DENVER, Col. — We’re at the point of the season where the Blue Jays will accept little victories as a means to merely get them through another struggling day.
So the beer mug half-full view at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon was that Toronto’s starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez got through six innings without a blister or a fingernail falling off on his throwing hand.
It wasn’t enough for the Jays to record a win, of course, as the Colorado Rockies made it a three-game sweep over their visitors from the American League with a 5-1 victory of their own.
But for Sanchez, the encouragement was like an exhale of fresh mountain air.
“For me to go out there and throw 85 pitches, it’s a good start,” said Sanchez, who had to limit his work between outings after tearing the nail of his finger last week in Tampa. “Hopefully I can continue that trend and put this behind us.
“You guys have seen me when I’m healthy and when I’m not. When I am, it’s a big difference.”
As much as he has fought through his injury and blister issues for more than two seasons, Sanchez clearly wants to give the middle finger to his middle finger woes. Obviously the Jays need him not only to eat innings, but return to the elite form he displayed regularly two years earlier.
“I’ve got to keep fighting and plugging along,” said Sanchez, who allowed seven hits and four earned runs while walking three. “This can’t be something I have to deal with forever. When it passes, I’ll be thankful. I don’t wish this upon anybody.”
The struggles the Jays are going through as a team isn’t exactly on anyone’s wish list, either.
The entire trip was a brooming for the Jays, who also lost three in Tampa and have been swept in five series already this season.
Four of those sweeps have been on the road and they are now a whopping 17 games below .500.
The loss also slipped the Jays 18 games out of first place in the AL East, a margin that wasn’t reached until July 4 last summer. The six-game losing streak is the Jays’ longest of the season longest, in fact, since April of 2017 — and one they will attempt to snap when the division — leading Yankees are the opponent at the Rogers Centre for the first of three beginning on Tuesday.
WHERE ARE THE RUNS?
One member of the Jays coaching staff was seen shaking his head after a second consecutive output of just two runs against the Rockies..
“This is Denver,” he said, the implication that the thin air makes it a hitters’ delight.
Not for the Jays, who only scored one run in the first inning despite having the bases loaded with one out. It was the 23rd time this season the team has scored two runs or fewer, the most in the AL.
Manager Charlie Montoyo is clearly getting frustrated as well, recognizing that with the Yankees on deck, production will be paramount. The need, which is coming as if on a post-game loop now, is to have better at-bats.
“We have to make an adjustment all around,” Montoyo said of his team’s approach at the plate. “I’m OK with being aggressive, but you’ve got to get a good pitch.
“(Oppposing pitchers) can see it, they can feel (the Jays struggles.)”
The Jays will be looking to regroup at home and when a three-game series with the Yankees there are a couple of potential attractions besides the own struggling home team.
For starters, Yankees pitcher James Paxton returns to the site of his no-hitter last May and will get the ball on Wednesday followed by the Jays 2018 all-star representative J.A. Happ on Thursday.
As well, weather permitting the Rogers Centre roof will open for the first time this season, just the third time the first opening has been held in June. That hasn’t happened since 2001 (June 6) and in the first year of the Dome (June 5, 1989.)
AROUND THE BASES
The Jays haven’t had a road trip this gruesome in quite some time. It was the team’s first time going winless on a roadie of six games or more since 2009 and just the sixth in club history. Overall, the team has lost 24 of its past 31 games.
– Sanchez on whether the finger follies are on his mind while on the mound:
“When it’s my day to pitch, I’ve got to pitch. I’m going against the best hitters in the world. If I’m thinking about something else, I’ll get embarrassed … and there’s nights that I have.”
– Making his 13th start of the season, Sanchez has now lost five straight decisions, the longest such streak in his career.
– At the rate it’s going for the Jays, who knows when closer Ken Giles will have to do his thing with something on the line.
With that in mind, Montoyo put Giles in for the eighth inning on Saturday and the fireballing reliever struck out the side. Giles’s 42% strikeout percentage is currently second best in the AL.
– One of the things the Jays value in rookie Cavan Biggio is his versatility and looking to get use of his left-handed back on Sunday, Montoyo had the rookie make his first appearance in right field since his call up.
– In contrast to the Jays, the Rockies are currently on a season-long eight-game winning streak and finished off a 10-game home stand with a 9-1 mark.
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