Blue Jays unable to separate in standings after heavy loss to Orioles again

BALTIMORE – There are heavy losses, and then there are heavy losses thanks to Rougned Odor. On Monday, the Blue Jays experienced their first race. On Tuesday they tasted the second.

With a runner on first base and no one out in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia tried to hold onto a 5-4 lead. But he dropped a sub and Odor, the scruffy bearded infielder who once punched a dork Jose Bautista, crushed it.

Not long after, the Orioles celebrated a 6-5 win and the Blue Jays had nothing to see before a long night at the stadium with a rain delay of an hour and 18 minutes. While the Blue Jays still have a small lead over the top spot on the American League Wild Card, they are now just two games ahead of the Orioles, with the Rays, Mariners and Guardians all close as well.

“That sucked,” said interim manager John Schneider. “I think the rain delay hurt us with the little momentum we had. I wasn’t sure why they pulled the tarp when they did and then we (Zach Pop) burned because of it.

“But any loss sucks. And I think we need to score some points now and if we do, it will be fine.”

Quite simply, the 60-50 Blue Jays need some separation in the standings and they are not creating that.

Earlier in the evening, the Blue Jays seemed well positioned to tie the series thanks to a pair of homeruns on the opposite field by Bo Bichette. In the second inning, Bichette starter Kyle Bradish took deep and with the rain approaching in the sixth, the shortstop sent a 99mph fastball from Bryan Baker over the right field wall for his seventh career multi-homer game.

It’s certainly been an uneven offensive season for Bichette, but the two home run game gives him 17 of the season to go along with a 105 wRC+. It’s not where he was last year when he hit 29 home runs with a 122 wRC+, but it’s still productive.

“If he does, it’s a really good thing,” Schneider said. “Since (the weekend series in) Minnesota, he’s been getting his best swing and being a little more selective. I know the walks aren’t there, but I think he swings where he should swing.”

Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. extended his hit streak to 20 games on Tuesday and made Jackie Bradley Jr. his debut with the Blue Jays as a defensive midfield substitute.

“It’s going to be fun,” Bradley Jr. said. before the match. “It’s a very talented group and I’m excited to help in any way I can.”

On the mound, Alek Manoah gave the Blue Jays five solid innings, working about eight basehits, a walk and a hit batter to limit the Orioles to three runs. A near triple play would have erased two of those runs in the first inning, but the umpires ruled that Whit Merrifield hadn’t made a clean catch as Anthony Santander lined out to the center.

Regardless, the righthander struckout five batters as he lifted his season tally to 137, making him sixth in the MLB and best in the American League.

From here on, the Blue Jays will continue to closely monitor Manoah’s innings, using advanced stats and biometrics to ensure he recovers well. Of course, they will also be using the eye test as they regularly check in with the 24-year-old to make sure he finishes the season strong and makes it to October as strong as possible.

If the Blue Jays are big or Manoah encounters particularly stressful innings, the Blue Jays will take that into account, but there is no hard limit to his workload, giving the Blue Jays flexibility as they go into the stretch run.

When Manoah left the game, the Blue Jays initially turned to Zach Pop to change plans after the long delay. But when Odour managed to hit Garcia deep, the Blue Jays’ narrow lead disappeared, costing them against a team now to be regarded as a rival for the playoffs.

“I think we’re right where we need to be,” Manoah said afterwards. “We’ve added a few guys and we’re just coming together as one unit. We will continue to grind and try to become a full-fledged product by the time of the playoffs.”

On Wednesday awaits the series finale – and with it the chance to make up for some of the ground they have now lost.

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