BOSTON -- There is a reality to life for the Blue Jays that no verdict can be rendered on their progress until they step up to the plate against the muscle of the American League East.
In 2010, that means the Rays, the Yankees and the Red Sox and, so far, the evidence isn’t going to sway any jury in their favour. After last night’s ugly 7-6 loss here in their first game of their first visit to Fenway Park this season they find themselves wanting.
In late April, they were swept by Boston in a three-game set in Toronto. They also lost two of three in Tampa. So, despite their 19-15 overall record, they have started this season with one win in seven games against the teams they have to beat.
“These are the teams we have to measure ourselves against,” Vernon Wells said Monday before the game. Last night, after a horrible start to the game in which Brandon Morrow made the shortest outing the season by a Jays starter, Toronto rallied to get close but couldn’t finish the deal.
Morrow imploded, issuing a team record five walks in the four-run Boston second inning. He wasn’t helped much by a couple of key errors by middle infielders Alex Gonzalez and Aaron Hill.
“We’re still working on some stuff and we tried to progress in the bullpen session this week. I just didn’t translate it well tonight,” said Morrow. “Because I was so good out of the stretch in Cleveland, we were trying to get that same feeling out of the windup. It was really bad.
“That’s an embarrassing start to go out there and walk six in not even two innings. I was just a mess, really. We’re going to erase this whole week, pretty much and go back to what I was doing the last four.”
On the plus side, Toronto got to Boston ace John Lackey for six runs on eight hits but could not crack the Sox bullpen in the late innings. Hideki Okajima, Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Papelbon did not allow a hit in the final three innings
“That wasn’t real pretty,” said manager Cito Gaston. “We hung in and lost by a run but a loss is a loss. Lot of ‘ifs’ in that ballgame.”
With a young pitching staff, this is the kind of game that the Jays’ brass said they would tolerate this year because it is a transition season. But it’s one thing to talk generally in February and quite another to try to bear with it in May.
“Yeah, I’m concerned,” said Gaston, “but it is a growing year for (Morrow). Hopefully next time out he’ll have better control, because he certainly has good stuff. But I hate walks.”
The Red Sox got two runs off Morrow in the first inning but in the top of the second, the Blue Jays batted around and scored four times. Lyle Overbay walked and then Alex Gonzalez came within centimetres of his 12th home run when his long fly ball hit the top of the Green Monster. After a video review, the umpiring crew determined it was a ground rule double, putting runners at second and third. After a walk to Jose Bautista loaded the bases, John Buck’s ground rule double tied the score. Travis Snider and Fred Lewis each knocked RBI singles into right field before Boston starter John Lackey rallied .
When the carnage in the bottom of the second was over, Boston had scored four runs on six walks (one issued by reliever Josh Roenicke), one solitary single and an error to Aaron Hill on a double-play ball that would have gotten Morrow out of the frame with only one run.
Jose Bautista’s seventh homer, a two-run shot in the fifth, got the Jays to within one run but this game got away in that fateful second.