TORONTO— The Toronto Blue Jays weren’t in a great position to win Monday’s Victoria Game matchup from the moment it began.
It started with an unfavourable pitching matchup of Edwin Jackson vs. David Price, but perhaps the biggest disparity was in the lineups. Now, it’s not revelatory to say that the Boston Red Sox have a better lineup than the Blue Jays. Though they’ve taken some lumps in 2019, we’re talking about the defending champs here.
“This is a tough team,” Jackson said of the Red Sox. “This team right here, you can’t afford to give extra outs any kind of way. As a starter my mind is still ‘make pitches’ but obviously with a deep lineup like this and a team like this they don’t miss mistakes too often.”
Boston’s talent advantage wasn’t the jarring thing in its 12-2 win, but rather how punchless the Blue Jays were without the top two hitters in their lineup: Eric Sogard - who was lifted last minute with a hand issue - and the red-hot Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
“It’s a plan that we have here,” the 20-year-old said of his day on the bench through an interpreter. “It happens today is my day off. I found out when I got to the field.”
The reason the Blue Jays have a specific plan for Vladdy, along with the rest of their regulars, is that they haven’t had an off-day in a week and won’t see another until May 30.
“We had a schedule set out for all of the players because we’re playing 16 in a row,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “That’s why Vlad was off today.”
All of that meant their leadoff man was Jonathan Davis who, while bringing prototypical speed, lugged a 1-for-18 into the game. In the second hole - arguably the most important spot in the lineup and the one Vladdy has been inhabiting - stood Brandon Drury and his .209/.242/.376 line for the season. It’s not like he’s been good lately either, considering his .171/.186/.220 May.
Pencilling guys like that into the top of your order would generally be considered straight up bad managing - and there’s a case to made Monday’s lineup was far from ideal - but Montoyo isn’t sitting on a mountain of viable alternatives.
With Sogard and Guerrero Jr. on the bench, his starting nine contained just one hitter who’s been above-average this season in Justin Smoak. Looking at recent history, things are even more grim. Billy McKinney was the only one of the nine who you’d call productive in May and the group Montoyo put out has hit a ghastly .195/.267/.334.
Again, it’s hard to fault the manager. Sogard was hurt, Guerrero needs to rest occasionally, and Price represented a difficult matchup for lefty Rowdy Tellez. Montoyo wasn’t left with much maneuvering to do.
That said, when you put out a lineup like the Blue Jays did Monday it’s hard to expect a ‘W.’ Even though guys like Randal Grichuk and Danny Jansen can do better, a starting nine that includes two catchers whose OPS were both below .600 coming into the action is hard to stomach.
One of those catchers, Luke Maile, actually ended up providing the team’s only offence with a shot that was worthy of the “Lukey Barrels” moniker.
It was the kind of pleasant surprise that could bolster a good game at the plate elsewhere, but if your backup catcher is a solo act on offence it’s not going to be your day.
Price saw to that with ease. The veteran southpaw, and living reminder of some of the Blue Jays’ better days, mowed down Toronto effortlessly. He used just 67 pitches to get through five innings, allowed only three base runners, and conceded a ludicrously-low average exit velocity of 79.3. The Red Sox bullpen took up the mantle with four scoreless, hitless innings to lay the Blue Jays mercifully to rest.
Unfortunately for this club, its lineup is almost exclusively worth watching due to Guerrero Jr. at the moment. His first day off since catching fire made that more clear than ever.
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