Missed opportunities cost Jays
Toronto leaves nine runners on base in loss to Detroit
TORONTO -- An uncomfortable silence consumed Toronto's clubhouse Thursday night, reducing those inside to whispers. It was an overwhelming quiet created by the uncertain status of two starters and by the way the Blue Jays let their latest game slip away.
Before Toronto took the field against Detroit, a sore back sidelined left fielder Reed Johnson, who might not be available on Friday. During the game, third baseman Troy Glaus exited early with pain in his left foot -- an injury that will keep him out of action for at least one more day.
After the contest, Toronto was left to think about all the squandered scoring chances and the handful of miscues that sent the Jays to a 5-4 loss at the hands of Detroit. It certainly wasn't the way Toronto would've hoped to open its four-game series against the reigning American League champions.
"Honestly, today, we should've had the win," said Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill, summing up the night.
Instead, the Blue Jays (5-4) were unable to capitalize on ample opportunities versus the Tigers (6-3). The epitome of Toronto's misfortunes came in the sixth inning.
With a runner on first base and one out, Jays right-hander Tomo Ohka (0-1) gloved a ball that Tigers catcher Mike Rabelo chopped back up the middle. Ohka spun around and fired the ball towards second base, trying to initiate an inning-ending double play.
The baseball bounced well in front of the bag and skipped under the gloves of shortstop Royce Clayton and Hill, rolling into center field as Rabelo easily advanced to third. One batter later, Detroit's Brandon Inge followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly for the game's eventual winning run.
"That's a routine play," said a downcast Ohka, who was charged with five runs -- four earned -- in six innings. "I slipped and had a bad grip. I think I tried too quick. I have to take my time."
"You give up extra outs and that kills you, especially against good teams," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
Toronto's woes weren't limited to the field -- though the Jays have committed seven errors in the last three games. The Blue Jays' bats, despite producing 12 hits against the Tigers, fell silent in key situations.
Down 4-0, Hill drove a pitch from Detroit left-hander Mike Maroth (2-0) over the left-field wall to cut Toronto's deficit in half. Later that inning, the Jays had runners on the corners with one out, but Maroth retired Alex Rios and Matt Stairs, who was filling in for Johnson, to end the threat.
"We had some chances -- it just didn't happen," Gibbons said. "It wasn't a real pretty game, either. That didn't help. We hung in there, but we just couldn't solve them."
Toronto also was unable to cash in on a bases-loaded opportunity in the opening frame, when Glaus grounded into an inning-ending double play. The third baseman then was replaced in the third by McDonald, whose two hits didn't feel like a positive when the Jays stranded nine runners.
"If you don't take advantage of every opportunity to win a ballgame," McDonald said, "every guy in this clubhouse goes home and is going to be thinking, 'Wow, I wish we did something different.'"
The Blue Jays had another key chance in the eighth inning. Lyle Overbay stood on second base with two outs after slicing a broken-bat double into left field off Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya, scoring Hill to pull Toronto within one run. Zumaya followed by striking out Rios, and then he retired the side in order in the ninth to pick up the save.
"We had them on the ropes. We just couldn't get that one hit," Overbay said. "There's some guys who have had opportunities, which is good, because that's going to be the key when we start hitting and start getting those runs across."
Scoring runs will be that much more difficult if Toronto loses either Johnson, who serves as the regular leadoff hitter, or Glaus, who led the club with 38 home runs in 2006, for an extended period of time.
Johnson is questionable for Friday due to a sore back, which is the same issue that sidelined him for more than two weeks during Spring Training. Glaus is out with a bone spur in his left heel, and Gibbons wasn't sure when the slugger will return to the lineup.
"Our starters are starters for a reason: They're very good baseball players," McDonald said. "It's not what we want as a team. You want those guys in playing every day."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.