Charlie Montoyo gathered his troops on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia.
A five-game losing streak didn’t give the Blue Jays manager much choice but to speak to his club as a whole for the first time this season.
“I had a meeting with my team and I told them how proud I am, after everything we have gone through, and we are still in a good spot,” Montoyo said during his pre-game availability with media. “If somebody would have told me in July that on Sept. 19th we were going to be in this (playoff) spot, I would have said ‘I’m in.’
“We’re a young team. I told them to embrace it and have fun. Nobody expected us to be here.”
Hours later, the Jays, despite the words of encouragement from Montoyo that featured a cameo appearance from veteran Joe Panik, found themselves in the same spot despite a fine performance by starter Hyun Jin Ryu (4-2) against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Ryu was solid in six innings, tying his season-high with eight strikeouts.
Trouble was, his Jays teammates did little at the plate, mounting little offence as the skid was stretched to six games with a 3-1 loss. It’s the first time the Jays, whose two hits marked their fewest in a game in 2020, have lost six in a row since Sept. 1-8, 2019.
The Jays fell to 26-26.
Phillies starter Vince Velasquez (1-1) was sharp, allowing those two hits in six innings while striking out six. Velasquez got past some early control issues and held the Jays to a solo homer by Travis Shaw.
The Jays, who remain in a comfortable playoff spot with the eighth seed in the American League, took a 1-0 lead with one out in the fifth when Shaw walloped his fifth home run of the season. On a 1-0 count, Shaw deposited a Velasquez changeup into the seats in right field.
The Phillies responded quickly, erasing the one-run deficit to go up 2-1 in their half of the fifth.
Through four innings, Ryu allowed just one hit, a single to left by Andrew Knapp to lead off the bottom of the third.
The first batter Ryu faced in the fifth, Jay Bruce, doubled off the base of the wall in left and later scored on a Knapp single. Knapp scored two batters later on a single up the middle by Andrew McCutchen as Philadelphia took the lead.
The Phillies scored an insurance run off A.J. Cole in the eighth.
NO START FOR VLADDY
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wasn’t in the starting lineup, with Shaw getting the call at first base.
“Vladdy wants velocity. He wants to know what is gearing up for him on a heater or a breaking ball. They all go up to the plate with the expectation of ‘I’m going to do some damage.’”
Montoyo said pitcher Rafael Dolis (right knee discomfort) is “fine” and is day to day. There’s no structural damage for Dolis, Montoyo indicated, after the 32-year-old departed the second game on Friday … Montoyo confirmed Taijuan Walker will start on Sunday … The Jays recalled righty Patrick Murphy, sent back to the taxi squad after the doubleheader on Friday, from the alternate training site. In a corresponding move, infielder Santiago Espinal was optioned to the alternate training site and added to the taxi squad.
Guerrero was hit by a pitch on the flap of his batting helmet in the Jays’ 8-7 loss on Friday, but stayed in the game.
“He was not 100%,” Montoyo said before the game. “He was a little dizzy, but it has nothing to do with anything … give him a breather. He has been playing every day anyway. I just talked to him. He’s fine.”
Sure enough, Guerrero pinch-hit for Danny Jansen with one out in the eighth. Guerrero grounded out to short.
BIG ON BIGGIO
Cavan Biggio was leading the majors in plate appearances and games played, something not lost on Jays major league coach John Schneider, but perhaps not as respected as much outside the Jays’ clubhouse.
“I think when you have such crazy-hyped prospects like Bo (Bichette) and Vlad on the same team, it’s easy for someone like that to get lost in the shuffle a little bit,” Schneider said. “(Biggio) is what makes us go. With him getting on base — 20-for-20 in stolen bases in his career — he does little things that really make us go.”
Schneider, who managed all three at double-A New Hampshire in 2018 on the way to an Eastern League title, sees the same competitive trait in each.
“They’re similar,” Schneider said. “They have the same thought process of ‘I’m going to beat this guy if I’m at the plate or I’m going to make this play if I’m in the field.’
“The way they go about it and the way they verbalize it to people is different. Bo is so convicted in the plan when he goes to the plate off a certain pitcher and you let him talk to you and reinforce how he is thinking is correct and more of the time it is. Cavan wants information. He relies on it. He is a little bit more meticulous with details and where the pitch might be and things like that.