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Blue Jays bats nowhere in loss to Mariners

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SEATTLE — The bigger the game, the higher the stakes, the more attention, the more the game seems made for Alek Manoah.

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And the way the pitching staff is going these days, the Blue Jays need their ace even more.

In those situations, it’s as if the intimidating right-hander starts up all 6-foot-6, 285 pounds of himself in hopes of carrying his team along.

But even though Manoah was in a thrilling pitching duel Saturday night at T-Mobile Park, the big man can’t do it all by himself.

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Shockingly, the Jays haven’t been able to support any of their starters much over the past week. And facing an all-too-familiar elite arm in ex-Jay Robbie Ray, their latest attempt to overcome the cold snap was always going to be an uphill battle.

So when Manoah’s mostly flawless pitching was derailed by a one-out hit by the Mariners’ Carlos Santana in the seventh inning, it felt like the night was over for a Jays offense that just can’t score.

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Santana’s two-run homer was the difference maker as the Mariners cruised to a 2-1 victory in front of a heavily loaded Western Canada Jays crowd of 41,210.

The loss boosted the Jays’ free fall to eight losses in their last nine games and three straight defeats here in the Pacific Northwest.

Meanwhile, the Mariners have won seven in a row to move just one game behind the Jays for the third wild card spot in the American League.

A loss tomorrow at the hands of a Toronto team that is out of starting pitchers and will be rotating through the day’s bullpen would erase what’s left of that margin.

Manoah’s brilliance — he allowed three hits and just those two runs while striking out seven in 7.1 innings — was essentially wasted when the bats couldn’t support him.

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As tough as it has been against Ray — who is back in the Cy Young form he showed last season (0.80 ERA over his previous five), the gentle approach is killing them.

The fifth inning epitomized much of what has gone wrong with the Jays offense of late. They loaded the bases when Ray issued back-to-back walks to Alejandro Kirk and Teroscar Hernandez before allowing a single to Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

A situation that insisted on getting at least one ended in failure as Matt Chapman struck out, Santiago Espinal meekly popped up to second and Raimel Tapia hit a ground ball into a force out.

The Jays tried to mount a rally in the ninth inning when Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Kirk provided a one-out single. But after Teoscar Hernandez struck out to first and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was intentionally walked, Chapman hit a ground ball to the out to end the inning.

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It’s been a frustrating run for the Jays that keeps spiraling downward.

“I’m not making excuses for my team, but it’s a blowout,” manager Charlie Montoyo said before the game. “Guys can feel. They are human beings.

“I don’t feel the frustration… Nobody’s happy that we’re on a losing streak.

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The worst part is that no one can see when it might end either. The offense, built as a powerhouse, has given up just six in three games here and 12 in its last five games.

The lone run came in the sixth inning on a solo homer off the bat of George Springer, who plated a Ray offering over thee in right field.

The team tries anything to get out of it, including the only player meeting that happened earlier in this road trip. The offense can’t go unnoticed, striking out 10 times Saturday, including six off right-hander Ray, who went six innings and allowed just three hits.

Manoah was even better and acting the best he could until Santana touched him for that deadly blast.

Normally two runs allowed would be something this Jays team would shrug off, but not the way things have been lately.

With 15 hours to go before they play again, they will need to rally to avoid a sweep, with uncertainty on the mound.

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