MINNEAPOLIS – The Blue Jays had a fifth inning to forget Thursday night at Target Field, losing two players and a key game as the AL Wild Card race nears the final week of the season.
Just as worrying as the 7-2 loss to the Twins is the untimely exit of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. with a right hand injury, with Gurriel playing one of the best baseballs of his career in September. His brace brought home the first inning of the Blue Jays game and gave him 30 RBIs this month, tying a club record for September. Gurriel is the definition of a streak hitter, but this heater was perfectly timed.
Gurriel mingled with center fielder Randal Grichuk during an awkward play in the alley. As the two got closer to the rolling ball, Grichuk scooped up and Gurriel ducked under his throw. As Grichuk let go of the ball, his momentum carried him to Gurriel and the tips of his crampon fell on Gurriel’s hand, which was pressed flat against the ground. Gurriel remained on the ground as the coaches stepped out to deal with him, eventually leaving the game with his hand wrapped in a towel.
The x-rays of Gurriel’s hand came back negative, but he received two stitches in his middle finger.
“Everything we’ve heard is the best news we can get,” said John Schneider, coach of Charlie Montoyo who is serving a one-game suspension due to the bench clearance incident in Tampa Bay. “There are obviously a few stitches, but we’ll see how he goes tomorrow and I hope it won’t be too long. ”
It’s salt in the injury as the Blue Jays fell one game behind the Yankees for second place Wild Card and three behind the Red Sox for first place. This race has been on all three teams for weeks now, but the Mariners, winners of five in a row, are suddenly just one game behind the Blue Jays.
Three hitters after Gurriel fell, it happened again. Thomas Hatch, who was called up after Steven Matz only lasted three innings on 80 pitches, dropped a fastball for the four ball against Brent Rooker and sped off the mound. He, too, has been taken out of the game. Hatch’s diagnosis is “just hamstring discomfort,” which comes just weeks after his most recent hamstring problem in Baltimore that interrupted his debut. Next hitter Nick Gordon pushed Julian Merryweather deep for the three-point shot that ultimately broke that game.
Gurriel is ‘hand in hand’ for now, but it’s hard to imagine her coming straight back into alignment with those stitches tomorrow. Corey Dickerson and Jarrod Dyson are on the list as in-depth outfielders, but the defensive solution could be star himself, George Springer.
Springer struggled through September, and while it was easy to ignore with the Blue Jays playing their best baseball of the season, it’s a little easier to spot when the team suffered their first straight losses. since August 26 and 27. When Springer returned from two quad biking injuries earlier this season, it looked like there was a point where he was once again the $ 150million man who impacted the game in every way he could. , and Schneider thinks it’s close. Time is running out too, with only nine games to go.
“This is probably the first time he’s really had to struggle, between being injured and not playing 100% and not getting the results he wants,” said Schneider. “I think we all know this clubhouse and the whole league knows he’s about a shot away from being where he needs to be. Watching him every day work in the cages and on the field, seeing how he has progressed, just recently is very encouraging. You have confidence that it will break through very, very quickly.
All of this brings us back to one place: the emergency.
Streaks of cold and brief slip-ups – even of just two or three games – can be fatal at this point in the season with the Wild Card race as close as it gets.
“Charlie always says that the momentum is the start of the next day and we love that José [Berríos] is out there again against these guys, ”said Schneider. “I think it’s no different than it used to be. Everyone knows that every game is huge. You come prepared for tomorrow, I hope to get you back on track and resume a nice little race here this weekend.
That roll may have to come without the roster’s most productive hitter this month, at least for another day or two, but this list is packed with enough talent to make it work. It’s not just about being talented, however. It’s about being timely with all eyes on the Wild Card.