TORONTO – Sure, Jose Quintana isn’t having his best season, but you can understand getting shut down by the Colombian left-hander, who has a long pedigree of success. It computes. Getting stymied by Mike Pelfrey, on the other hand, does not, which is what made Saturday afternoon’s 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox so frustrating for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Not only did they squander seven quality innings of three-run ball from Marcus Stroman, they lost a second straight to the type of team they need to take advantage of before the looming gauntlet of contenders they face leading into and coming out of the all-star break. Over the past two weeks the Blue Jays are 4-6 against Oakland, Seattle, Tampa and Chicago, repeatedly failing to reach and surpass .500.
They’re now 32-35 and leaving the break-even point well behind before they face Baltimore, Boston, the Yankees and Houston before the break and Detroit, Boston and Cleveland right after would offer some insulation for that challenging stretch. J.A. Happ starts against James Shields on Sunday looking to prevent a White Sox sweep before a seven-game road trip to Texas and Kansas City that is another opportunity.
"They approach it good every day, and I know the mentality there," manager John Gibbons said of his players. "The thing about baseball, it’s not a sport where you go out and overpower somebody. If they throw a good game against you, things are tough, that’s the way it is, or if they’re swinging the bats. It’s not like a big physical sport where if you have the bigger, faster guys you’re going to dominate."
At least Stroman’s seven innings did a solid for the bullpen, which picked up eight frames behind Joe Biagini in Friday’s 11-4 thrashing from the White Sox. He allowed only six hits but three of them were home runs – to Todd Frazier on a two-seamer and Matt Davidson on a slider back-to-back in the second, and to Jose Abreu on another slider in the sixth.
Relying heavily on his two-seamer, Stroman recorded 10 groundball outs, including a 1-6-3 double play ball from Melky Cabrera to end a two-on, one-out threat. Stroman jumped and delivered a low fist-pump on the mound before walking off the field before a sell-out crowd of 47,171.
"They put some swings on a couple of balls, but other than that I felt pretty good," said Stroman.
Despite that, the Blue Jays could never pull even after the Frazier and Davidson homers opened up a 2-0 lead. They would have tied things in the bottom of the second when Ryan Goins ripped a ball into the right-centre field gap with two runners on, but the ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double and Troy Tulowitzki had to stop at third. Luke Maile then grounded out to leave the runners there.
That was the only time they threatened against Pelfrey, who threw four three-up, three-down innings over his six frames of work. Throwing primarily sinkers while mixing in a curveball, a slider and his splitter, he allowed only the one run on four hits with five strikeouts.
"We’ve seen him a little bit in the past, he had a little curveball today we’re not used to seeing," said Gibbons. "Usually he attacks with the fastball and the split. He had a nice little breaking ball, kept us honest. He pitched well."
After the Abreu homer in the sixth, a gamma-ray over the wall in centre at 109.4 m.p.h., the Blue Jays pulled within one again in the seventh on Dwight Smith Jr.’s ground ball up the middle, scoring Justin Smoak for his first career RBI.
"It was definitely big for us because we were putting together some good at bats and I just wanted to keep the train rolling in a positive way," said Smith. "Just trying to not do too much and came up with an RBI single."
But Tommy Kahnle then came on to face Ryan Goins and went 97, ball; 98, ball; 99, foul; 99, 6-4-3 double play.
The Blue Jays didn’t threaten again, while the White Sox tacked on runs in the eighth on a Josh Donaldson error and in the ninth on a suicide squeeze by Yolmer Sanchez, pushing the game out of reach.
They’re now 6-8 in June after an 18-10 May saved their season.
"I’m sure we’ll rattle off 10 in a row here soon," said Stroman. "Nothing changes from the group, we realize we’re going to go through stretches like this and that’s why we stay confident day-in and day-out."