Offense sends Jays south in standings

SIDELIGHT

June 25, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

TORONTO -- The last-place Toronto Blue Jays.

L What a strange combination of words -- strange but accurate.

The Blue Jays rank last in the American League in runs scored.

Even more bizarre.

"I was shocked when I saw that we were last," said Blue Jays designated hitter Paul Molitor, who is not to blame.

Inconsistent performances by starters and relievers remain a problem for the Blue Jays, who after last night's 5-1 loss to the Orioles are 11 1/2 games out of first place, eight games under .500 and in the midst of a 1-9 slump.

The Blue Jays have gone 2-20 when they have scored fewer than four runs, an indication they need their offense to compensate for their shaky pitching staff. But more than just pitching can be blamed for their current six-game losing streak.

In fact, the biggest culprit has been the most feared lineup in baseball.

Toronto batted .169 in a three-game series against the pitching-poor Boston Red Sox and didn't even face Roger Clemens.

Boston's Nate Minchey, who had a 21.60 ERA in his first two starts, against the Orioles and the Cleveland Indians, defeated the Blue Jays, who recently also lost to Detroit's Greg Gohr and David Wells (who had an ERA above 10 after undergoing arm surgery).

First baseman John Olerud (.280, five home runs, 37 RBIs), hitting below .160 in his past 17 games, hasn't come close to matching his 1993 production level and neither has third baseman Ed Sprague (.242, six, 20).

Sprague, hitting below .150 with runners in scoring position and on a pace to drive in less than 50 runs, and Joe Carter had identical .211 June batting averages.

"Nothing is going right for us," veteran right-hander Dave Stewart said.

Nothing is the perfect word to describe what the bench has done for the Blue Jays.

Only Mike Huff (.313) has been productive. Huff's platoon mate in left field, rookie Shawn Green (.120) has been a disappointment thus far. He is one of five players on Cito Gaston's bench with a batting average under .200 into the weekend. The others: Domingo Cedeno (.184), Randy Knorr (.172), Rob Butler (.167), Darnell Coles (.149).

The top five hitters in the lineup -- Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, Carter and Olerud -- have combined to hit .307 and have 219 of the team's 323 RBIs.

The rest of the team is hitting .233 with only 104 RBIs, including 26 by since-demoted Carlos Delgado.

"I believe the reason teams are successful is when your supporting cast is better than the opposition's," hitting coach Larry Hisle said. "Every team has two or three top players, a certain number of stars. The key is how the supporting cast produces."

Even when the Blue Jays have gotten on base, they haven't been in a hurry to go anywhere. Toronto has 49 stolen bases in 70 games, putting the Jays on a pace to fall 57 short of last season's total.

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