Blue Jays manager John Schneider swears he isn’t a scoreboard watcher this time of year, even though there’s a pretty good chance he could recite the particulars of most games that have playoff implications for his team.
But as the season moved into the final quarter of the season with a 9-4 thumping to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday night at the Rogers Centre, we’re betting he’s starting to take closer note.
“It’s not time for scoreboard watching yet,” Schneider said, deliberately playing it cool. “It’s not worth it at this point. You have to go out and take care of business. You can’t look ahead and you can’t look back at what has happened.”
All valid points, but looking forward is where the potential excitement lives, and just as it is with the contending thoroughbreds who pass the quarter pole at Woodbine for this weekend’s King’s Plate, it’s go time for the Jays.
In isolation, nights like Wednesday – an outlier given the rare poor performance from ace starter Kevin Gausman – can be dismissed. But for a team with a record of 67-55, the urgency is coming.
The race for the final wildcard spot tightened once again as the Mariners pulled to within a game of the Jays for the third and final spot with a 6-5 win over the Royals.
The race is indeed on and Schneider acknowledged the critical times that await, conceding that results over the next few weeks can avoid desperation at the back end of the schedule that is stacked up with divisional opponents.
To that point, with 40 games remaining in the gargantuan MLB season, Schneider acknowledged that there is at least some significance to avoiding late-season urgency when the schedule gets stacked up against division opponents.
“The expectation is to win every series, that’s the goal, and to keep going,” Schneider said. “Hopefully you are in a spot where it’s not a must-win game every night – not that they’re not – but you want to take care of business (before then.)”
With that in mind, the Jays will need to do better than they did in the now-completed 2-3 mini-homestand against the Cubs and Phillies.
And they’ll almost certainly need to take advantage of a 12-game stretch that begins on Aug. 28, a run that will see the Jays face four teams currently in last place in their division – the Nationals, Rockies, A’s and Royals.
“At this point of the year, you can look around and say there are tougher and easier spots in our schedule based on record, but you have to be ready for every single series. You don’t want to target the last two weeks of the season against Tampa and New York.”
There will continue to be nights like Wednesday, but the Jays will also need to find a way to be better at home than they’ve been, dropping to 32-27 in dome starts this season.
It didn’t help that the Jays Were without the sharpest version of Gausman, who lasted just 5.1 innings and allowed seven hits and seven runs (five earned) as the Phillies hit him hard … The Jays offence was eager early as Daulton Varsho hit a two-run homer (his 15th) in the second. The Jays added a pair on a two RBI single from Cavan Biggio in the third but were shut down the rest of the way … It was a rare outing for lefty reliever Tim Mayza on a couple of counts – one, he lasted just three pitches and two, he wasn’t able to mop up for the runners Gausman left on base, allowing a sac fly and two hits on those tosses … Gausman was not pleased with the work of home plate ump, Alfonso Marquez: “That umpire has the smallest strike zone in all of the big leagues so you have to kind of know that going in.”
The good news at shortstop for the Jays? Bo Bichette was 2-for-3 as DH in Buffalo on Wednesday and if his injured knee holds up at a scheduled start at short on Thursday, there’s a good chance the all-star will rejoin the team in Cincinnati this weekend.
And boy, could the Jays use their best hitter back in the lineup.
That’s especially the case given the struggles of his temporary replacement, Paul DeJong. The trade deadline acquisition is a miserable 3-for-44 since joining the Jays including 18 strikeouts, two of those coming on an 0-for-3 Wednesday.
That dismal production certainly raises the question of how (if?) DeJong fits in the lineup upon the return of Bichette, who thrives on playing all game, every game.
“(DeJong) has done his part defensively,” Schneider said. “Not the start he wanted to get to offensively.
“Bo, if he’s back he’s going to be expecting to play a full game. That’s our expectation, too.”
AROUND THE BASES
Bichette had big-league company with the Bisons on Wednesday, including reliever Chad Green who threw 1.1 innings striking out three after missing time in concussion protocol … Trevor Richard threw an inning as well and is a candidate to rejoin the team for the weekend series in Cincinnati … The Jays say the injured middle finger on third baseman Matt Chapman’s right hand is improving but was sore enough to keep him out of action for a third consecutive game … Chapman’s absence was felt on Wednesday when a fifth inning throwing error by his replacement, Santiago Espinal, allowed a pair of Phillies runs to score and give the visitors the lead.