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CLEVELAND – Kind of the Blue Jays to provide the cross-border fans an early travel option on Sunday afternoon.
Facing a sweep to end a putrid 10-game road trip, the Jays took suspense out of the miserable equation from the outset as starter J.A. Happ allowed three singles on his first four pitches.
By the time the first inning was done the Jays trailed 4-0 and an offence, that other than Justin Smoak has gone missing, was facing the man with the second best ERA in the AL, the Indians Corey Kluber.
All Kluber did in response to that lead was strikeout the side in the second to send a message that a comeback wouldn’t come easy. That was just the beginning for Kluber, who struck out a season-high 14 Jays batters and got every batter in the Toronto lineup at least once.
The end result was yet another blowout defeat, an 8-1 loss to the Indians. In a three-game series sweep, Cleveland outscored the Jays 23-5. It’s near impossible to imagine that these two teams met in the American League Championship series last fall.
With the loss, the Jays fall 10 games below .500 (44-54) and were 3-7 on a road trip that needed to be the reverse of that to give the team and their fan base hope. It’s the first time they’ve been 10 below the break-even mark since the “it’s early” phase back on May 6.
And after a full two weeks away, the Jays return home to a potentially testy Rogers Centre crowd for a seven-game home stand beginning Monday against Oakland. A frustrated fan base will see the team for the first time since the all star break, one that has drifted even further from playoff contention.
And a management group that has been mostly mum about its plans for the July 31 trade deadline may start looking more seriously at a deep rebuild.
The team that can’t hit and can’t get reliable starting pitching for the duration of even a short series has issues from top to bottom.
Besides getting swept in the three-gamer in Cleveland, the Jays somehow eked out a split in Boston after losing two of three in Detroit. That all adds up to disaster.
The Jays have now lost five of their past six games on the road and have struck out a stunning 115 times in their past 12 road games. Veteran leaders of the past such as Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista (who struck out three times on Sunday) are lost at the plate and the team just can’t summon a timely hit.
The Jays have just one win in their past 10 series, a stretch where they needed to make up ground but instead went the other way.
Meanwhile, the best you could say about Happ was that he got through six innings, a rarity from the Jays rotation these days. That and he helped keep an opponent under 10 runs. Happ gave up nine hits and seven runs before surrendering to Joe Smith in the seventh.
HITS ARE THE PITS
With Kluber the latest pitcher to stymie Jays hitters, there have been plenty of swings and misses lately as the Toronto offence has gone into full summer siesta mode.
Kluber had 10 strikeouts through five innings on Sunday and 14 in the game. Jays hitters have now had double-digit strikeouts in five of their past seven games and six of the 10 on this road trip.
Not that it was a surprise with Kluber doing the dealing. It was the ninth game with 10 strikeouts this year for the Indians ace, third in the majors behind Boston’s Chris Sale (13) and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (12). Bautista was the biggest victim, striking out three times.
The lone Toronto run came on a Kevin Pillar homer in the third, but the at-bats were skimpy all around. Pillar also had two strikeouts … In his 10 most recent starts, Kluber has a minuscule ERA of 1.53 and 108 strikeouts.
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