TORONTO — As a team securely out of the race, the most important thing the Toronto Blue Jays can do from here on out is evaluate the talent within the organization.
One extra win here or there means nothing to a team sitting at 51-62. Nor do big performances from players that are known quantities like Kevin Pillar or those on the way out like Curtis Granderson.
The games that remain are about answering questions like: “Is Devon Travis a piece the club can use?” “Does Aledmys Diaz look like an everyday shortstop?” “Can Ken Giles get himself back on track?” “Is Randal Grichuk a stopgap or a building block?”
If the Blue Jays call up prospects like Dan Jansen and Sean Reid-Foley — or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of course — later in the year that spawns further and more interesting questions for the team. Nothing will be firmly answered with the baseball that’s left, but important information can be gathered.
What made Tuesday’s 10-5 slog of a loss to the Boston Red Sox so frustrating for the home side is that there was really nothing new to take away.
“We hung around, we pulled it within three until they dropped those two on us,” Gibbons said of a game truly missing a silver lining. “You know those kind of games when the starter comes out early, you know they’re going to be difficult. You just have to wing it.”
That starter, Mike Hauschild, a 28-year-old making his first career start against an elite lineup, performed precisely like a 28-year-old making his first career start against an elite lineup. More specifically, he went just 2.1 innings and allowed four earned runs thanks to three hits, three walks and a hit batter.
“I’m just trying to get a feel for how it works up here and trying to throw all my pitches where I want to,” he said. “That last inning, I walked a guy, hit a guy, and got behind on most of ’em, so I just need to attack a little bit better.”
He was relieved by Luis Santos, a 27-year-old journeyman who allowed five of the 10 players he faced to reach base and lowered his ERA to 6.35. Any projection of future Blue Jays rosters that includes Santos is either wildly depressing or wildly optimistic.
Next up were Jake Petricka and Danny Barnes, stopgap and known quantity respectively. The last two innings were pitched by Joe Biagini, someone who could be part of this team’s future bullpen theoretically but keeps getting shelled (he got shelled again Wednesday to the tune of a two-run inning with four base runners allowed), and Jaime Garcia, who at this point is an incredibly expensive mop-up man who can’t get a start on a team that just gave one to Hauschild and has been trotting out Sam Gaviglio regularly. Not a group worth keeping a keen eye on exactly.
On the position player side, there wasn’t much to report either, although Teoscar Hernandez injected a little life into the game when he hit a tape-measure bomb on a line to left field in the sixth.
Along with that, however, came three strikeouts and a truly puzzling defensive play where he didn’t come down with a flyball in foul ground that was very gettable due to some kind of miscommunication.
The idea that Hernandez had a game where he hit an impressive home run, struck out a few of times and made a defensive gaffe is unsurprising. It’s about as on brand as you can imagine.
Speaking of on brand, Grichuk also provided some late, ultimately irrelevant, thunder in the seventh with a 442-foot blast to left.
“Honestly, you want to say it feels great, but it doesn’t even feel like anything,” he said of the blast. “You square it up so well it doesn’t feel like anything. It’s one of those you just kind of sit back and just kind of watch a little bit.”
Not to take away from the gorgeous round tripper, but if you don’t think Grichuk can smash the baseball from time to time you haven’t been paying attention. The bomb was impressive but far from revelatory.
Now, it’s not fair to expect that every game — particularly every loss — to be filled with encouraging performances by young players or future pieces with novel flashes of athleticism or latent potential. That said, on Wednesday the Blue Jays showed nothing of the sort, in part because they haven’t given themselves the opportunity to. Unless you’re 100 percent sold on Ryan Borucki — and to be fair he has been very impressive — there isn’t a single player on the roster that seems a lock to be around next time this team is competitive.
As long as that’s true, a final stretch that’s supposed to be an exploratory voyage is going to look a lot more like a death march. That’s why as far as many Blue Jays fans are concerned, the real action of the night Wednesday took place in Buffalo.
More Blue Jays coverage from Yahoo Canada Sports: