Blue Jays reverse form in sloppy loss to Yankees

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The sometimes maddening ups and downs of the 2022 season suggest it isn’t quite a sure thing, but are the Blue Jays ready to launch a meaningful postseason run for the first time in six seasons?

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Depends on which end of a 27-hour stretch you want to buy into.

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General manager Ross Atkins wasn’t ready to go all World Series or bust on us in a talk prior to Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees in front of a  bustling Rogers Centre crowd of  40,528 readying for something big.

Good thing, too, considering what unfolded soon after.

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One game, yes, but the confounding inconsistencies of this Jays group was on display once again as the team looked spring training sloppy rather than playoff prepared in a performance that couldn’t have been in greater contrast to the effort the previous night.

Still, the architect of a major rebuild that began in earnest following the team’s previous trip to the playoffs in 2016 (not counting the shortened 2020 campaign) is bullish on this team’s prospects.

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“I don’t think there’s anything that should limit them,” Atkins said prior to the second of three here to wind up the season series against the Bronx Bombers. “We’re certainly capable of playing with the best teams in baseball and hopefully we end up being the one.”

Of course much of what could hold them back was on display in the two hours and 55 minutes it took to play this one.

From another dodgy outing by starter Jose Berrios to further entrench lingering doubts on the starting rotation, to some unfathomable sloppiness on the bases, it was a night of unnecessary ugliness.

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Just 24 hours after his team made all the right moves against the Yankees, they were giving manager John Schneider fits.

To add to the insult, the loss allowed the Yankees to celebrate a clinching of the AL East right at the Rogers Centre.

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The beauty — frustrating as it can be — of this team is that it can flush the equivalent of the aftermath of Loonie Dogs night in a hurry, often rebounding as early as the next day.

And to Atkins’ point, the Jays work through the past couple of months has inspired enough confidence to suggest the team is capable of going on a sustained run.

Winning a World Series isn’t always the accomplishment of the best team, after all, but it often goes to the hottest — shout out to the reigning champs from Atlanta.

“The biggest questions on what we are focused on is how we can set ourselves up for the most success for a push deep into the post season,” Atkins said. “Obviously that starts with Game 1 of the playoffs but want to make sure we are cognizant of playing as long as possible and as deep as possible.”

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Actually the larger unknowns remain when they will clinch, whether that includes the top seed in the AL wildcard race and who their opponent will be when the action begins on Oct. 8.

In the context of Game 155, the Jays had to watch the Yankees celebrate on their field after clinching the AL East title that many had considered Toronto to be the pre-season favourite.

On Tuesday, the Jays ran into the electric stuff of Yankees starter Jameson Taillon, who after allowing a leadoff homer to George Springer, retired 16 of the next 17 Jays batters he faced.

BATTLE OF BERRIOS

As much as the Jays are thrilled with the one-two punch of Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah at the top of the rotation and the outstanding, upstart season of Ross Stripling, the Berrios situation is a confounding one.

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The righty lasted 5.1 innings, scattering nine hits for five earned runs. Sure, it was better than his previous outing which lasted just two innings, but he’s nowhere near ready to be declared a reliable arm for the post season.

RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL

The Tuesday loss showed the frustrating side of the Jays when mental errors and dumb plays conspire against them.

Rewind to the sixth inning when Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero each committed unpardonable mistakes on the base paths, limiting what could have been a huge inning to a single run.

First Bichette, who had committed a throwing error earlier in the game. After an easy safe slide into second, he slowly got to his feet with none of his body parts touching the bag, allowing an alert Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa to make the tag.

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Guerrero, the next batter, hit a loud fly ball to left field and then instead of running, slowed to admire it bounce off the wall before picking up the pace. What should have been a sure double, was an easy out at the bag, a costly mistake for a team trailing by four runs.

GAME ON

Springer’s 431-foot homer to get things started was his ninth leadoff home run of the season and 52nd of his career … The Jays stuck to their plans of not pitching anything worth while to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, keeping his home-run chase stalled at 60. The Rogers Centre crowd didn’t appreciate the cautious approach, booing loudly after Judge’s eighth-inning plate appearance resulted in a fourth consecutive walk.

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