Travis-ty for the Jays

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

Miguel Batista went to the well once too often.

With two out in the ninth and the tying run on second, Batista had tied up Tampa slugger Travis Lee with two high fastballs, in off the plate under his hands, that the first baseman couldn't lay off of.

With the fans on their feet and the Jays one strike from victory, Batista tried to make it 3-for-3 with another inside fastball under the fists.

This one, though tailed back slightly and, when Lee swung, he got enough wood on it to line it down the right-field line and out of the park for a stunning two-run homer.

The Jays, in shock, went down 1-2-3 in the ninth allowing Tampa to steal a 3-2 victory.

The major crime this day wasn't in the Jays managing just two hits against Seth McClung, or Batista's non-effectiveness, as it was that Jays starter Josh Towers didn't get the win that he richly deserved.

The Jays mantra for the final month is to "finish strong." And on that note, few have stepped it up as much as the once little respected Towers.

At this stage of the season, the wins and losses are all but meaningless. It's how the players perform under fire still counts.

To that end, Batista may or may not be back as the Jays closer in 2006, but you can take it to the bank that Towers will be part of the rotation. He has earned it.

Towers, 10-10, has made 27 starts this season and with his performance yesterday -- eight innings plus one batter, one earned run, five hits, no walks -- his innings pitched for the season is up to 172 2/3 while his ERA is under 4.00 at 3.91.

"To be able to say: 'Oh yeah, we knew this year was going to come,' I don't think anybody would go on-line and say that," pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said of the 28-year-old right-hander. "He just continues to gain steam and he just gets better and better almost every outing. It really has been a pleasure to watch."

The goals of a starter are pretty much the same on every team -- to keep your team in the game, give your side a chance to win, go deep into games and pile up as many innings as you can. Towers is doing that each and every time out as he has now made nine consecutive quality starts (six innings, three earned runs or less) and has 17 on the season.

Wins and losses are often out of a starter's control as witnessed yesterday, but it's one of the main measuring sticks that Towers uses.

"It's all about winning with me," Towers said of his goals and the team's. "I want to go out there and win. I realize I'm throwing the ball pretty well and I'm strong at the end of the year. But when the season's over and I sit on my couch I'll look back and if things finish out like they are, I'll feel pretty good about myself. But I can't sit and look at it now because the wins aren't getting done."

With at least five more starts to his season, Towers is well on pace to surpass the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his pro career. That's no cheap feat.

"(Pat) Hentgen used to tell me: 'You can't control wins and losses, you can control what you do'. That's why I think for a lot of veteran guys they understand how important it is to throw a lot of innings, to get 200-plus innings," Towers said. "Sure that's important for me, but beyond getting the 200 innings and the quality starts it's still about the wins.

"I guess I haven't learned my lesson yet, that I can't control it."


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