TORONTO – A disastrous four-game sweep at Rogers Centre has endangered the Toronto Blue Jays’ post-season hopes and ace Kevin Gausman is taking the blame for his role in it.
Corey Seager had a home run and a two-run double as the Texas Rangers beat the Blue Jays 9-2 on Thursday. The loss dropped the Blue Jays to a game and a half back of the idle Seattle Mariners in the race for the third and final American League wild-card berth.
“We’re as pissed as anybody. We’re mad,” said Gausman (11-9), who gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. “We’re all competitors, we don’t like what happened this series.
“We’ve got a bad taste in our mouth. But we can’t do anything right now but keep going.”
Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s two-run homer in the first inning gave the Blue Jays (80-67) a short-lived one-run lead. Bo Bichette had a single and a double to break out of a small hitting slump.
Jonah Heim had a solo shot as Texas (82-64) won its sixth straight game. Marcus Semien added an RBI double, Nathaniel Lowe batted in two runs, and Josh Smith had a sacrifice fly.
“Today is completely on me,” said Gausman. “To go out and give the lead away (to Seager’s home run) and then Vladdy comes up and takes the momentum back and then I give it up right away (with Seager’s double) is just unacceptable and that whole game after that is on me.”
Tim Mayza, Erik Swanson, Trevor Richards, Yimi Garcia and Bowden Francis came out of Toronto’s bullpen.
The Rangers started the series outside of a wild-card spot but moved up to the second spot behind the Tampa Bay Rays thanks to the sweep.
“Whenever you can sweep a team, it’s great, especially when it’s the team we’re fighting with for a wild-card spot,” said Heim. “It’s great for morale. I think everybody is leaving here confident.”
Rangers starter Nathan Eovaldi allowed two runs on three hits and three walks, striking out three. Eovaldi was on a limited pitch count, so he exited the game after 3 1/3 innings with Cody Bradford (4-1), Jose Leclerc, Will Smith and Jonathan Hernandez coming on in relief.
Seager took Gausman deep on an 87.2 m.p.h. splitter, on only the fourth pitch of the game. Seager’s 31st home run of the season flew 422 feet into right-centre field.
Bichette got his first hit of the series in the bottom of the first, singling to left. That ended a four-game drought that saw the all-star shortstop go 0 for 15.
Guerrero capitalized on Bichette’s hit, crushing an 81.3 m.p.h. slider from Eovaldi in the next at bat. His 22nd home run of the season went 426 feet into the second deck at Rogers Centre for a 2-1 Blue Jays lead and delighted the 37,594 in attendance.
Seager struck again in the second when he hit the ball to deep left field, sending Blue Jays outfielder Whit Merrifield to the warning track. Merrifield caught the ball but when he collided with the wall it popped out of his glove, allowing Ezequiel Duran and Semien to score for a 3-2 Rangers lead.
“Vladdy took the lead for us and I gave it right back. That’s tough,” said Gausman. “We’ve got to use that going forward use whatever frustrations we have and try to take it out on the other teams.”
Texas scored in a third consecutive inning when Heim hit his 17th homer of the season. It came on a 95.7 m.p.h. four-seam fastball, the first pitch he saw in the at bat, flying 425 feet to centre field for a 4-2 lead.
Toronto’s wheels came off in the eighth.
Semien doubled to plate Duran, then Lowe singled to score Evan Carter and Semien. Garcia issued a bases-loaded walk to Robbie Grossman, all before the Blue Jays had recorded a single out.
Smith hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to bring home Lowe.
Fans at Rogers Centre booed louder and louder with each run-scoring play in the inning. It was the second game in a row the Toronto faithful turned on their hometown team.
The Blue Jays entered the series with one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, but surrendered 35 runs to the Rangers while only scoring nine.
“We need to hit, we need to pitch better, limit walks,” said Toronto manager John Schneider. “You take the lead in the first inning and you’ve got to continue to find a way to score runs.
“Not a great series, that’s not our best game by any stretch of the imagination.”
ON DECK — José Berríos (10-10) will start on Friday when Toronto opens a three-game series with Boston.
Brayan Bello (12-8) is scheduled for the Red Sox.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2023.