SEATTLE – With a single in the third inning, Moises Sierra became the latest Toronto Blue Jays rookie to get a hit in his first big-league at-bat, joining a list that also includes recent additions such as Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Curtis Thigpen, John-Ford Griffin and Russ Adams.
The 23-year-old outfielder’s debut became even more memorable when he stumbled rounding second base on Brett Lawrie’s double, gathered himself and kept going, running right through Brian Butterfield’s stop sign and sliding home safely, drawing laughs from the dugout and a lengthy glare from the third base coach.
Sierra’s wild dash helped cut into the four-run deficit the Blue Jays were facing, but they got no closer in what ended as a 7-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
“Young people coming to the big-leagues are amped up, especially for their first couple of games,” said Butterfield, who expects to chat with Sierra about the play Wednesday. “When you see someone drowning, you throw them a life raft, or you see somebody stumbling, you go out and try to catch them.
“He was stumbling for quite a while so you don’t know if he’s going to start it up quick enough so you don’t take any chances because you’re trailing, so my hands went up. … We have a lot of guys who are still works in progress and I’m sure he’s one of them.”
Recalled from triple-A Las Vegas after Travis Snider was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Eric Thames was sent to the Mariners, Sierra’s stay in the big-leagues may very well only last as long as Jose Bautista needs to recover from his left wrist injury.
He’ll share time in right field with fellow outfield prospect Anthony Gose, who is expected to remain with the Blue Jays and man left field once Bautista returns. Either way, Sierra — whom GM Alex Anthopoulos compared to Nelson Cruz — has the chance to leave an impression.
“When they were trading those guys (Monday) it crossed my mind that I might be called up to the big leagues knowing that they probably need somebody in the outfield,” Sierra said before the game through interpreter Luis Rivera. “I’m prepared, I’m looking forward. I’m going to get on the field and show everything that I have, show the potential that I have.”
THE BIG PICTURE: The Blue Jays (51-52) fell below .500 again with their third straight loss to the disappointment of a predominantly friendly road crowd among the 21,434 gathered at Safeco Field. The Mariners (49-57), meanwhile, won their sixth straight and ninth in 11 outings.
THE ARMS: Aaron Laffey (2-2), a revelation since joining the Blue Jays rotation under emergency circumstances, had his worst outing of the season, allowing seven runs on nine hits and two walks in 4.2 innings.
Things didn’t start off well when Dustin Ackley ripped his first pitch of the night into the right-field stands, the Mariners took control of the game with a three-run second and then added on when the Jays narrowed the gap with a single in the fourth and pair in the fifth.
“When I was throwing four-seamers early in the count they were jumping all over it,” said Laffey. “Looking back on the game once I was finished, I’ve gotten away from my sinker a little bit the last couple of games, that’s my bread and butter, so I’m getting a little cutter and four-seamer happy. …
“That’s a pitch I need to go to, especially tonight a team being aggressive like that early in the game. Facing a team with an approach like that, I should be in the later innings with hardly any pitches when I’m throwing the ball down. Usually these kinds of teams are teams I’m successful against.”
Steve Delabar, acquired for Thames, made his Blue Jays debut against his former team, allowing a hit and a strikeout in a scoreless seventh.
THE BATS: Since taking over as the big-league most productive offence following a 5-1 win Saturday over Detroit, the Blue Jays have scored just four runs in the three losses.
Jason Vargas (12-7) shut them down this time on five hits and a walk over seven innings of solid work, burned only by the Lawrie double that scored Jeff Mathis and Sierra.
The Blue Jays managed just six hits in total.
“In the last two weeks we’ve lost four middle of the order bats, whether that’s through injury or trade,” said manager John Farrell in reference to Jose Bautista, Adam Lind, J.P. Arencibia and Travis Snider. “We’re trying to find a combination to keep some innings alive and look to do some other things to build an inning that we score more than one run in.”
Sierra finished 1-for-3.
“He stayed inside the ball well,” said Farrell. “His first base hit, I thought he fought off a number of tough pitches and kept the bat in the zone on a changeup for a base hit, was a little aggressive on the basepaths, running through a stop sign, but in the end it was not a bad move to make given how runs are at a premium for us right now.”
MAKING SPACE: J.A. Happ continues to languish in the Blue Jays bullpen, waiting for a spot in the rotation to open up, but complicating things is the looming return of Brandon Morrow, which means two spots actually need to be found.
“Brandon’s not coming back and going to the bullpen, when he’s built up enough he’ll be inserted right back into the rotation,” said manager John Farrell. “While J.A. might have some frustration with the current role, and that’s understandable, that’s where he is currently, we know there’s very capable ability to be back in the rotation once the need occurs. The greatest challenge for any player is aligning their own personal goals with that of the organization, that’s always a give and take along the way.”