Burnett shoulders blame as Jays fall
Righty unable to come up with second straight solid start
CLEVELAND -- A.J. Burnett was kicking himself. The Toronto pitcher sat alone and stared into his locker inside the visitors' clubhouse at Jacobs Field going over what just took place Tuesday night.
Burnett easily could've blamed the rain delay for his erratic outing. That excuse was out of the question, though, considering how the 30-minute interruption during the first inning seemed to help Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia.
When he finally got up from his seat, Burnett simply blamed himself for the Blue Jays' 12-4 loss to the Indians. After all, his offense had spotted him a three-run cushion in the opening frame with a trio of home runs. Once the showers came pouring down later that inning, the Blue Jays fell lifeless at the plate and Burnett lost his composure on the mound.
"It wasn't the rain delay. It was the inconsistency to make quality pitches," Burnett said. "We get those three runs early, and I just handed them right back to them. I can't allow that to happen. When we get momentum like that early, if I stay on my game, [Sabathia] may not pitch as well as he did for the rest of the game. That's basically it."
Sabathia struggled out of the gate against the Blue Jays (13-13). Toronto's Alex Rios opened the scoring by sending a 1-2 pitch from the Cleveland left-hander deep to left field for a solo home run -- the right fielder's fifth shot of the season and second to lead off a game.
Later in the first, third baseman Troy Glaus and second baseman Aaron Hill chipped in back-to-back home runs to left off Sabathia to put Toronto ahead, 3-0. It marked the first time in club history that the Blue Jays belted three homers in the first inning of a game, and the first time this season that Toronto managed consecutive blasts.
"I came out feeling pretty good," Sabathia said. "I was throwing the ball where I wanted, and they hit some good pitches. You've got to give them credit. They did a pretty good job of putting the bat on the ball in that first inning."
Everything changed after the grounds crew rolled out the tarp to protect the diamond against a pounding rain in the bottom of the first. The game resumed 30 minutes later, and Sabathia looked like a completely different pitcher in the second.
"Actually, the rain delay helped me," Sabathia said. "I was able to calm down and collect my thoughts. I was able to gather myself."
Sabathia (4-0) retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced between the second and sixth innings, and he finished with nine strikeouts and no walks in the victory. Beginning with the second frame, the left-hander tallied two strikeouts each in four straight innings, and Cleveland (15-8) had touched Burnett for seven runs by the time Sabathia exited the game.
"After that rain delay, Sabathia just kicked it in, and he really was overpowering," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's one of the top [pitchers] in the league. It just seemed like he picked up some velocity. He started cutting it loose there at the end and threw some real good changeups. He can do that. He can shut you down pretty good."
So can Burnett (2-2), but that wasn't the case on Tuesday. The right-hander surrendered four runs in the third inning, in which he yielded a two-run homer to Travis Hafner and a two-run double to Jhonny Peralta.
Burnett's pitch count climbed over 100 in the fifth inning, when Peralta sent an errant slider over the left-field wall for a three-run blast. When Burnett's night was through, he had allowed seven runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and four walks over five innings.
"You want to repeat every fifth day out there, and I'm not doing that," said Burnett, who gave up no runs in seven innings against the Yankees in his last start. "I just need to be more consistent. I got ahead, but I didn't make pitches. Even the balls they hit out, they were pitches right down the middle. They're supposed to do that to them."
Toronto's bullpen didn't fair much better against Cleveland. Lefty Brian Tallet allowed two more runs in the sixth, and right-hander Jason Frasor gave up a three-run homer to Trot Nixon in the eighth, creating a hole too deep for the Jays to overcome.
"They're a really tough lineup to pitch to. They pound it," Gibbons said. "The game started off real good, but it didn't finish that way."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.