August doldrums continue to plague Toronto

Lineup struggles with runners in scoring position, leaves nine on base

August doldrums continue to plague Toronto

SEATTLE -- The Blue Jays are reeling once again and needless to say they'll have to turn things around quickly if they hope to remain in the mix for a spot in the postseason.

Toronto arrived in Seattle on the heels of an emotional series victory over Detroit. The plan was to see how the club stacked up against one of its main rivals for the second Wild Card spot and the early returns aren't positive.

The Blue Jays were swept out of Seattle as the offense continued to struggle and a strong start by R.A. Dickey was wasted in a 2-0 loss to the Mariners on Wednesday night at Safeco Field.

"They shut down our offense, stone cold," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, whose team was outscored 19-4 in the series. "We scored a few last night but it was pretty much a mismatch. They get to the 'pen, and there's no letup down there either."

Gibbons understandably has sounded like a broken record recently as he continues to answer questions about an offense that has gone missing in action. The rotation has been relatively consistent for most of the season but the same can't be said about the club's offense.

Toronto notoriously relies on the home run for most of its runs. When the ball leaves the park, the Blue Jays do well. When it doesn't, they don't. Prior to Aug. 1, Toronto homered 18 times in 14 games after the All-Star break and had an 11-3 record.

The Blue Jays have gone 3-9 in the ensuing 12 games and have five home runs over that span. Toronto has been held to three runs or fewer in all but three of those games and has been outscored by an astounding 60-30 mark during that same stretch.

Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Chris Young were the ones responsible for holding the Blue Jays in check through the first two games of the series and it was Hisashi Iwakuma's turn in the finale. Iwakuma pitched his way out of several jams throughout the course of the night and didn't allow a run over his 6 2/3 innings.

"It was a big series," Iwakuma said through an interpreter. "Winning two of the first three was big and I needed to finish up the series strong. I was very excited from the beginning and I'm very happy with the win."

Toronto went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base Wednesday night. The best opportunities came in the fourth and seventh innings when the Blue Jays put two runners on base but both times they came away empty-handed. In the fourth, it was Munenori Kawasaki striking out with runners on second and third. In the seventh, it was Jose Reyes who went down swinging with runners on first and second.

The loss meant the Blue Jays dropped to three games back of the second Wild Card. Seattle entered this series tied with Toronto in the standings but now finds itself tied with Detroit for the second Wild Card. The Blue Jays can ill afford to lose much more ground in that race, especially because they trail the Orioles by 7 1/2 games for first place in the AL East.

"That's the key to this game, that's the key to baseball," Gibbons said when asked about the club's recent woes cashing in runners. "Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't."

Dickey certainly wasn't the one to blame for Wednesday's loss. He allowed two runs in the first inning on a home run by Kendrys Morales, but was able to keep Seattle off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game. It wasn't always pretty, but Dickey managed to get himself out of several difficult situations and gave Toronto a chance to win.

The veteran knuckleballer was charged with the two runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out two over six innings. It marked the 12th consecutive start that Dickey pitched at least six innings and his second consecutive quality start.

"We faced some really good pitching the last seven days," Dickey said. "We knew as a staff that it was going to be tough. That we were going to have to keep the opponent to minimum damage.

"Morales' home run, I thought was a good knuckleball. I tried to elevate one to get him to swing through it and he tomahawked it out. I have to tip my hat. But outside of that I felt like I battled pretty good tonight."

Toronto will take a much-needed off-day Thursday before opening a three-game series on the road vs. the White Sox on Friday night. The Blue Jays will then have two games in Milwaukee before turning home for a lengthy homestand.

"We need to take the day off, take a deep breath and go hard the next five games," Dickey said. "If we can have a good rest of the road trip we can still salvage it."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.