Jays drop another heartbreaker late
Zambrano departs early; Bullpen can't hold on in 11th
CLEVELAND -- Things just haven't been working in Shaun Marcum's favor. The young Blue Jays pitcher can cite what transpired on Wednesday night at Jacobs Field as ample evidence.
Marcum jogged in from the visitor's bullpen in the 11th inning, representing the 14th pitcher used in a contest that stretched both Toronto and Cleveland to the limits for four hours and 17 minutes. He walked off the mound a victim of two fluke hits as the Indians swarmed around home plate to celebrate the Jays' 7-6 loss.
The irony of Marcum's unfortunate evening was that the 25-year-old reliever finally felt like he was making some positive strides. He made his pitches. Where and how those pitches turned into devasting hits were out of his control.
"I'm always ready," Marcum said. "I want the ball every day, even though things haven't been going my way the last couple weeks. I still want the ball."
Stretching back to April 19, Marcum has allowed eight runs in his last four innings in a span of six games for the Jays (13-14). A lot of that damage has been caused by poor location that resulted in home runs. That wasn't the case against the Indians (16-8).
Cleveland left fielder David Dellucci opened the 11th inning by offering at a 1-0 offering from Marcum. The pitch shattered Dellucci's bat, softening the impact of the swing and sending the baseball into shallow center field.
Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells charged in and made a sliding attempt, but the ball bounced off the bottom of his glove and fell to the grass for a single. Into the batter's box stepped Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner, who was 1-for-2 with a home run in his career against the right-hander.
"He's one of the top five hitters in the game -- no question," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
The infield shifted drastically against Hafner, anticipating a powerful swing that would likely pull the ball to the right side of the field. That pulled third baseman Troy Glaus well out of position, which left a wide hole down the left-field line.
Marcum then worked Hafner into a 3-2 count and decided to fire a changeup as his next offering. Cleveland's designated hitter checked his swing, but still made light contact. With Dellucci running on the pitch, Hafner flared the ball into left field.
"He got fooled on a pitch, stayed with it, and cued one down the line.You don't expect that," Gibbons said. "You expect Hafner to go for the pump there to win the game, but he's a good hitter. When he's down in the count, he's just trying to put the ball in play, which he did."
The placement of the hit provided no chance for Blue Jays left fielder Adam Lind. He raced to the ball, but by the time he relayed it to catcher Jason Phillips, Dellucci had already made his way safely across the plate after a sprint from first base.
"It was a changeup down and away," Hafner said. "In retrospect, it was probably a pitch I shouldn't have swung at. I tried to foul it off."
All Marcum (1-2) could do was shrug off that last pitch and the outing. Prior to the game, he and backup catcher Sal Fasano spent time going over the pitcher's delivery, looking for flaws that have hindered Marcum during his recent stretch of poor performances.
"I actually felt better today than I've felt in two weeks," said Marcum, whose ERA climbed to 8.25 after the loss. "Sal sat down with me for about 30 minutes earlier this afternoon to figure out what's been going wrong with me. My mechanics were all screwed up and we tried to get back on track."
Hafner's double came on Marcum's eighth pitch, but it was the 433rd offering of the game for both clubs. Toronto and Cleveland cycled through their relievers after their respective starters made early exits, and the 'pens matched zeroes between the seventh and 10th frames.
For the Blue Jays, Victor Zambrano was on a limited pitch count and left after throwing 65 pitches in 2 2/3 innings during his first start of the season. He had been in the bullpen this year, but recently replaced Josh Towers as Toronto's fifth starter. Cleveland's Jake Westbrook was pulled during the second inning with an abdominal injury.
Toronto held a 4-2 lead after notching three runs in the fifth against reliever Jason Davis, who issued a pair of bases-loaded walks. Cleveland regained the advantage later that inning, though, thanks in part to shortstop Jhonny Peralta's three-run homer off Towers, who pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief of Zambrano.
In the sixth, the Blue Jays knotted the score at 6 with back-to-back RBI doubles by Glaus and second baseman Aaron Hill. After Hill's hit, though, Cleveland's relief corps allowed just two more hits to the next 19 Blue Jays to step up to the plate.
"The key was we took the lead and you've got to get that shut-down inning," Gibbons said. "That's why those kinds of innings are key. They came right back and took the lead."
Against Marcum, Cleveland took the lead for good.
"It just ended up going in their favor," Marcum said. "To go out there and lose like that is tough, but you have to bounce back. Whenever I get the ball next time, I'll try to go out there and do the same thing."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.