SEATTLE -- The Blue Jays are still very much in the mix for a spot in the postseason but they haven't exactly done themselves any favors over the past two weeks.
Toronto started August in prime position to take a stranglehold over the second American League Wild Card. Instead of moving away from the pack, though, the Blue Jays have started to fall behind and a lack of offense is the main reason.
The problems continued Tuesday night as the lineup once again struggled while J.A. Happ surrendered five runs over six innings in a 6-3 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field.
"You have to slug in this business," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "In the American League, that's what you do and we're not doing that. If everything's not perfect on the pitching staff, you're not throwing those games when you're not shutting them down, it makes it tough."
This is the first time in more than two decades the Blue Jays are playing meaningful games in August but the team's response so far has not been positive. Toronto is 3-8 this month and has been outscored 58-30 over that same span.
The Blue Jays can only hope that a return to health will lead to an increase in runs. The first step happened Tuesday night when Adam Lind was activated off the disabled list and Edwin Encarnacion is expected to follow suit later this week.
The one consolation from the recent struggles is that the Blue Jays still find themselves within striking distance of the second Wild Card spot. With Tuesday's loss, Toronto is two games back while Seattle moved into a tie with the Tigers. That's an attainable deficit but this is also a team that has been very inconsistent all season and it can't allow the current dry spell to last much longer.
"People say that's just baseball," Happ said of the ups and downs. "I know you guys don't want to hear it, and I don't want to say it, but it does seem to be the way it goes sometimes. We have to get back up and try to salvage this thing. Try to get this one tomorrow and try to start this thing going up."
Happ entered the game riding one of the best streaks of his career. He had a 1.71 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break and continued to exceed expectations by solidifying the back end of Toronto's rotation. There was a strong chance for an eventual regression to the mean and that happened vs. the Mariners.
The 31-year-old retired the first seven batters but his defense let him down in the third. With two outs, Colby Rasmus had a single to center field bounce away from him. Logan Morrison scored all the way from first base as Seattle evened the score at one.
Seattled added another run in the fourth on a solo homer by Kyle Seager and the outing got away from him in the fifth. Two of the first three batters reached base and Dustin Ackley later delivered the big blow with a two-run single that came with two outs.
Happ was charged with four of the five runs on seven hits and one walk over six innings. It was the most runs Happ surrendered in a start since he took the loss in a game vs the Angels on July 7.
"This is probably going to sound weird, but I'll take my chances with the way I threw the ball tonight, any day of the week," Happ said. "The results weren't there, so that's obviously frustrating, every game is big, but you can't get too down on this. I felt good, I felt like I was making pitches."
The lone run Toronto managed to score off right-handed starter Chris Young came in the first inning when No. 2 hitter Melky Cabrera hit an RBI double to right-center field.
Young recovered from the early mistake by facing two batters over the minimum for the rest of his outing. He allowed two hits and two walks with three strikeouts over six innings. Toronto did manage to put together a rally in the eighth but the damage had already been done.
"You never want to start the game off by walking the leadoff batter," Young said. "It's a tough lineup. Those guys can swing it. They've got some of the best hitters in the game. I dug us a little hole early, but had complete confidence the guys would pick me up. I just tried to limit the damage, get back in the dugout and the guys took over from there."