Empty Blue Jays get thumped in Seattle

Felix Hernandez allowed one run in seven strong innings and Robinson Cano helped provide him with a jolt of run support as the Seattle Mariners romped to an 11-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

After playing 19 innings for more than six-and-a-half hours and then flying east to west across an entire continent, it was difficult to imagine that the Blue Jays would have anything left in the tank in the opener of their series in Seattle, especially given the fact that they were facing one of the best pitchers in the game in Felix Hernandez.

Stranger things have happened, though, and often teams that are dead-tired either coming home from or going out on a cross-country trip, or that straggle into a new town at 5 am the day of a game, wind up loose and relaxed and win that night before really starting to feel it the next day.

Stranger things didn’t happen in Seattle.

The Blue Jays tank was pretty much empty, and they went out and got thumped.

Drew Hutchison pretty much matched Hernandez pitch-for-pitch over the first three innings, and Jose Bautista gave him a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth as Sunday’s 19th-inning hero took King Felix deep. But Hutchison hit a bump in the road in the bottom of that frame, giving up a couple of runs on a loud double, a booming sacrifice fly and a duck-snort single down the right-field line.

The young Blue Jays’ righty, who came within a Chris Davis home run of throwing a perfect game in his last start, rebounded by striking out the side in order in the fifth inning, but the Mariners took him to the woodshed in the sixth. Robinson Cano led off that frame with an opposite-field home run, and after a one-out walk to Kyle Seager, rookie catcher Mike Zunino tripled off the right field wall. An out later, Endy Chavez stroked a double down the left-field line as the Mariners had a four-run lead and Hutchison’s night was done.

Brad Mills came in to pour gasoline on the fire, retiring only one of the first eight batters he faced to turn the game into a complete laugher.

Over the course of his last dozen starts, Hutchison has been brilliant three times.

He had that near-perfecto last week against Baltimore, in which he retired 26 of the first 27 batters he faced; a Canada Day gem against the Brewers in which allowed just a run on three hits over seven innings, striking out 10; and a mid-June start in Baltimore in which he delivered seven shutout innings. He also had a strong start in New York and a decent one in Oakland.

In the other seven of those last 12, Hutchison has gotten knocked around pretty badly.

He’s pitched a total of just 30 innings – an average of less than 4 1/3 per start – and allowed 35 runs on 46 hits with 15 walks. That’s an ugly 10.50 ERA and an uglier WHIP of 2.033. He’s been a more extreme version of the pre-all-star-break J.A. Happ, who went great start-awful start for almost half a season.

The Blue Jays are still very much in the thick of the race, just two games behind the Detroit Tigers, who hold the second wild-card in the American League, but they’re not without many flaws, several of which have been exposed over the past couple of months. One that hasn’t is a severe lack of depth in the starting rotation. If the Jays need a starter outside their current five, their options are severely limited. They would be looking at Todd Redmond, Chad Jenkins and maybe Sean Nolin.

They could really use Hutchison to find the same sort of consistency that Happ has, but that’s a lot to ask of a 23 year-old in his first full season in the major leagues and coming off a year lost to Tommy John surgery.

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