After a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, there was an aura of optimism surrounding Friday's series opener in Baltimore.
Coming into the game, Orioles pitchers had the worst starter ERA in baseball (5.73) and allowed the most home runs in the majors (104). The Blue Jays, of course, had hit more home runs than any team in baseball (103). Add Orioles starter Thomas Eshelman to the mix -- a soft-tossing righty with a 5.01 career ERA -- and things were lined up to be a perfect storm of offensive carnage.
Alas, it was not to be.
Eshelman never broke 90 miles-per-hour, but breezed through the Blue Jays order. It took 4 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays to get their first hit -- a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. solo home run -- but the offense was otherwise absent.
The Toronto bullpen gave the team no chance for a comeback, as the Orioles plated five runs in the eighth inning, good for a 7-1 Blue Jays loss.
Toronto hitters managed just four base-knocks, despite facing one of weaker pitching staff's in baseball. The top of the order didn't chip in, as Marcus Semien, Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Randal Grichuk went a combined 0-16 at the plate. Of course, none of that mattered since the bullpen flamed out for the umpteenth time in a row.
Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray had to work very hard to get guys out, and, on a 32-degree night at Camden Yards, he left the game soaked in sweat. The left-hander needed 106 pitches for only 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits. Ray also missed a few less bats, striking out only five Orioles and walking two in the loss.
Ray frequently got ahead early in the count, but the Orioles relentlessly fouled balls off and made him wrestle for every out.
"A couple pitches here and there weren't executed exactly the way I wanted to, but I felt like for the most part I was there and they were just fouling balls off," Ray said. "It was a grind."
After a turbulent set of losses, Ray said his teammates aren't getting worked up.
"Everybody's fine, nobody's panicking," Ray said.
"It's really easy to panic and start changing the process ... sometimes, you just need to take a step back and trust the process. I feel like the guys are doing a pretty good job of doing that."
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo exuded a similar level of optimism. He said he met with a small group of players post-game to check in on clubhouse morale.
"It was a great conversation," Montoyo said. "I'm very lucky as a manager to have a team like that and a group of guys like that. That's why I know we're gonna weather the storm."
There's still lots of baseball left -- 94 games, in fact -- but this blowout loss to the Orioles just sinks Toronto closer and closer to what feels like rock bottom. The Blue Jays have now dropped five straight and will look to re-discover some energy when the excitable Alek Manoah takes the hill on Saturday.