Jays pitcher, strike zone have ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences

SundayXtra - - SPORTS BASEBALL - By Neil David­son

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays dug them­selves a mas­sive hole, then al­most man­aged to climb out Satur­day against the Bos­ton Red Sox.

But when it was all over they had wasted an­other lead, seen an­other pitcher flame out on the mound and lost their fourth straight at home.

Af­ter rough­ing up Clay Buch­holz for three runs in the first in­ning, Toronto (11-13) found it­self be­hind 6-3 af­ter three in­nings as starter Bran­don Mor­row lit­er­ally lost con­trol. A late come­back by the Jays fell short as Bos­ton (12-13) hung on for a 7- 6 win.

Mor­row (1-2) walked a ca­reer-high eight of the 14 bat­ters he faced be­fore be­ing pulled af­ter 2 2/3 shock­ing in­nings be­fore an an­nounced crowd of 40,322 un­der the roof at the Rogers Cen­tre.

“It’s not a good feel­ing when you can take the blame for the game and put it squarely on your shoul­ders,” said Mor­row, who made no ex­cuses as he threw him­self on his sword. “I came in with one goal and that was to pitch late in the game and keep us in it. I let down the team in a big way to­day.”

Twice he was res­cued by dou­ble plays be­fore the bot­tom fell out in a six-run Bos­ton third that saw Toronto pitch­ing coach Pete Walker ejected for back-chat to home­plate um­pire Jeff Kel­logg.

“It’s em­bar­rass­ing to not be able to com­mand your fast­ball,” said Mor­row, who said phys­i­cally he was fine. “I had de­cent com­mand of the other stuff.”

The first walk of the af­ter­noon, to Red Sox lead­off bat­ter Dustin Pe­droia, was the 100th Jays’ free pass this sea­son. Toronto pitch­ers is­sued nine walks on the day, with David Or­tiz the re­cip­i­ent of three.

“We’ve been walk­ing way too many guys all year,” said man­ager John Gib­bons. “That’s un­like us. We’ve got some strike-throw­ers.”

A. J. Pierzyn­ski hit his eighth ca­reer grand slam to power the Red Sox of­fence be­fore Toronto staged a nail-bit­ing late come­back. The Jays sent eight men to the plate and scored twice in the eighth be­fore leav­ing the bases loaded. Jose Bautista, fac­ing closer Koji Ue­hara, then opened the ninth with his sev­enth homer of the year — and 175th as a Jay — to cut the lead to 7- 6.

Dioner Navarro and Brett Lawrie sin­gled, around a Colby Ras­mus strike­out, to keep the drive alive. But Ed­win En­car­na­cion flied out to end the rally and give Ue­hara his fifth save.

“All year long those guys have been bat­tling,” said Gib­bons. “That’s all you can ask for as a man­ager, that they don’t pack it in.”

Over the last four losses, Toronto has given up 36 runs on 47 hits and 22 walks. The Jays al­lowed their op­po­nents off the hook in three of those games, with the Orioles stag­ing come­backs Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day.

Buch­holz (1-2) sur­vived a three­run first to help Bos­ton to its sev­enth win in 11 games. He gave up three runs in seven in­nings on six hits, three strike­outs and two walks. Buch­holz threw 105 pitches, 67 for strikes.

Juan Fran­cisco home­red for Toronto, his sec­ond blast in as many days, to greet Bos­ton re­liever Ju­nichi Tazawa in the eighth. Pinch-hit­ter En­car­na­cion then sin­gled home Navarro to make it 7-5 as Tazawa gave up his first runs of the sea­son.

Chris Ca­puano came on with men on first and third and one out. He struck out Jonathan Diaz but walked Jose Reyes af­ter a 10-pitch show­down to load the bases.

Ue­hara then in­duced Cabr­era to pop up to shal­low left field.

On a strange day Toronto out­hit Bos­ton 13-5, left 11 men on base to the Red Sox’s four, and lost.

“We’ve been strug­gling in cer­tain ar­eas, it’s no se­cret,” said Gib­bons, re­fus­ing to point the fin­ger at one el­e­ment of his team. “But we’re go­ing to get bet­ter.”

Mor­row has failed to last six in­nings in four of his five starts this sea­son, as well as nine of his last 14 dat­ing back to last sea­son. His de­scent into the pitch­ing mire was swift Satur­day.

Only five of Mor­row’s 14 pitches in the first were strikes. He was 11-for31 af­ter two in­nings and 25-for- 66 when he was re­moved in favour of Chad Jenk­ins in the third.

— The Cana­dian Press

FRANK GUNN / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzyn­ski and closer Koji Ue­hara cel­e­brate af­ter de­feat­ing Toronto on Satur­day af­ter­noon. Blue Jays starter Bran­don Mor­row (at left) walked eight bat­ters in his short ten­ure.

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