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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Weekend in Chicago: Amazing atmosphere, stunning sights and sounds and three close losses against the World Series champion Cubs.
Tuesday night in St. Pete: Dullsville, the polar opposite to Wrigley Field and a late comeback falling just short for yet another Blue Jays loss.
Not that there weren’t some fireworks at the dreary Trop, but they came after the mop up of the latest Jays loss.
Tumbling further out of the American League wildcard playoff race, the Jays got into a three-run hole early in the opener of a three-game series and never fully recovered, falling 6-5 to the Rays.
Emotions were running high after the game, however, when Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar was pointedly critical of home plate umpire Chad Fairchild who tossed him from the game for a comment he made in the third inning as he returned to the dugout.
Pillar was left to fume in the visitor’s clubhouse the rest of the night, in particular in the ninth where his scheduled at-bat could have produced the equalizer.
“All I said was the first pitch was terrible, that was it,” Pillar said of a strike call on the first pitch he faced. “I didn’t raise my voice, didn’t use any profanity, didn’t cause a scene.
“I think I’ve been through a lot this year I’ve understood how to know the power of words and how people could be offended by it. I just felt like I offered my opinion.”
Pillar, of course, was suspended for two games in May for a homophobic slur he uttered in Atlanta. He has been contrite since and says he has taken pride in never being thrown out of a game in his career. Until Tuesday.
“It’s just shocking to me,” Pillar said. “It’s just a different time in baseball. Everyone’s really sensitive and things get blown out of proportion. To immediately throw somebody out like that, it’s just sad.”
Safe to say the Jays could have used Pillar’s bat at that point. After trailing 3-1 after the second and 6-3 after six, they made a game of it.
A solo Josh Donaldson homer run in the eighth made it 6-4 and with one more in the ninth, they were just a base-hit away from forcing extra innings. With a lineup already thin in the hitting department, Jays manager John Gibbons felt Pillar needed to use more discretion.
“First pitch of the night for you … you can’t get thrown out of the ball game there,” Gibbons said.
Of course Pillar is adamant that he shouldn’t have been tossed in the first place.
“I feel there definitely has to be some room for some dialogue there,” I feel like in that situation he could have been as stern as he wanted to taken his mask off and we could have some dialogue
“To immediately throw somebody out like that, it’s just sad.”
Pillar’s outburst aside, there has to be frustration building with the Jays now after a fourth consecutive loss on this six-game road trip, a voyage that is rapidly dulling whatever remote hope they had of the playoffs before it began. Meaningful baseball in September? Don’t hold your breath … After a pair of solid efforts to start his career in the major leagues, Toronto starter Chris Rowley struggled at the Trop, essentially coming undone in a three-run Rays second inning. Rowley threw 32 pitches in that frame with the big damage coming from a Corey Dickerson home run to right field. Throw in a triple from the Rays’ Kevin Keirmaier to clear the bases and the Jays trailed 4-1 … Gibbons on Rowley, who lasted just 31/2 innings: “I thought he was a little bit off. He had to face (the Rays) for a second time in a week and that’s never easy. I thought he was trying to be a little too fine.” … Though the Jays scored three runs under Rays starter Chris Archer’s watch, only one was earned. The Rays ace recorded 10 strikeouts, his ninth double-digit effort of the season.
RALLY FALLS JUST SHORT
The Jays certainly made it interesting in the ninth when a leadoff single by Kendrys Morales was followed by a Steve Pearce double to put runners at second and third. A Miguel Montero sacrifice fly then made it a one-run ball game at 6-5. But after Darwin Barney grounded out and Ryan Groins flied out, the rally fell short. And the Barney at bat would have been Pillar’s if he was still in the game.
“It’s just unfortunate the way the game kind of unfolded and my spot comes up in that situation and (I’m) sitting in (the clubhouse) confused and stunned by the situation and wishing I was out there in a position to help our team win the game,” Pillar said.
Pillar’s ejection was the third of the season for a Jays player – catcher Russell Martin and pitcher Marcus Stroman each were run on July 27 vs. Oakville.
The loss for Rowley was the first in his career in three starts … The four-game losing streak for the Jays is their longest since June 29-July 3. Even more frustrating, they’ve held a lead in each of the four losses on the current streak … Toronto is now on a 4-12 run of futility on the road and 25-37 overall … With Minnesota’s win over the White Sox on Tuesday the Jays are now a distant six games from the second AL wild-card spot … The Jays got off to a decent start as leadoff hitter Nori Aoki took an Archer offering over the right-field wall. The lead was short-lived, however, as the second Rays batter, Lucas Duda, replied in kind … It was the sixth leadoff homer of Aoki’s career … Donaldson, who made his second consecutive start at short, has seven home runs and 11 RBI in 11 games against the Rays this season.
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