TORONTO – Don’t let the manner in which things unravelled for J.A. Happ in the sixth inning Thursday night obscure the more pressing point right now for the Toronto Blue Jays. The reality is when they don’t score, they don’t win, and lately they haven’t been scoring runs consistently.
That disturbing trend continued against Jered Weaver and his low-80s slop in a 6-3 loss that gave the Los Angeles Angels two of three before 46,273 at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays eked out a pair of runs against the veteran right-hander who began the night with a 5.47 ERA but failed to deliver a knockout blow, something that proved costly when Happ got into trouble and couldn’t get of it.
A 2-0 lead quickly turned into a 4-2 deficit, and after a bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the sixth failed to come to fruition when Darwin Barney grounded to second, the Angels tacked on some extra runs to push things out of reach.
The Blue Jays scored less than four runs for the 12th time in 22 games this month and their record this season is 9-41 when that happens.
Only so much can be expected of their pitching.
"There’s no doubt we’ve cooled off, we’ve been on that stretch and that’s due to change, it always does," said manager John Gibbons. "When we’ve fallen behind we haven’t really been able to mount anything, get in that situation where we can get that big hit to climb back in it or open up some games. That will change, similar to early in the season. There’s not a lot of season left but we’re due.
"We’re throwing some good at-bats up there. The balls we’re hitting right now, a lot are going right at guys. That’s part of it. Like it or not, that’s part of it."
Jose Bautista’s return from the disabled list helped on that front and he delivered a sacrifice fly to deep right field with the bases loaded in the second to open the scoring. Josh Donaldson then lined out to Mike Trout to end the frame, leaving men on the corners.
That out started a run of eight straight for Weaver, a stretch Donaldson ended in the fifth when he mashed his 29th homer of the season into the second deck in centre.
The Blue Jays seemed to be in good shape with a 2-0 lead and Happ cruising through the first five frames, but things fell apart in a snap. Kaleb Cowart opened the sixth with a ground-rule double that landed just inside the foul line, Gregorio Petit followed with a walk and Kole Calhoun singled off Happ’s foot to load the bases.
Trout, whom you may remember is rather good at baseball, followed with a two-run single that tied things up, and Albert Pujols followed with a go-ahead single for his 100th RBI to end Happ’s night. Joe Biagini took over and induced a double play from C.J. Cron that scored another run before the bleeding stopped.
"The biggest thing about that inning was the walk," said Happ, who doesn’t expect his foot to be any sort of issue. "(Cowart) slapped that double that fell in and I’ve got to make the next guy put it in play and try to get that out somehow, make him earn it. And then two of the best hitters in the game hit it where we weren’t, that’s baseball.
"But the walk was the big play in that inning."
A two-out rally off Weaver in the bottom half gave the Blue Jays a chance to pull themselves back into the contest as Kevin Pillar, Melvin Upton Jr., and Ezequiel Carrera each reached to load the bases, but Jose Valdez induced the Barney grounder to end the threat.
Trout burned the Blue Jays again in the seventh, as after Brett Cecil issued a two-out walk to Calhoun that loaded the bases, he dropped a two-run single that made it a 6-2 game. The runs were on Biagini’s tab, ending his run of 14 straight scoreless appearances.
Trout finished with five RBIs in the series while Pujols had four.
"They’re both locked in," said Gibbons. "One’s going to the Hall of Fame, one eventually probably will, you know? One thing about Trout, he’s got that short, compact swing so he’s tough to pitch to, he can turn around anyone’s fastball, he’s that good, and he was hitting the ball to right field, left field, it didn’t matter. He was really locked in. And then Albert’s been doing it his whole career. He had a big-time series."
Weaver finished the night charged with two runs, one earned in 5.2 innings of work, the first time in five starts he’s allowed fewer than three runs. The last time was a 2-1 win over Boston on July 28.
The Blue Jays have often struggled with Weaver and compounding things was that two of their players that hit him best – Michael Saunders (9-for-26 with one homer), who was out with hamstring tightness, and Justin Smoak (10-for-34 with three homers) – weren’t in the lineup.
Still, they hit some balls hard and had little to show for it.
"Some of that, but Weaver did pitch really well," said Bautista. "He’s a great pitcher, he was on his stuff, he might not be having the best of seasons, especially according to his standards, we know he’s lost some velocity, but he pitched very well."
Down 6-2, the Blue Jays offence went silent until the ninth when doubles by Upton and Bautista tacked on a run, but by then it was too late to cover for Happ, who had won his last 11 straight decisions, and was due a blip.
It came on a second straight night in which the Angels touched plenty of green, and the Blue Jays did not.
"It sure seemed like it, they were just finding holes the last two nights for sure," said Happ. "And we were making some good contact and hitting it right at them. I hate saying the phrase that’s baseball, but that is baseball and we’ve got to turn the page, get back at them and do something to pick the energy level back up."