There was only one good thing to say about the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday: At least they had the decency to lose quickly so that the 14,456 fans in attendance could go find something interesting to do.
Ben Zobrist's first inning home run turned out to be the only dent in another polished performance from Toronto starter Ricky Romero. But Toronto's steadily wilting offence couldn't find a way back, losing 2-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays.
While Toronto has engineered some exciting finishes this season, this one was a Sominex cocktail.
An accumulation of injuries, a month-long schedule of difficult opponents, and uneven individual performances is starting to raise the frustration level, and the numbers in the loss column.
"We had opportunities in this homestand and didn't get the pitch or the key hit, so we're in the situation we're in," said manager John Farrell.
Toronto has lost five of the last seven and continues to scuffle offensively.
James Shield handcuffed them on four hits, collecting his second consecutive complete game and he needed just 95 pitches to get the job done.
The only Blue Jays hitting with any kind of consistency are Yunel Escobar and Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion may be back for the series opener in Texas but Aaron Hill is now on the disabled list.
It means Farrell might as well be picking his lineup by drawing black and white balls out of a barrel each game.
Romero saw his record dip to 1-3 despite quality starts in four of five appearances. "We're in a bit of a funk but as a pitcher you can't control that," said Romero, looking at an offence that has scored just four runs in his past four starts.
Sunday, Bautista had his consecutive on-base streak stop at 11, then got picked off first base with one out in the ninth. He also struck out, while hitting himself with the foul tip. Thatąs when you know things are going bad.
"Our aggressiveness," said Farrell, "worked against us in a few at-bats and again, in the ninth, when Jose got picked off. We're pressing trying to get something going. (The pickoff) was just trying to do a bit too much on the base paths.
"I want the guys to trust their abilities as they get deep in the count."
First pitch aggressiveness is OK, providing you get a pitch in the middle of the plate you can square up. At some point we have to trust our abilities and if it's not what you're looking for first pitch then you're going to get a pitch later in that at-bat.
"We've got a few guys not trusting their abilities and letting the game come to them. We've had some games where we've made quick outs and not forced pitchers into long innings." Sunday it was over in two hours and five minutes. The beer taps had barely been turned on when Zobrist followed Johnny Damon's one-out single in the first inning by crushing an 0-2 pitch.
"It was supposed to be up and in," said Romero. "It was actually supposed to be for a ball and I missed the location. It's frustrating ... losing ball games we're in."
STEPPING IN DOGGIE-DO There looked like there might be life in the carcass when Bautista walked to start the ninth. But with one out he was picked off. So, what was he thinking? Even if he steals second, it's not like he's the tying run, right?
"It was a bit of everything," Bautista explained.
"We had a tough time hitting (Shields) and I was trying to get a good lead in case there was a ground ball, trying to break up the double play." Just as Bautista took a step into his secondary lead "he made his move. He's got a good move, my coach told me about it. It's totally my fault."
It was the second major base-running gaffe in a week by a Blue Jay after J.P. Arencibia ran them out of an inning against the Yankees.
"This had nothing to do with being aggressive. I wasn't going to steal," said Bautista. "I was trying just to extend my lead ... I was caught off guard. It was just a really bad moment."
ALL FOULED UP Bautista tied Tony Fernandez when he reached base for the 11th consecutive time with a first-inning walk. But he fell one short of Lyle Overbay's club record when he lined out to third in the fourth.
The Jays best chance to score came in the sixth when Patterson led off with a double but Shields - after a steady diet of curve balls - fooled Bautista with a 3-2 change-up.
"I thought it was a curve," said Bautista, who questioned umpire Mike Everitt on the strike-three call. "I know I swung. I couldn't hold up. I tipped it with the bat and then it hit my arm. (The umpire) said (catcher Kelly Shoppach) caught it, and it didn't matter if it hit me after I tipped it."
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
Patterson double snapped an 0-for-17 streak and Toronto's offence isnąt that horrid statistically.
They came into Sunday's games ranked seventh in the AL with a .250 average and 89 runs. The problem is too little of it comes from players not named Bautista or Escobar. The two have accounted for 30 of those runs. Other than Bautista, the only other player with more than two homers is Arencibia.
Meantime, the Jays face a difficult road trip to Texas, New York and Tampa.
"It's not going to be easy," said Romero, "but we can't tuck our tails between our legs. We have to go out there and show these guys we can play."