SWEEPED IN SEATTLE: Tottering Blue Jays struggle on and off the field

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SEATTLE — The words Charlie Montoyo used to describe his team’s latest atrocious and disbelieving loss barely scratched the surface as Sunday ended a demoralizing seven-game road trip.

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« Baseball can be cruel sometimes when things aren’t going well, » the Blue Jays manager said after a 6-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park, which clearly marked a low point for the club. team in freefall.

Cruel, yes, but also calamitous, given how this one unfolded and what the outcome could mean in the future.

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The Jays were swept in a four-game series for the first time this season, a result made worse by the fact that it allowed the surging Mariners to catch them for the third and final wildcard spot in the American League.

It was also a big blow to the thousands of Western Canadian fans who crossed the border. en masse to see their team play live for the first time in three years.

The Jays have now lost nine of 10 and suddenly find themselves just two games behind the Baltimore Orioles, the last team in the AL East.

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The way the latest loss went to complete a 1-6 road trip is almost too incredulous to believe, unless you’ve been following the team closely over the past eight days and have seen the consequences of the turmoil around them.

First, the baseball stuff.

What would have been a late-inning double play in the fifth instead saw a throw from catcher Gabby Moreno go through first baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s glove – yes, through that – ultimately resulting in two runs from the Mariners and erasing most of what was then a 4-1 lead for Toronto.

While there was still a lot to do, if momentum was the guide, the game was almost over by then.

« This whole road trip is kind of like Murphy’s Law, » said reliever David Phelps, the man on the mound when the disastrous play happened. « If anything can go wrong, it can. The good thing is that we have a lot of season left.

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« When things are bad, it just amplifies everything else. Over 162 games, you’re going to see a lot of crazy stuff. It just happens to look like we’ve had it in a week now.

This harrowing period began eight days ago when the Jays learned of the tragic death of Julia Budzinski, the 17-year-old daughter of first base coach Mark. The loss hit home and left many heartbroken for their popular coach. A day later, they were scheduled to fly to Oakland on Monday evening where, tired and exhausted as they were, they began what would be the toughest road trip of the season.

While none of the Jays are making excuses — and there are clearly a host of fundamental issues dragging them down as well — it’s also prudent to remember the human side of the sport.

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This is a point that Phelps made quite eloquently regarding Budzinski. Several team members led by Montoyo and including players and coaching staff, will spend Monday’s day off on a team-organized charter in Virginia for the funeral of Julia, whose life was lost in a boating accident.

« It’s been a tough week, » Phelps continued. « I’ve been through tough times, tragedies in my career and everyone handles that differently.

« I think there are a lot of us whose hearts are still with ‘Bud’ and his family. We get this news and it’s a west coast road trip.

« It’s been a chore, but at the end of the day, no one is going to feel sorry for us. No one but ourselves will make it. »

That mindset will help bring the Jays over the other side, of course, and there have been signs they’re playing better. But Sunday’s result also had an unsightly component.

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After Guerrero’s equipment malfunction, the Mariners tied the game in the sixth to see the Jays regain the lead with a Bo Bichette solo home run in the seventh.

And then more neglect as rookie receiver Moreno failed to put his glove on what is normally a routine pop-up 10 feet from the plate.

It allowed M shortstop JP Crawford came in first and set the stage for Carlos Santana’s second homer of the game – and the game’s second winner in as many days – a fierce outburst from Jays reliever Adam Cimber that came out in right field.

Results aren’t all that matters right now, but nine defeats in 10 games have inflicted some damage, that’s for sure. The offense is starting to heat up – Sunday’s 10 hits included home runs by Bichette, George Springer (on the first pitch of the game) and Raimel Tapia.

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Then there was the positive result of rookie pitcher Max Castillo’s first career start. The big right-hander went 4.1 innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run, a huge development on an emergency assignment necessitated by the decimated rotation.

But the craziest play of the day was the one that left the biggest mark – and changed the course of the game.

« That game…you know it changed the game, » Montoyo said of Guerrero’s glove faltering for the second time this season. « It’s a hell of a chance. It’s changed. It’s a goddamn luck.

“It changed the momentum. Everyone who knows the game felt that. It was a tough break.”

Cruel and calamitous too.

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