NEW YORK – The early-season misery continued for the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night as a dodgy spot start by waiver claim Aaron Laffey frittered away some early offence and left the bullpen with the heavy lifting to do in a 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees.
The final score flattered the visitors, who issued a season-high 10 walks, struck out 13 times, gifted outs both at the plate and on the field, squandered a two-homer game from the scorching Edwin Encarnacion, and again failed to deliver in key moments that might have changed the outcome.
“Well, basically what’s happening is we’re playing good enough to lose,” lamented manager John Gibbons, “we’re not playing good enough to win.”
While the Blue Jays were licking their wounds after Josh Johnson skipped his start because of triceps soreness – Laffey was designated for assignment after the game, with a move to come for the bullpen Saturday – the Yankees took their lumps in this one, too, yet still managed to rule the day.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli took a Rajai Davis foul tip off his right hand on the second pitch of the game and will miss at least six weeks with a fracture that requires surgery, while starter Ivan Nova left the game two batters into the third inning with elbow pain.
Problems are everywhere right now, just biting the Blue Jays harder.
“We put runs on the board, it’s not as though we didn’t do that,” said third baseman Brett Lawrie, who had two hits and a walk. “It just seems right now we get off to an early lead, somehow they crawl their way back in without laying the hammer down, you know?
“That’s the biggest thing right now, teams are just finding their way back into the game. Ultimately they’re going to keep doing that until we put a stop to it.”
WHERE THINGS STAND: The Blue Jays (9-15) dropped a season-high six games under .500 with their eighth loss in 11 outings before a crowd of 36,151 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees (13-9) are now 4-1 against the Blue Jays this season.
“We’ve got to keep playing, try to get two from them, starting (Saturday),” Lawrie said. “I know we’re close, it’s just a matter of getting on that roll. I feel like it’s going to be happening sooner rather than later.”
THE DETAILS: Aaron Laffey walked five in his 2.2 innings, four of them in a third inning he couldn’t escape, giving back leads of 1-0 and 2-1. The first run he gave up in the second, on Eduardo Nunez’s fielder’s choice, wasn’t totally his fault as the Yankees used two infield singles and a walk to fuel their rally.
The third was on him, as he walked the bases loaded and was fortunate to cough up only run when Vernon Wells just missed a 3-2 pitch for a sacrifice fly. Laffey loaded the bases once more and Brad Lincoln had to come in to end the threat.
“I was commanding the ball pretty good, and then, just in that third inning I got ahead 0-2 and just seemed like I lost my release point,” Laffey said. “I was just kind of all over the place. I was trying to everything I could to try to find my release point again.
“It didn’t matter what I did, I wasn’t able to get the ball where I wanted to put it.”
Lincoln was burned for a pair of runs in the fourth, on Lyle Overbay’s RBI triple and a wild pitch that brought him home, but the bullpen held strong from there.
The Yankees extended their lead to 5-3 in the seventh on a poorly handled passed ball by J.P. Arencibia, Steve Delabar striking out Nunez on the next pitch and yelling into his glove as he walked off the mound.
Jose Bautista homered in the top of the eighth off David Robertson to make it 5-4, but Brett Gardner ripped a two-out solo shot in the bottom of the inning off Darren Oliver to reinstate the cushion.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the ninth, but Mariano Rivera struck out Colby Rasmus to end it.
“We’re in that game, it could have gone either way, it was a tight ballgame, and those add-on runs make a difference,” manager John Gibbons said. “We made a run at Mariano in that ninth inning, which is hard to do, but we couldn’t come up with that one extra big hit.
“We’re just not playing good enough to win right now.”
THE BATS: Things started well for the Blue Jays, as Edwin Encarnacion homered for the fourth straight game leading off the second to open the scoring, and after the Yankees tied it up in the bottom half, Colby Rasmus ripped an RBI single to make it 2-1 in the third.
But rather than stomping on the Yankees when they were done, Jose Bautista and Encarnacion proceeded to strike out, with Rajai Davis getting nailed trying to steal third on the latter to end the threat.
Melky Cabrera was caught stealing in the second to snuff out another rally.
Encarnacion homered again leading off the sixth.
Of the Blue Jays’ 31 home runs this season, 21 have come with the bases empty.
“You can’t pick and choose when you hit home runs. You wish you could but you can’t,” Lawrie said. “At the same time, we are putting runs on the board, that’s not our worry right now. We are going ahead on teams, and they’re just getting back into games. The sooner we stop that probably the sooner we’ll start winning games. We’ve got to keep swinging it, come back (Saturday) and keep grinding, this isn’t time to hit the panic button because we are swinging the bats, Eddie is starting to come alive, Jose with the big home run yet again, it’s right there, it’s coming.”
THE ARMS: Aaron Laffey, back with the Blue Jays after pitching in 22 games, 16 starts, for them last year, picked up right where he left off at Yankee Stadium.
That’s not a good thing.
In two games, one start, last season in New York, he walked eight over 5.2 innings, allowing seven runs, six earned.
This time, manager John Gibbons didn’t give him a chance to let the game unravel.
“We had enough fresh arms to get us through the game, we wanted to win that game, it was a tight ball game,” Gibbons said. “If (Chris) Stewart or somebody blows it open with a double or something, it probably would have been different.”
The problem is the Blue Jays needed four relievers to get through the game, leaving Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil and Casey Janssen as the only relievers to not see any action.
J.A. Happ starts Saturday and the Blue Jays would find it quite handy if he could finish, too.