PHILADELPHIA – Back home under American League rules, no chance Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons pulls Mark Buehrle after just four innings and 53 pitches the way he did Wednesday night. By no means was the ageless lefty at his best, the four runs on seven hits he allowed spoke to that, but he certainly had more to give this time out, and really, his team could have used it.
But in a National League park, with Philadelphia Phillies starter Adam Morgan in trouble for the first, and as it turned out the only time, Gibbons sent Chris Colabello to the plate in place of Buehrle with two out and a man on second in the fifth, looking to extend a rally that had already cut a four-run deficit to two.
Instead, Colabello was caught looking on a sketchy strike three by home plate umpire Adam Hamari, Bo Schultz surrendered two home runs in the bottom of the frame, and the hole was too much for the Blue Jays to overcome in a 7-4 loss to the Phillies that left them with a two-game split at Citizens Bank Park.
“What I was thinking there, two games we haven’t been able to do anything with Morgan, I thought we’ve got something going here,” explained Gibbons. “We’re down, it’s still the middle of the game, but the part of the lineup that was coming up for them, too, was the part of the lineup that was giving Buehrle trouble. Then Schultzie, they banged him around pretty good.”
The setback was a costly one for the Blue Jays (66-55), as they fell two games back of the New York Yankees, 4-3 winners over the Minnesota Twins, for the AL East lead, before heading out west for a challenging pair of series against the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers starting Friday.
They have some heavy lifting ahead of them.
Buehrle left the Blue Jays in a tough spot when he surrendered three runs in the first on a Jeff Francoeur sacrifice fly, an RBI single by Darin Ruf and a run-scoring double by Aaron Altherr, and then another in the third, when Francoeur’s solo gave the Phillies a 4-0 lead.
“Bad luck,” said Buehrle. “I came in and looked at every pitch. Seven hits, all but probably maybe two of them – the first hit they got was I think a changeup and then one to Ruf could’ve been down maybe a few more inches – but every other pitch I’m begging to make every start. Balls off the plate, guys were hitting them. …
“It’s just what makes this game crazy.”
The fourth run ended Buehrle’s streak of 13 straight starts with three earned runs or less, and at four innings, it was his shortest start of the year.
“It’s no fun, I’ll tell you that,” he said, adding later: “National League, American League, pitching good, pitching bad – I mean, I went four innings, and that’s the frustrating part.”
Still, the Blue Jays looked to have made it a game in the fifth, when Edwin Encarnacion extended his hit streak to 16 games with a solo shot, his 23rd homer of the season, and Cliff Pennington’s double cashed in a two-out Ben Revere single.
Then came the Colabello at-bat, with Morgan managing to freeze him and keep the score right there. Colabello voiced his displeasure to Hamari afterwards, a rarity for him.
“I couldn’t tell you where that was but I can tell you he was frustrated,” said Gibbons. “He’s got a good eye, so if he’s complaining, there might be something to it.”
Schultz, pitching for the first time since Aug. 12, took over from Buehrle and promptly surrendered a solo shot to Andres Blanco and later, a two-out, two-run shot to Altherr that made it 7-2. It wasn’t exactly the shutdown inning that was needed.
The Blue Jays were quiet again until the eighth, when Justin Smoak’s chopper slipped under Cesar Hernandez’s glove at second for an error that allowed one run to score and Troy Tulowitzki’s fielder’s choice then brought home another.
But Luis Garcia recovered to get Josh Donaldson on a weak comebacker and Jose Bautista swinging, any hopes for a comeback extinguished.