TORONTO - Things have gone from bad to worse on the Blue Jays pitching front.
Having lost starter Brandon Morrow on Monday due to a left oblique strain, on Wednesday the Jays also ran into problems with Kyle Drabek.
In the fifth inning of a 6-2 loss against the Washington Nationals, Drabek, with one out, threw a fastball to Michael Morse and instantly knew that something was wrong.
"I threw the ball and I kind of felt a popping sensation in the back of my elbow," the right-hander said. "I don't know how fast it was but I knew the velocity was down and just for precautions, it was probably smart to take me out."
The good news, if there was any this day, is that initial testing didn't reveal any major damage. Drabek, who had Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery in 2007, said he didn't believe that there was a recurrence of that problem this time around.
"I had the Tommy John in '07 but it's nothing like that," Drabek added. "But it's always frightening. We did all the tests for it and it's strong, so that was some good news."
Drabek will undergo more testing to determine the exact nature of the problem.
He said that coming into the game he felt just fine.
"The starts before was pretty much normal soreness," he said. "It's not too bad (pain-wise) right now. It's on the back of the elbow. It's not the ligament."
At this point, Drabek is more hopeful than concerned.
"I'm not too concerned," he said. "Once I ran through all the tests, that it was strong was a relief."
Although his status is up in the air, it's likely that given a best-case scenario Drabek will miss a minimum of two starts. Depending on what the doctors find, it could be a lot longer.
The Jays may now have to find a way to get by without both their No. 2 and No. 4 starters with few ready-for-prime-time replacements available at the minor-league level.
Right-hander Jessie Chavez and either Aaron Laffey or Brett Cecil -- both lefties -- could be the two plug-in replacements depending on the severity of Drabek's problem.
Losing two starters over a three-game series is deadly and right now the Jays also have little in the way of offence.
In the three losses the Jays went a combined 16-for-96 for a .167 average.
On Wednesday, before a crowd of 41,667, the Jays faced one of the best in the biz in right-hander Stephen Strasburg.
Strasburg, who moved to 8-1, had a bit of a blister problem which limited his day to six innings. But in that time he held the Jays to two runs on five hits and struck out eight. The lone inning he looked mortal was the third when he gave up a triple to Rajai Davis, who scored on Brett Lawrie's ground out, and a solo homer by Jose Bautista.
Over the past week where the Jays have lost six of seven to drop below .500 for the first time this season -- they are 31-32 -- Bautista has been the lone batter who gives the opposition pause. He is the lone bat with menace these days.
"They made quality pitches against us for three straight games here," manager John Farrell said. "It's a talented staff but I feel like this is a talented offence as well. We've got to play better. We've got to pitch better, we've got to hit better."
The Jays continue to stumble against National League opponents and are 3-6 in interleague play with their next nine games including six on the road, against the Senior Circuit.
"It was a very difficult series," Farrell said. "When you get swept at home it's never a good thing.
"We've got to play better bottom line. We ran into two very good teams in Atlanta and Washington but still I firmly believe this is a very good team in of itself and we have to do better."
Without Morrow and Drabek, though, it's hard to see just how the team can turn it around.