turn around two consecutive horrible starts to reach the ALCS in the last two seasons. This year, the third time won’t be the charm.​

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