KANSAS CITY – For the fourth time in seven games, the Blue Jays blew a lead of at least three runs.
While it would be easy to lay this one on the bullpen - Steve Delabar, Brett Cecil, Sergio Santos and Esmil Rogers got tagged for eight runs in the final two innings - this loss, by a final score of 10-7 to the Royals, was a total team effort.
So much so, in fact, that manager John Gibbons, Kansas City's bench coach as recently as 2011, took a veiled shot at his club while praising his old team.
“I will say one thing about that team over there, because I was there when they were young,” said Gibbons. “They play nine innings. I don't care, up or down, they compete and they get after your ass and that's why they're going to end up winning it one day.”
Perhaps Gibbons was upset with catcher Dioner Navarro, who put on a clinic of how not to play defence in the second inning. First, with Royals at the corners and one out, Navarro attempted to back hand a Dustin McGowan slider in the dirt. The ball skipped off Navarro's shin guard and towards the Royals' first base dugout. Billy Butler, the runner on third, scored. Later in the second, again with runners at the corners, Navarro inexplicably attempted to throw out Alcides Escobar trying to steal second. The throw was offline and bounced into centrefield, allowing Alex Gordon, who was on third, to score.
Perhaps Gibbons was upset with Edwin Encarnacion who, with two runners on and one out in the seventh, didn't hustle down the first baseline on a ground ball back to pitcher Kelvin Herrera. Usually a routine play, Herrera's throw brought first baseman Eric Hosmer off the bas,e but because Encarnacion was only halfway down the line, Hosmer had plenty of time to collect himself and step on the bag for the out.
Perhaps Gibbons was frustrated with Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista, who converged on Gordon's lead-off fly ball to right centrefield in the seventh. Neither took charge - it's Rasmus' job to do so - and the ball bounced on the warning track for a lead-off double. The Jays had a 5-2 lead at the time. Gordon would score one hitter later when Salvador Perez hit a two-run home run off of Delabar, marking the start of the Kansas City comeback.
Perhaps Gibbons was frustrated with Melky Cabrera, who did tack on two more hits for a league-leading 41, but who also had a poor night in left field. Twice Royals' runners took an extra base on Cabrera's arm. Once because he displayed no urgency in getting the ball back to the infield and Cabrera also missed a cut-off man in the Royals' six-run eighth, allowing a second run to score on a single by Omar Infante.
The Blue Jays fell to 12-14. Gibbons called it a “crappy game.”
Under the cirumstances, he was being polite.
McGOWAN'S STRONG OUTING; STROMAN MAKES STATEMENT
As Dustin McGowan took the mound in Tuesday night's series opener against the Royals, Marcus Stroman was wrapping up, perhaps, his most impressive appearance in his brief professional career.
The two are linked.
The belief is that the Blue Jays are growing weary of McGowan's inability to work deep into ballgames; manager John Gibbons has repeatedly offered that he liked McGowan's work out of the bullpen last season, thinking he's better suited to a one or two-inning role.
McGowan is a type-1 diabetic and, as first reported by TSN.ca, he wore his insulin pump in an attempt to regulate his blood sugar level - it tends to skyrocket during games - and alleviate the fatigue that overtakes him in the middle innings.
He pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season, granted it was just one batter and Alex Gordon doubled, but it was a step forward. McGowan allowed three runs, two earned, on three hits, three walks and two strikeouts. He left with a lead, which was coughed up by the bullpen.
“Real encouraged,” said McGowan. “I got deep in the game and that's all I've been wanting to do. Sometimes the results are overshadowed by the innings you pitch, but as long as you get deep in games, good things happen once you get deep in games.”
Stroman is among the club's top pitching prospects and of those prospects, is considered to be the most major league ready. He showed it in Buffalo on Tuesday, hurling six hitless innings, striking out 10 and walking only one in what could be his final Bisons appearance before he's added to the 40-man roster and brought up to pitch in Pittsburgh this weekend.
Gibbons has talked about using a six-man rotation through the next turn. The Blue Jays don't have another off day until May 19, which prevents Gibbons from rearranging the order of the rotation to facilitate additional days off for certain pitchers.
If the Jays were weighing whether to go with McGowan or J.A. Happ on Monday in Philadelphia, after Stroman starts on Sunday in Pittsburgh, McGowan's performance may have bought him at least one more start.
GETZ ARRIVES; GOINS TO BUFFALO
Chris Getz was shagging fly balls during Triple-A Buffalo's batting practice on Monday afternoon when minor league field coordinator Doug Davis waved him in to give him the news he was on his way back to the big leagues.
A former Royal who played in Kansas City for four seasons and not immediately aware of the Blue Jays' next opponent, Getz was surprised to hear of his first stop destination.
“It was pretty funny because I knew they had the off day and then Doug mentioned that, 'Hey, you've got a flight at 6:30 and you're heading to Kansas City,'” said Getz. “Heading to Kansas City? I already played with them. Of course, I'm playing against them, but it was cool to come back here and see a lot of familiar faces, teammates, but even the people working at the park. You get to know them over the years and they're such good people here. I just kind of feel at home.”
Getz's contract was selected from the Bisons in time for Tuesday night's opener with the Royals. He replaces Ryan Goins, who was optioned to Buffalo after a slow start at the plate. In 24 games and 66 plate appearances, Goins posted a slash line of .150/.203/.217 (.420 OPS), with one home run.
“He was having good at-bats,” said hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. “I think if we were, as a group, doing better top-to-bottom, he would probably still be here. I don't know, that's not my decision, but I felt like his at-bats were getting better and better the last week, week-and-a-half.”
This isn't it for Goins. The Blue Jays value his glove. Expect him to be back.
“I told him, 'You go down there, be a good teammate, work hard, keep a good attitude which I know you will and apply the stuff that we worked on,'” said Seitzer. “I said, 'I want you building confidence in everything you've done to this point to where you come back and don't go back.'”
Getz is a solid defensive second baseman who will bring a little more offence than Goins. For his six-year career with the White Sox and Royals, Getz, 30, is a .251/.310/.309 hitter.