Jays get burned by Johnson

, Last Updated: 4:42 PM ET

TORONTO — Shaky defence, poor hitting and an old fan favourite combined to make it a miserable afternoon for Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays.

A three-run home run by ex-Jay Reed Johnson, on the heels of a costly error by shortstop David Eckstein in the second inning, propelled the major league-leading Chicago Cubs to a 6-2 win over Toronto before a crowd of 34,048 at the Rogers Centre on Saturday.

With Halladay’s first loss since May 9 in his shortest start of the year (five innings), Toronto (35-35) fell to .500 for the 13th time this season. It was the Jays’ ninth loss in their past 13 games.

Meanwhile, the wobbly Jays offence managed just four hits in seven-plus innings against Cubs starter Jason Marquis (5-3), who was 0-3 with a 13.20 ERA in his previous three starts at American League parks. The Cubs improved to 44-25.

With Halladay (8-6) on the mound, the Jays would have had a much better chance to win if Eckstein hadn’t bobbled a hard grounder from Ronny Cedeno that cashed in the game’s first run with two out in the second.

The next batter, Johnson, slugged a fastball over the wall in left for a three-run shot to make it 4-0.

Released by the Jays prior to the season after Toronto decided to keep left-fielder Shannon Stewart in a bid to add more offence, Johnson had to enjoy doing some damage to his old team with his bat.

All the runs in the second were unearned after Eckstein’s team-leading eighth error of the season.

Originally ruled a hit, the Eckstein miscue was deemed an error after replays showed he took a couple of steps to his left and couldn’t haul in a challenging, but playable, bouncer from his knees. With runners on first and third, all Eckstein had to do was and flip it to second to end the inning.

After an RBI single by Mark DeRosa in the third, Halladay was victimized by more shoddy fielding in the fifth. Derrek Lee led off the inning with a triple that bounced past sliding centre-fielder Vernon Wells, who could have limited the damage by playing it safely, and rolled to the wall.

Lee made it 6-0 on a fielder’s choice after first baseman Lyle Overbay fielded a grounder but bounced a bad throw to catcher Rod Barajas in a failed attempt to cut off the run.

Halladay was relieved by Brian Tallet in the sixth after throwing 95 pitches and giving up seven hits and two earned runs.

Meanwhile, Marquis had little trouble against the Jays’ light-hitting offence, allowing just one hit through seventh innings.

He finally got in a jam in the eighth when the Jays loaded the bases by opening the inning with three consecutive singles, prompting Cubs manager Lou Piniella to replace Marquis with Carlos Marmol. The right-hander did a nice job by holding the Jays to one run as he walked Matt Stairs after striking out Joe Inglett and Alex Rios. Marmol ended the threat by inducing a weak Scott Rolen fly-out to second.

The Jays cut the deficit to 6-2 in the ninth on a sacrifice fly from Overbay off Bob Howry after a leadoff triple by Kevin Mench.

Notes: The Eckstein error wasn’t the only scoring change made after replays. In the same inning, Barajas’s deep fly to centre was changed to an error from a hit after replays showed that Jim Edmonds had the ball go off his glove. ... The Cubs are the only team in baseball not to have lost more than two games in a row at any point this season. ... Buffalo Bills star wide receiver Lee Evans, whose team will play an exhibition and regular season game at the Rogers Centre this season, had a front-row seat for Saturday’s game. ... Left-hander Ted Lilly (6-5, 5.13 ERA), who signed with the Cubs last season after three years in Toronto, makes his first appearance at the Rogers Centre with his new team Sunday when he starts against Jesse Litsch (7-2, 3.42) in the series finale.


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