Deep in the heart of Texas and the Blue Jays’ bats were in a deep sleep.
So much for Toronto’s vaunted offence as its slumbering attack emerged as the primary culprit on an afternoon when the host Rangers defeated the Jays 2-1 in the series rubber match.
Hyun Jin Ryu was quite good in his second start of the season and deserved a better fate had the Jays’ offence not waited so late to finally awaken.
Even then, it was too little.
Both teams would go deep, but the difference was a bloop hit that ultimately led to the game’s winning run.
When Toronto loaded the bases, a rather routine double play ended the inning.
The loss dropped the Jays’ record to 3-3 as the team now gets set to open a homestand in Dunedin, Fla.
Marcus Semien led off the eighth with a homer, a 400-plus foot upper-deck job to left off reliever Matt Bush, to finally get Toronto on the board, his third deep ball as a Blue Jay.
Ian Kennedy earned the save for the Rangers, ending the game when he struck out pinch hitter Rowdy Tellez, who is now 0-16 to start the season.
It was the Jays’ 12th strikeout of the day.
For Ryu, lack of run production has been the one constant to his two starts.
“He’s impressive,’’ said manager Charlie Montoyo of Ryu, who has received three total runs of support in his two starts. “He doesn’t panic. He’s our ace and he gave us a chance.”
Montoyo knows his hitters will come to life.
“I believe we’re going to get hot,’’ he said. “And that’s going to be contagious.”
Clearly, the Jays aren’t swinging the bats well when many thought they would.
George Springer figures to provide a jolt, but his debut remains in doubt following a second setback.
A bomb to the second deck in left field, a broken-bat bloop and the Rangers would take a 2-0 lead after two innings.
Ryu began the afternoon with a dominant first, but then came an awkward second when Nick Solak led off the inning with a no-doubter to open the scoring when he turned on a fast ball.
Semien prevented additional damage by recording the final out on a diving catch to his right.
Semien started at shortstop on a day when Bo Bichette was DHing, a move that allowed Joe Panik to start at second.
Semien made a nice play deep in the hole.
On Semien’s throw to first, Vlad Guerrero Jr., who is learning on the fly, failed to pick it.
He made amends in the third on a poor throw by Semien, forcing Vlad Jr. to come off the bag and apply an inning-ending tag.
Rangers starting right-hander Kyle Gibson recorded seven strikeouts after four innings.
The Jays got to Gibson in the fifth when they loaded the bases.
One hop up the middle on the first pitch Cavan Biggio would see with one out and Gibson escaped unscathed when his defence turned a double play.
Gibson would last six innings, striking out eight and allowed one walk and six hits.
Ryu, meanwhile, threw 72 pitches through six innings.
Texas began the seventh on a hit to centre when Semien had the ball go off his glove.
With runners on first and second, Vlad Jr. made an aggressive play on a bunt he barehanded and threw to third.
The runner was ruled safe as the bases would get loaded, but a video review overturned the play at third, leaving runners at first and second with one out.
Ryu then struck out Charlie Culberson to record the second out before coaxing a ground out to end the inning.
Ryu gave up zero walks and struck out seven in seven strong innings.
HIGH FIVE FOR GM ATKINS
The Jays confirmed one of baseball’s worst-kept secrets by announcing a five-year extension for executive VP of baseball operations and GM Ross Atkins, a move that’s been speculated for weeks.
He joined the Blue Jays prior to the 2016 season after spending 15 years with the Cleveland organization.
In January, club president and CEO Mark Shapiro signed a five-year extension.
Last month, Montoyo had his option for next season picked up by the club.
There’s a clear alignment and a clear mandate as the Shapiro-Atkins duo attempts to transition the Jays from good to great.
SPRINGER SPRINGS A LEAK
Springer is dealing with tightness in his right quad.
Springer was eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Thursday from his oblique setback, the same day the Blue Jays open an homestand in Dunedin.
On Tuesday, he was featured on a Zoom call, the same day Springer took part in live BP at Globe Life Field.
He then ran the bases before Springer decided to stop.
An MRI would be performed on Springer.
“Everybody’s concerned because with those injuries you just never know where they are,” Montoyo said.
“It’s tough because you’ve got to be careful just like with the oblique because if you pull it worse you’re really out for a long time … You know how badly he wants to play.”
EXTRA BASE HITS
Montoyo said left-handed starter Robbie Ray (elbow) threw a live batting practice on Wednesday, but could not provide an update. Ross Stripling will be on the hump Thursday… Randal Grichuk went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts as his career-high 12-game hit streak came to an end.