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Blue Jays offence fizzles in loss to Astros

TORONTO – After a big first inning, the Blue Jays appeared all set to bring some fireworks to their July 4 tilt against the Houston Astros.

Instead, the rest of the game played out all too familiarly for Toronto, which was unable to keep its offence rolling past a wild start in a 5-3 loss to Houston.

The series-finale loss drops the Blue Jays to nine games below .500 (39-48) and farther away from evening their win-loss record than they have been all season.

Starting pitcher Chris Bassitt said his approach is unwavering as the team embarks upon a nine-game road swing beginning Friday.

“Just win tomorrow,” he said. “That’s it. If you’re starting to think about all the other stuff, it does not help anything. Like there’s no benefit to thinking about it, so just win tomorrow, make it simple. Anything else I think is the wrong answer.”

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Toronto finishes the season with two wins in seven games against Houston (45-42) after losing two of three on the road in May and three of four now at home.

Bassitt, whose record dropped to 7-7 with the loss, was on the mound for the top half of a see-saw first inning in which the teams combined for six runs, eight hits and 10 baserunners.

After Houston loaded the bases with nobody out to start the game, catcher Yainer Diaz drove in a run on a groundout before designated hitter Jon Singleton’s two-run single handed the Astros an early 3-0 lead.

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“I thought I made a lot of really good pitches tonight and they just put better swings on them,” Bassitt said. “I mean I was throwing pitches literally in the other batter’s box and they were getting hits, so, I mean, (you) tip your hat a little bit on those.”

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The Blue Jays responded when second baseman Spencer Horwitz hit a two-run single with the bases loaded and catcher Alejandro Kirk followed with an RBI double to tie the game 3-3. But the Blue Jays failed to score another run in the game, and Mauricio Dubón’s two-out RBI single in the fifth was enough to give the Astros the win.

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The lefty Horwitz continued to be a bright spot for the Blue Jays, ending the game with three hits — all against southpaws.

“(He was) aggressive when he should’ve been with runners in scoring position and really, really battled against a really tough lefty in (Josh) Hader. … Pretty impressive at-bats from him today all around,” Jays manager John Schneider said.

Jeremy Peña provided insurance in the seventh when he greeted reliever Trevor Richards with a solo blast to left field. Genesis Cabrera and Chad Green also appeared out of the bullpen for the Jays.

Schneider called it a “hard-fought” series.

“(We were) right there today. Double plays didn’t help, hitting some balls at people didn’t help,” he said.

Bassitt struggled from the get-go, allowing five of the first six batters he faced to reach base. He needed 30 pitches to get out of the first inning and lasted five total, giving up four earned runs on eight hits and four walks while striking out three.

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Astros starter Framber Valdez faced similar traffic over his six innings of work, but he was able to induce three double plays to limit the damage. Valdez surrendered three earned runs, nine hits and two walks while striking out four.

Hader earned the save for Houston.

All-Star first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., extended his hit streak to 10 games with a leadoff single in the sixth inning as part of a 1-for-4 afternoon.

Toronto’s Leo Jimenez, 25, made his MLB debut, starting at shortstop. The team’s fifth-ranked prospect, per MLB.com, struck out in his first plate appearance and earned a walk in his second before he was replaced by a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.

Shortstop Bo Bichette was scratched an hour before the game with a right forearm contusion after being hit by a pitch on Wednesday.

The paid attendance for the matinee was 38,234 as the Blue Jays wrapped an eight-game homestand at 3-5.

Schneider said the team has been speaking for a few days about resetting for the upcoming road trip, which includes three games apiece in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona.

“You’ve got to pick yourself up and rest on the plane and get ready for another big series,” he said. “There’s no giving up, there’s no quitting. It was not an ideal homestand for sure, (but) nothing you can do about it now. You’ve got to look forward to tomorrow in Seattle and then keep going.”

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ON DECK — Kevin Gausman (6-7, 4.75 ERA) is expected to start in the opener of the three-game set against the Mariners.

Seattle will reply with Luis Castillo (6-9, 3.87).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2024.

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