TORONTO — There were other mistakes John Farrell could have picked on in Tuesday night’s 7-6 interleague loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but it was one lapse in particular by starter Jo-Jo Reyes that drew the Toronto Blue Jays manager’s attention.
Farrell repeatedly pointed to Reyes’s failure to cover first base on what ended being an RBI single by Garrett Jones during the pivotal four-run fourth as a key play that opened the door to a bigger-than-it-should-have been inning.
And with a late rally by the revamped lineup featuring Jose Bautista at third base for the first time this season falling short, that miscue, plus another in the same frame by right-fielder Eric Thames, loomed large.
“More than anything, we contributed to the four-run inning,” said Farrell. “If we cover first base and record that one out, it probably doesn’t bring two other guys to the plate that inning. …
“That was probably the extra out that enabled to plate two more runs in the inning.”
Still, with some better situational execution when the game was at its tipping point in the seventh inning, the Blue Jays (39-41) could have pulled out the heartening comeback victory that was there for the taking.
Down 7-4, they set themselves up for a fourth victory in five outings when Corey Patterson and Edwin Encarnacion, with his second of the night, made it a one-run game with back-to-back solo shots.
J.P. Arencibia followed with a walk before a Yunel Escobar left runners at second and third with none out. But Thames proceeded to strike out against reliever Chris Resop, and after Bautista was intentionally walked to load the bases, Jose Veras came on and got Adam Lind to hit a liner right at first baseman and former teammate Lyle Overbay, who stepped on the bag for an easy double play.
“Jose’s trying to get a sizable lead, the line drive hooked behind him, he almost had to duck out of the way and it was so hard hit, that’s a bang-bang play,” lamented Farrell. “We can say ifs and buts, but the fact was it a hard hit ball right at him and he doubled him off.”
The Pirates (40-38), doormats no longer, held things from there in winning for the fifth time in six games before a Rogers Centre crowd of 17,085. Veras followed his fortunate escape with a clean eighth before Joel Hanrahan finished things off in the ninth for his 23rd save.
Reyes (3-7) left the Blue Jays in an early hole, failing to make it through at least five innings for the first time in six starts. After cruising through the first two frames, the left-hander failed to escape the fourth, getting roughed up for six runs on nine hits and a walk in 3.2 innings.
Alex Presley, making his season debut, opened the scoring with his first career home run, a two-run blast in the third, and after Encarnacion replied with his first solo shot in the bottom of the frame, the Pirates struck for four in the fourth.
Lyle Overbay opened the inning with a single and scored on a Matt Diaz blooper that bounced over Thames’ head and rolled to the wall for a triple after the rookie briefly lost it in the lights. Base hits by Jones – when Reyes failed to cover the bag – and Ronny Cedeno followed and they were cashed in by RBI singles from Presley and Neil Walker.
“They had some hits that fell for them,” said Reyes. “But I’ve got to do damage control when an inning gets out of hand, especially getting over on that ground ball. I gave them an extra out right there. …
“I didn’t do my job. I can’t give away outs when they’re trying to have a big inning.”
Bautista made it a 6-3 game in the bottom of the fourth with his 24th homer of the season, a two-run shot of Kevin Correia (10-6), who allowed four runs in six innings of work. He is the first Pirates pitcher with 10 wins before the all-star break since Bob Walk in 1993.
Bautista cashed in a Thames triple in the sixth with a run-scoring grounder that third baseman Chase d’Arnaud booted for an error. Lind followed with a walk but after Juan Rivera popped out, Aaron Hill hit into his second double play of the night.
Andrew McCutchen’s solo shot in the seventh off Luis Perez made it 7-4 for the Pirates.
Encarnacion’s two solo shots marked the seventh multi-homer game of his career.
A notoriously streaky hitter, 10 of his 21 homers last season came in two series: five May 21-23 versus Arizona and five Sept. 30-Oct. 3 against Minnesota.
“I thought on the road trip he started to swing the bat with a little bit more confidence, a little bit more aggression and we’ve seen that when he’s in a hot streak he can carry a club,” Farrell said of Encarnacion, who declined to speak with media. “Tonight was an example of that.”