John Schneider says reeling Blue Jays ‘have to improve’

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Their latest loss prompted Toronto Blue Jays players to call a postgame meeting in response to 2-9 coach John Schneider described as being “punched right in the face.”

“We have to improve,” Schneider said after Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. “When it comes to us as staff, expectations are placed in front of you. There is an urgency to be had in meeting those expectations. Wins and losses out the window, heaven for the last 10 days’ It has been great, and I think the urgency in which those expectations are trying to be met is not there.”

“Yes, it’s about me and the players…Ultimately about me.” Schneider added. “When the players recognize that, and when the players bring attention to it, that will carry a lot more weight than any of the staff trying to get angry or face it.”

Zach Eflin became the major league’s third seven-game winner in victory over struggling Alek Manoah as the Rays took three of the Blue Jays’ four.

Eflin (7-1) allowed one run and six hits in seven innings as the major league-leading Rays (37-15) stole seven bases for the second time this season and improved to 24-5 home. He joined teammate Shane McClanahan (8-0) and Minnesota’s Joe Ryan (7-1) as the big league’s winningest pitchers.

“Execution of an elite pitch,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “To get them to swing early in the count and not drive the ball, it speaks to Zach’s stuff.”

Manoah (1-5), a winner of 16 games last year, extended his winless streak to nine starts after allowing five runs, three hits and five walks in three innings with six strikeouts. He threw just 44 of 87 pitches for strikes and his ERA went from 5.15 to 5.53, which ranks him 68th out of 72 qualified pitchers this season (his 2.24 ERA last season was the fourth lowest).

The Rays stole five bases while he was on the mound.

“We know we’re better than what we’re playing right now,” Manoah said. “We just have to stick together, and we just have to keep fighting.”

Toronto (26-25) is 8-15 in May. The Blue Jays are 6-15 in division play after going 43-33 last year. They trail the Rays by 10½ and the teams don’t meet for six games in the final 10 days of the season.

“We’re all grown men here,” Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman said. “It’s up to us. It’s us who are on the pitch. Our coaches can’t hold our hand. We have to go and we have to find ways to win games.

“We have to communicate with each other, help each other try to improve because we are a team. We want to win, and if we want to win a division or play the playoffs, it’s up to us to find ways to get us back on track. It’s up to us.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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