The Bisons have 12 games left in their season but their playoff hopes are just about toast. Pretty easy statement to make when you’re talking about an outfit that simply can’t score any more.
It’s all pretty hard to believe. A team that was 17-7 in April – and once scored 27 runs in a single game – is a shell of what it was early in the season. And actually a shell of what it was last week.
It was nine days ago when the Bisons ripped first-place Rochester, 8-3, with a lineup that included Anthony Gose in center field, Moises Sierra in right and Ryan Goins at shortstop.
It was eight days ago when the Bisons has Gose in center, Sierra in right and Goins at second.
It was seven days ago when nearly 16,000 fans saw a win over the first-place Red Wings that including Goins at short and Sierra in right.
It was six days ago when the Bisons won at Pawtucket, 7-2, to get within a half-game of the International League wild-card as Sierra belted a three-run homer.
Was that six weeks ago?
While the Bisons returned home Thursday night, the Blue Jays’ lineup in their rain-delayed loss at Yankee Stadium included Kevin Pillar in left, Sierra in right and Munenori Kawasaki at second base (Pillar and Kawasaki left Buffalo on Aug. 14). Gose, meanwhile, played center field in the Bronx on Wednesday night.
There isn’t much left in Buffalo. Ryan Langerhans, released in June, was rescued from the independent Sugar Land Skeeters (seriously) and was immediately back in center field Thursday for the Herd. Even made a great play out there in the loss to Lehigh Valley. But no offense.
You get what’s happened here.
“It’s been a rough week,” manager Marty Brown said before the game. “Sure, you want guys to elevate their games here when others leave but I don’t know that I’ve ever lost this much in this short amount of time.”
Brown dealt with this last year, when the Blue Jays had three pitchers suffer season-ending elbow injuries in a five-day span when he was directing Toronto farmhands in Las Vegas. Crazy stuff for sure but nothing like what the Bisons are experiencing now.
“This,” Brown said, “is pretty amazing.”
That’s what they’re saying in Toronto, too. The disabled list up the QEW includes Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Maicer Izturis, Josh Johnson, Brandon Morrow, Dustin McGowan, Ramon Ortiz, Luis Perez and Juan Perez.
It’s hard to indict the Blue Jays for all their Buffalo shuffling. Any Triple-A team would be pillaged if the parent club lost its entire outfield, let alone a key infielder and plenty of arms.
The Jays have kept promoting from Double-A, and the Mets never had players in Binghamton like Pillar, Brad Glenn and A.J. Jimenez to try to salvage things in Triple-A. But you can only reach down so many times.
One thing the Blue Jays did mess up is when they took starter Thad Weber from the Bisons’ rotation a couple of weeks ago, ostensibly to start in place of the struggling Esmil Rogers. Instead, they opted to have Weber on hand in case Rogers blew up. That didn’t happen.
Weber returns to the Bisons’ rotation tonight – after pitching all of two innings in the big leagues the last two weeks. Memo to the Blue Jays: You call up somebody, you better use him.
The Bisons have had their own injury spate with Sierra (hamstring), Luis Jimenez (knee), and Jim Negrych (Achilles) missing time. At least Mauro Gomez, who had 28 home runs, returned to the lineup Thursday after missing three weeks with an oblique strain.
The Blue Jays had this kind of trouble last year, too. Makes you wonder if the organization’s strength and conditioning program needs to be evaluated, or if the genteel nature of spring training in Dunedin, Fla., needs to be ratcheted up a notch.
Brown tried to mix things up Thursday for a team that had no runs scored in 21∑ innings and not a single hit with runners in scoring position the last three games. But indoor batting practice, a change from the norm, was a bust as well.
Brown nodded when I mentioned the word “psychology.” He was trying something – anything – to change things up. It didn’t work.
“It’s more about getting a little bit more tunnel vision,” he said. “We need to focus on some of the little things and take it out on the field.”
So then came the first inning Thursday.
Mike McCoy stroked the first pitch he saw for a double down the left-field line and the Bisons still didn’t score, with Andy LaRoche striking out to leave the bases loaded. A couple of minutes later, Ricky Romero gave up Derrick Mitchell’s two-run homer into the left-field screen in the top of the second and that was that – as it’s often been when Romero has pitched downtown, where he was 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA.
Counting tonight, there are five home games left. For the eighth straight year, playoff baseball is going to elude the Bisons. The Blue Jays simply couldn’t keep their players on the field, in either Toronto or Buffalo.
You see the results in both places.