OAKLAND - Francisco Cordero might have 329 career saves, but he has no illusions about the precarious spot heís in.
ďIíve got to pitch better or Iím going to find myself out of (the closer) situation, or worse, maybe out of the team,Ē he said Tuesday night after blowing his third consecutive save opportunity in a 7-3 Oakland Athletics walk-off win over the Blue Jays.
ďIíve got to do my job. Iíve got to do it or Iím not going to have a job at all. Youíve got a team that battles and battles and gives me a lead in the ninth inning and I just blew it again. Itís my third blown save in a row.
ďI didnít make any good pitches tonight. Itís hard for me to explain but Iíve got to start getting people out or I wonít have any job at all.Ē
The Blue Jays had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning when Kelly Johnson singled home pinch-runner Rajai Davis from third base with two outs but Cordero put himself behind the 8-ball right off the bat.
Rightfielder Michael Taylor, who had struck out three times against Toronto starter Ricky Romero, touched Cordero for a leadoff double to right field. He later scored on a Cliff Pennington single to tie the game. Two intentional walks later, Brandon Inge, who was hitting .128 at the time, belted a grandslam home run to end the game.
ďThe three outs in the ninth are pretty tough for us right now,Ē was all manager John Farrell would say about his closerís situation after the game.
Farrell may have some fence-mending to do with his young catcher, J.P. Arencibia, who was lifted for 45-year-old pinch-hitter Omar Vizquel in the top of the ninth with the go-ahead run at third base,in the person of pinch-runner Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus at first and one out.
ďRight there, we were looking for a safety squeeze,Ē said Farrell. ďAs good a bat-handler as Omar is, I felt we could execute that play and I wanted to stay away from the double play.Ē
Unfortunately, Vizquel popped up his bunt attempt for the second out before Johnson delivered a line single into right field to give Toronto the lead.
Afterward, Arencibia sat stone-faced in front of his locker and would not discuss the circumstances of his coming out of the game. Arencibia has been hitting at a .356 clip over his last 13 games.
Romero has turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the American League so when he dials up an absolute clunker like he did Tuesday, it comes as a bit of a shock.
In his most recent start against the Texas Rangers, Romero hit a rough patch in one inning. In this one, he struggled the whole night through.
ďIím disappointe in myself,Ē said Romero, his voice barely above a whisper. ďFive walks is really uncharacteristic of me. Itís just one of those things where youíve got to battle. I feel like Iím cutting myself short.
ďFive walks, thatís 20 pitches. Thatís 20 pitches that could get me deeper into the seventh and eighth innings. Iím just hurting myself.Ē
After Oakland starter Jarrod Parker turned the Jays away in the first two innings, they struck for a pair in the third. With one out, Arencibia looped a double down the right field line and then Johnson followed with an opposite field home run, his seventh of the season.
Meanwhile, there was nothing very tidy about Romeroís work. He allowed at least one baserunner every inning and just didnít seem comfortable on the mound, walking a season-high five batters.
ďIím having trouble finding my release point,Ē said Romero. ďIím sure itís something I can fix quickly.Ē
Still, the anemic Oakland offence (they came into the game with the second-lowest run total in the American League) was able to push across runs in only one inning, despite the fact the Jays committed an error in three of the first four innings.
Romero wobbled through four innings without damage but couldnít avoid it in the fifth. This time Oakland wouldnít be turned away. Jemile Weeks led off with a walk, stole second, then managed to get in Romeroís head as he danced off second. Romero paid for that lapse in concentration on the batter when Josh Reddick belted his sixth homer of the year to tie the score.
In his six innings, Romero faced 29 batters, allowed five hits, five walks, two runs and struck out seven, needing 110 pitches to get his 18 outs.