TORONTO — On a night of comebacks, the Toronto Blue Jays fell just short.
In just a third of an inning, Blue Jays starter Hyun-Jin Ryu went from borderline perfect to losing pitcher as Toronto fell 4-2 to the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on Tuesday.
Through 5.2 frames, Ryu looked poised to bounce back from his previous outing — a seven-run, seven-hit loss against the Chicago White Sox. He had his faithful catcher back, as Danny Jansen — reinstated from the injured list earlier on Tuesday — promptly gave the Blue Jays and their starter a one-run lead with a solo shot in the third inning.
It seemed like Toronto had a chance to end the month of August on a win streak and keep the American League playoff picture interesting. But things quickly unravelled from there.
"I've said this before. The thing I have to really focus on is to prevent that one inning in the game where I give up runs," Ryu said through interpreter Jun Sung Park after the loss. "I feel like today, as well, was that one inning where I allowed a number of runs and it caused a difficult situation for the team."
Ryu got two quick outs in the sixth. Then, he allowed a double, a bloop single and another double as the Orioles scored three runs, erasing the lead Jansen had given his team. Toronto's starter wouldn’t get a chance to regain control after that. Adam Cimber took over for Ryu, who ended up with another loss instead of a fabled no-hitter.
His overall outing wasn’t bad by any means. Ryu finished the night with six strikeouts, three hits and three walks allowed along with the three earned runs — a definitive improvement from that 3.2-inning nightmare against Chicago.
"Overall, I felt better," Ryu said. "My pitches had more life."
But that elusive final out of the sixth counted more than all others.
"He was on," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said post-game. "Of course, there was no room for error, because we weren't scoring any runs tonight. So, he was good."
The lack of runs is nothing new. The Blue Jays have struggled to cash in all through August, and finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Tuesday.
Now, instead of entering September on a high note, Toronto will remain over four games out of a playoff spot with very tough series coming up against the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays.
"It's been a long stretch now when the offence has been struggling, and the pitchers know that," said Montoyo. "It's part of being a team. They gotta keep you in the game and they have been doing that. That's why we're still winning games even though our offence is not hitting."
Hidden in the direness of dropping a home game to the Orioles amid a playoff chase were some upsides for the Blue Jays.
After homering in his first at-bat, Jansen also added a walk in the fifth before being replaced by Reese McGuire to cap off a productive return. The 26-year-old had been dealing with a hamstring strain since early August.
More importantly, Jansen clearly didn’t miss a beat catching for Ryu.
“It’s great (that Jansen homered), but what's more important to me is that he was on the same page with Ryu and they had a good game together,” said Montoyo.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is also having a little comeback of his own.
Guerrero Jr. hit a solo homer in the fifth to bring the Blue Jays within one. The first baseman has now hit as many homers in the past two games as he did throughout the rest of the month of August.
Whatever slim playoff hope that still exists for Toronto will rely heavily on Vlad’s ability to regain his power.
"To get him going like that, like he was in the first half, would be great for the next month," said Montoyo. "If he can keep going like that, hopefully our other guys can get hot at the same time, and then it'll be good for us, because our pitching is doing great."
In a moment that left the Blue Jays' fan base holding its collective breath, slugger George Springer was taken out of the game in the seventh inning. Springer, who has played just two games after returning from a knee injury, looked uncomfortable after rounding second at full speed only to be stopped by third-base coach Luis Rivera.
He was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson. According to Montoyo, the decision to take him out was precautionary.
"He was fine," said the Blue Jays manager about Springer's knee. "We gotta be careful. We've still got a month left, so that's why we decided to take him out."
Springer wasn't happy about his early exit, tossing his hands in the air as if frustrated by his manager's decision.
If there was ever a time to throw caution to the wind, this might be it.
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