When Bronson Arroyo last suffered a major league defeat:
a) his Boston Red Sox had not won a World Series title in 86 years.
b) the Blue Jays' home stadium still was known as the SkyDome.
c) the NHL lockout still was a month away.
Entering his start against the Blue Jays last night at the Rogers Centre, the Red Sox righty had won nine consecutive decisions -- the longest active winning streak in major league baseball.
Since being saddled with a loss against the Chicago White Sox back on Aug. 15, 2004, Arroyo had reeled off a 9-0 record and 3.48 ERA in 17 starts.
But the Blue Jays cared little about those impressive numbers. Nor did they give a rat's behind that Arroyo was named after movie tough guy Charles Bronson.
Their only focus was ending Arroyo's run and climbing to within half a game of defending champion Boston in the American League east.
Thanks in part to a two-run first inning, the Jays cruised to a 6-1 victory and served up the bitter taste of defeat to Arroyo for the first time in more than nine months.
"Listen, if I could put together (a winning streak) like that after every loss, I'd take it," Arroyo said.
"I thought I had good stuff. I didn't feel any rust at all. There were just a couple of mental errors that helped get us behind the eight ball."
Arroyo was back on the mound after serving a six-game suspension for plunking the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Chris Singleton during an April 24 brawlfest at Tropicana Field.
So how did he mark his return to action? By hitting the game's first hitter, Reed Johnson, of course.
A Kevin Millar error and a rare Jason Varitek passed ball put runners at second and third. Both would eventually score, giving the Jays a lead they would not relinquish.
Arroyo was touched up for five runs -- two earned -- in six innings. He hit two batters and also made a costly throwing error in the fifth that led to another pair of Toronto runs.
And with that, the swooning Sox (25-20) can feel the Jays (25-21) breathing on the back of their necks.
"We have to start considering these as must-win games," Sox centre fielder Johnny Damon said. "Teams really want to prove something against the defending champions."