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Must C Cannon: Bautista throws out Harper at third

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense just can't seem to find its footing for an extended period of time so far this season.

Whenever Toronto appears on the verge of busting out of its slump, another subpar game at the plate surfaces and the bats go into hibernation.

That happened again on Monday night as Toronto followed up a 12-run performance with a total of just five hits against the Nationals in a 6-3 loss at Rogers Centre.

"Credit to Edwin Jackson," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Washington's starting pitcher, who tossed eight-plus strong innings. "Three pitches for strikes, slowed us down, changed speeds a number of times.

"We couldn't really get anything offensively sustained to mount any kind of comeback here tonight."

The matchup between Toronto and Washington appeared well positioned to become a pitchers' duel between Jackson and Brandon Morrow, but those predictions quickly unraveled in the first inning. Morrow was forced to depart after throwing just nine pitches because of a strained left oblique muscle.

That put Toronto's bullpen in the unenviable situation of having to record all 27 outs, and things went about as well as could be expected. Right-hander Chad Beck entered and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on three hits and two walks in a career-high 3 2/3 innings. Two of those runs came on a third-inning homer by Washington's Adam LaRoche, his 11th of the season.

The Blue Jays' bullpen then went to Luis Perez, Jason Frasor, Francisco Cordero and Carlos Villanueva. The quartet combined to allow two runs over 5 1/3 innings, on eight hits and three strikeouts without issuing a walk. The final blow of the evening occurred when Rick Ankiel led off the eighth with a solo homer off Cordero for his fourth long ball of the season.

Rookie sensation Bryce Harper was a force all night for the Nationals as he went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a pair of runs scored in his debut north of the border.

"Very good player -- a lot of bat speed," Farrell said. "The ability to handle left-handed pitching is evident, just in the couple of at-bats you see tonight on different types of pitches, whether it was a fastball, whether it was a breaking ball after swinging through one. But he's a good-looking young player that's for sure."

Toronto's bullpen was far from spectacular, but it did enough to keep the Blue Jays within striking distance for most of the game. The club's offense, though, came up well short by managing to put just two runners in scoring position against Jackson.

The first run came in the first on a homer by center fielder Colby Rasmus. Rasmus' ninth homer of the season was his second in as many games, as his strong month of June continues to be a factor at the top of the batting order.

Jackson allowed just three other hits while striking out three in eight-plus innings of work, leaving with Edwin Encarnacion on second base with none out in the ninth. A second run was charged to him in the ninth when Yan Gomes hit a two-run homer off Sean Burnett to close the Blue Jays' scoring.

The veteran righty has now won two consecutive games while recording a quality start in each of his past five outings.

"I don't keep up with the numbers, I just try to go out and help the team as much as I can," Jackson said.

The Blue Jays have now lost four of their past five games, while averaging less than three runs per game in those defeats. They'll also need to re-stock the bullpen after Monday's first-inning incident.

The first of what could turn into several roster moves took place after the game as Beck was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas, and left-handers Evan Crawford and Aaron Laffey both received promotions.

Another corresponding move will take place prior to Tuesday's game against the Nationals. In the meantime, the Blue Jays await word on Morrow, who has been the club's best pitcher so far this season.

"Very frustrating, of course, when you have to come out that early for something like that," Morrow said. "But hopefully it will just be best-case scenario. Still don't know what that is, but like I said, we'll know more tomorrow. That's about all I know."

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