TORONTO – The regular-season grind seems to be catching up with the Toronto Blue Jays after a 10-game homestand went sideways on them.
Cedric Mullins had a two-run double as part of a five-run 11th inning as the Baltimore Orioles downed the Blue Jays 8-3 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep. The sweep dropped Toronto into last place in the hyper-competitive American League East.
The homestand promised to be an early-season test for the Blue Jays as they hosted the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves, and divisional rivals in the New York Yankees and Orioles.
Toronto started on a high note with a three-game sweep of Atlanta, but then dropped three of four to the Yankees before Baltimore’s sweep.
“Obviously, we’re grinding right now,” said starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, who gave up two runs but struck out four over eight innings in a no-decision. “The last few series haven’t been very sharp for us.
“We’re playing good teams and you’ve got to be able to check all your boxes to to win a series and, obviously, we didn’t do that the last two.”
Toronto manager John Schneider said after the game that his players were handling the series losses to New York and Baltimore well.
“It’s a tough grind. No matter who you’re playing, AL East, NL West, it’s tough,” said Schneider. “Every team is good and it’s tough to win every night.
“If they were not competing and battling then you go, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ But the effort is there, the results are not.”
Mullins also had an RBI single in the 10th as Baltimore (31-16) won its fourth straight. Austin Hays had an RBI single and Terrin Vavra drove in two more in the 11th, while Adley Rutschman and Anthony Santander also drove in runs in the third.
Dean Kremer gave up nine hits and two walks but limited the Blue Jays to just one run, striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings.
Cionel Perez, Mychal Givens, Danny Coulombe, Austin Voth and Mike Baumann came out of the Orioles bullpen, with Baumann (3-0) earning the win.
Matt Chapman had a home run and a sacrifice fly as Toronto (25-22) dropped its fourth in a row. Whit Merrifield’s RBI single in the 10th inning kept the Blue Jays alive.
Nate Pearson, Yimi Garcia and Anthony Bass came on in relief, with Garcia (1-2) taking the loss.
Going 4-6 in the homestand dropped the Blue Jays into fifth place in the AL East, as they head to Tampa Bay on Monday to face the division-leading Rays.
“We play the team that’s leading the division for the next four days, so we don’t really have the time to hang our heads,” said Gausman. “We’re going to Tampa, playing a really good team and, obviously, we need to turn it around.
“That’s the good thing about baseball, you don’t even have time to really think, you know?”
Chapman hit a home run at Rogers Centre for the first time since April 11 to lead off the second inning. It also ended a 28-game homerless skid for Chapman that dated back to April 18 when he had a solo shot in Toronto’s 4-2 win in Houston.
Baltimore took the lead the next inning when Rustchman’s groundout scored Joey Ortiz and Santander hit into a fielder’s choice to score Mullins.
Kevin Kiermaier made a highlight-reel catch in the fourth, reaching out with his glove to the very highest part of the outfield wall to rob Gunnar Henderson of a surefire double.
The sold-out crowd of 41,643 gave Kiermaier a rousing ovation as a replay aired on the ballpark’s video screen. Gausman also saluted Kiermaier from the mound on what easily could have been a run-scoring hit with Austin Hays already on first.
“You see the ball, you go get it,” said Kiermaier. “Just let instincts take over, but that’s it. You just try to get to the wall as quick as you can and make the play.”
Toronto threatened to take the lead in the sixth when, with one out, pinch-hitter Danny Jansen drew a walk to load the bases. Kiermaier then came to the plate and hit into a double-play to end the inning.
The Blue Jays tied it 2-2 in another bases-loaded situation in the seventh when Chapman hit a sacrifice fly to deep left field, allowing George Springer to score from third.
Toronto left 12 runners on base in the game to bring their season total to 357, the worst in MLB.
“When it kind of snowballs like this, I think you want to do a little bit too much and you can’t, you’ve got to reel it in,” said Schneider on the Blue Jays’ inability to score runners. “You have to stay with your approach.”
Mullins led off the 10th inning with a single to right field, scoring Jorge Mateo, who started the extra frame on second.
Merrifield kept the Blue Jays alive, however, with his single in the bottom of the inning to cash in Daulton Varsho, who also started the inning at second, to tie it.
Hays’s RBI single in the 11th scored Ryan McKenna, who started the inning on second. Henderson loaded the bases with a single in the next at-bat, with Vavra’s single scoring Adam Frazier and Hays.
That brought Mullins to bat for the second time in as many innings. He stroked a double to score Vavra and Henderson.
ON DECK — Chris Bassitt takes his 5-2 record to the mound as the Blue Jays go to Tampa.
Josh Fleming (0-0) goes for the Rays in the 6:40 p.m. ET start.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2023.