TORONTO — Kevin Pillar didn’t mince words when talking about his team’s sudden inability to drive in runs.
“Well it would help if (the bottom of the order) got on base,” the Blue Jays centre-fielder said.
Toronto went into Monday’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians having scored just one run over their previous two games in Cleveland to go down 0-2 in the best-of-seven set.
The Blue Jays’ seven-, eight- and nine-hitters contributed a combined two hits and a walk in Game 1 Friday night and just one hit on Saturday.
“I haven’t done a very good job,” said Pillar, who’s batted eighth both nights. “I would say I’m one of the rare guys where I felt like I’ve gotten good pitches to hit. It’s unfortunate that it’s come at this time of the year and that I haven’t been able to capitalize on some of their mistakes.
“I feel like I just haven’t been pulling my weight and that’s something I need to do a better job of.”
Pillar isn’t the only one struggling, though.
Russell Martin is 1 for 7 with four strikeouts over the first two games of the ALCS. Edwin Encarnacion has one hit — a double — in seven at-bats. And Jose Bautista, who’s walked twice and struck out five times through the first two ALCS games, hasn’t recorded a hit since Game 1 of the ALDS against Texas.
“That’s the way it goes sometimes, you go through periods where it seems like they never make mistakes and when they do you’re missing them,” Bautista said. “For me it’s coming at the wrong time but I’m not getting pessimistic. I’m going to continue to try and have good at-bats.
“I feel good about the way that I’ve gone up to the plate and try to execute my game plan and adjust it to what they’re trying to do, I just haven’t gotten the results that I want.”
Part of the reason for Toronto’s lack of offence has been Andrew Miller, Cleveland’s dominant reliever who’s been virtually unhittable.
Miller went 10-1 with a minuscule 1.45 earned-run average between the Yankees and Indians this year and has continued that dominance into the post-season, allowing three hits and zero runs while striking out 17 batters over 7 2/3 innings over two ALDS games against Boston and two ALCS games against Toronto.
Bautista thought he saw two different types of sliders from Miller during his post-season at-bats against him, something new from last season.
“Maybe it’s in a different category because he’s so tall and he’s a side-armer and he’s got a funky delivery and he’s deceptive and all those things combined with a great plus-pitch,” Bautista said. “It’s at the top of the league. I wouldn’t compare it to anybody else because he’s so different.”
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons didn’t have an answer for how his team could adjust to Miller.
“He’s on, and he’s one of the dominating forces. You’ve got to keep battling, really,” Gibbons said. “Maybe he’ll leave a pitch up, maybe you’ll find a hole, you’ll squib one off the end of the bat.
“Maybe you’ll catch one just right, hit it a long way. But he’s pretty good.”
Pillar and Bautista both insisted that the two ALCS losses felt different than most.
Cleveland scored just two runs in each of its wins, a testament to the Blue Jays’ solid pitching staff, and had just 13 hits over that span.
“Maybe if we got beat 8-1 or 7-2, you have to be real with yourself and say ‘they were better than us,’ or ‘they’re hot, they’re playing well.’ But we feel like we’ve been in every ball game. It could very easily be the other way,” Pillar said.
“It’s been a pretty good set of two games,” Bautista added. “They’ve just come out on top.”
The Blue Jays put themselves in 0-2 situations twice during last year’s post-season.
In one instance — the ALDS against the Rangers — it worked out for them. The second time though, in the ALCS against Kansas City, it didn’t. Toronto won Game 3 of that series but eventually lost in six games.
“It’s obviously a lot tougher when you lose a couple games, you think about how you could have made a difference if you just found a way to get on base.” Pillar said “Everything we want is still in front of us. We’ve been here before. This is a team that has played well with its back against the wall.
“It’s not ideal, it’s not a situation we intentionally wanted to be in, but we’re back home. You still have to win four games in a series. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”