SPORTS

Mound of Trouble: Pitching a problem as Jays sit in last place at quarter pole

05/19/2015 06:56 EDT | Updated 05/19/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - With the first quarter of the 2015 regular season in the books, one look at the Toronto Blue Jays' pitching statistics tells you why they entered play Tuesday night in last place in the American League East.

They're 29th among the 30 teams in the major leagues with a portly 4.81 earned-run average.

"Overall we've got to pitch better," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "That's pretty obvious. We're fully capable of doing that. I said yesterday, we're not playing bad baseball. We're not (being) sloppy and kicking the ball around. We're just getting beat.

"We're just giving up more runs than we're scoring. Generally that ends up in a loss."

The Blue Jays' offence has done its part. Toronto leads the major leagues with 210 runs scored and is among the top five in doubles, slugging percentage, extra-base hits, on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging.

However, there are big holes on the pitching staff.

A season-ending knee injury to Marcus Stroman was a big blow but the rest of the rotation has not picked up the slack. Starters R.A. Dickey (1-5, 5.76 ERA), Mark Buehrle (5-3, 5.36) and Drew Hutchison (3-0, 6.17) are all off to slow starts and can thank heavy run support for many of their wins.

The stats for key relievers Brett Cecil (1-2, 3.46) and Aaron Loup (1-2, 6.28) are also off from their numbers last year.

The Blue Jays simply don't have a real ace or a true closer. The key cogs in the starting rotation are either aging or quite young and the bullpen has not provided consistent relief.

The booming bats have prevented things from getting really ugly. For a team that entered the campaign with a win-now mentality, the early results have been disappointing.

With the 18-22 start, the future of Gibbons, pitching coach Pete Walker and general manager Alex Anthopoulos have become hot talking points in a city where the Blue Jays are the only real game in town with the NHL's Maple Leafs and the NBA's Raptors out of the playoff picture.

"I've been in this racket for a while now and really it goes with the territory," Gibbons said. "When a team is struggling, that's generally what happens. I don't think it's any different here than it is anywhere else. You just learn to deal with it."

There is some good news for Canada's lone Major League Baseball team.

Toronto took a respectable 10-7 home record into Tuesday's game against the Los Angeles Angels. The four-game series kicks off a 10-game homestand against middling opponents.

A solid performance at Rogers Centre over the rest of the month should put the Blue Jays back in the mix. Another big reason for optimism is that the competition in the A.L. East has not pulled away.

Entering Tuesday's games, the Blue Jays were just 4 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees.

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