TORONTO – What was shaping up to be a resurgent outing by Steven Matz hit the wall abruptly in the middle innings, Trent Thornton’s recent struggles continued and a game under the control of the Toronto Blue Jays almost instantly slipped through their fingers.
Add in a costly error, wild pitch and the offense’s inability to get to rookie Spenser Watkins early, and a late thunderbolt wasn’t enough to prevent a 7-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
Randal Grichuk’s solo home runs in the seventh off Dillon Tate and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in the eighth off Tanner Scott, plus a two-run drive by Lourdes Gurriel Jr., off Tyler Wells in the ninth made things interesting, but the medium- The collapse of the game was too much to overcome.
That left Matz’s progress in his second start since returning from the COVID-19 disabled list as the main lesson for the Blue Jays.
He pitched 48 pitches on a four-run, 2.2-inning return against Seattle last week and had 68 pitches with four strikeouts in an outing marred by a pair of two-run homers from two of his last four batters: Pedro Severino in the fourth and Cedric Mullins in the fifth.
“I definitely felt a lot better today, I felt like I had my things back, actually I felt a little bit better as the game went on,” Matz said. “Even going into fifth, I still felt pretty strong. That slider alone was a bit flat for Mullins, but other than that, the progress from my last start to this start, I feel good about my stuff. Unfortunately, today I couldn’t put in some zeros for the team. “
Matz was largely in charge up to that point, doing his part to try to make the 1-0 lead provided by Guerrero’s sacrifice fly in the first inning stand up. Working primarily with a sinker who commanded much more effectively than last time, he managed to get through his first three innings unscathed, including stranding both Pat Valaika and Domingo Leyba after they reached to open the third.
Ramón Urias’ two-out single preceded Severino’s advance on a sinker, while Bo Bichette’s error on a Leyba routine groundout to open the fifth came just before Matz hung a flat slider on Mullins.
“It’s coming,” manager Charlie Montoyo said of his southpaw’s progression. “We were trying to get him to 70, 75 pitches and he pitched well. He made a couple of mistakes and when we sent him back (for fifth), we wanted … him to get the No. 9 hitter and the southpaw at the top and then we were going to bring Trent. But he just hit a bad pitch to Mullins, who is a good hitter. But he looked a lot better than his last outing, sure. “
Thornton, who had allowed six runs, five earned, on six hits and three walks in 3.1 innings in his last three outings, inherited a 4-1 deficit and quickly pushed the game out of reach.
He had a single by Trey Mancini, a double by Ryan Mountcastle, a wild pitch to score runs and a two-run homer by Anthony Santander after striking out Austin Hays, and Montoyo threw it after George Springer chased a hit from Urias against the wall in the center. .
To be fair, Mancini hit a curveball just below the area as Mountcastle moved in a chase heater above the area, but Santander and Urias got fastballs in the happy zone.
“Commando,” Montoyo said of Thornton’s main topic lately. And that goes for a lot of guys outside of the bullpen who are struggling. When you fall behind on the count, no matter who you face, you will get in trouble. And that’s been Trent’s problem right now, his command, throwing back on the count. “
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Meanwhile, Watkins bounced back after coming out of the first with just one run allowed, holding the Blue Jays to two singles and two walks in the next four innings. They pecked at the Orioles bullpen, but never managed to build an extended rally.
Matz’s next turn comes Sunday in the series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays just before the All-Star break. After some inconsistencies, he finally seemed to find his way against the Boston Red Sox on June 12, striking out eight in 5.2 innings of a career, but made the COVID list immediately thereafter.
“I was at a decent pace before that, but I’m happy with my physical condition and my pace today compared to the last outing,” said Matz, who made eight shots and seven fouls on 20 fastball shots. “I feel like I’m back where I was.”