Blue Jays skid hits seven
Zambrano battered in start as Red Sox take series opener
TORONTO -- As the Blue Jays carried a seven-run deficit into the ninth inning, a fan down the right-field line inside Rogers Centre issued a statement. He leaned over the wall and slowly waved a white flag while Toronto limped to its seventh consecutive defeat on Tuesday night.
Not long after the 9-2 defeat against the Red Sox was in the books, Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas sat in front of his locker, shaking off any suggestion that he and his teammates were close to joining in the fan's sentiment.
"We're not in panic mode," said Thomas. "Things are going to turn around."
Hours before Toronto (13-19) took the field against Boston, the Blue Jays convened inside their dining room for a closed-door, players'-only meeting to discuss their recent stumble. It was a measure Thomas felt was necessary in the midst of the Jays' free fall down the American League East standings.
But any emotion that the Blue Jays carried over from their meeting to the dugout was quickly erased when the Red Sox (21-10) jumped on Toronto starter Victor Zambrano. Boston sent Zambrano to the showers in the third inning after notching eight runs against the right-hander -- a pounding that proved too damaging to overcome.
"We needed to sit and talk," Thomas said. "We just hadn't done that and we lost six straight games. It's not a good feeling to lose seven in a row. We came out with fire and hunger, but they took that out of us right away."
The season-worst seven-game skid matches the lowest point of Toronto's season a year ago. In 2006, the Blue Jays fell into a seven-game lull from July 29-Aug. 5. It was a disheartening slide that cost Toronto any shot at the AL Wild Card -- let alone the division title.
This year's seven-game slump comes with 131 games remaining on the schedule, but the losing streak is still wreaking havok on the injury-riddled Jays. Toronto currently sits in last place in the AL East, and 8 1/2 games behind the division-leading Red Sox.
A loss on Wednesday, when Boston sends Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound, would mark Toronto's worst losing streak since dropping nine in a row in 2002. Prior to Tuesday's loss, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi warned against passing too much judgement this early in the year.
"It's such a long process that you cant just sit here and say 30 games are going to determine how your season's going to be," Ricciardi said. "It's May. If you start looking at standings in May, whether you're up eight or 10 games or behind eight or 10 games, I don't really see the significance of it. I don't think we should worry about the standings. I think we should just take care of ourselves."
Part of that responsibility falls on the rotation, which Toronto manager John Gibbons insisted will still include Zambrano (0-2). On Tuesday, the 31-year-old pitcher made his second outing since replacing Josh Towers as the fifth starter. For the second outing in a row, Zambrano was unable to last even three innings.
In the first inning, Zambrano gave up a solo home run to Boston's Kevin Youkilis. In the second, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia sent a 1-1 pitch from Zambrano to left field for a three-run blast with two outs. Then, Zambrano was pulled after he issued consecutive, two-out homers to Mike Lowell and Jason Varitek that put Toronto in an early, 8-1, hole.
"We're committed to him," Gibbons said. "Victor, he's in a tough spot. He started out in the bullpen and we're trying to build [his arm strength] up. In the long run, I think it's going to help us. That's not an easy lineup to face anyway."
"We're going to bounce back eventually -- there's no question," he added. "I'll go to war with these guys any day. They're going after it. We wanted to come out and play a good one tonight, but we fell behind so quick. That's tough to do."
After Zambrano exited the game, Toronto's bullpen limited the Red Sox to one run over the remainder of the game. Zambrano's early meltdown, which included eight hits allowed and two walks issued, combined with a stellar performance by Boston's Josh Beckett (7-0), made things too difficult for the Jays' lineup.
During Toronto's seven-game losing streak, the Blue Jays have posted just a .211 batting average with an average of 3.4 runs per game. Against Boston, Toronto received a leadoff solo homer from Alex Rios in the first off Beckett, who turned in seven strong innings. After that, an RBI single from Matt Stairs in the eighth was too little, too late.
"We're in a hole, we're in a hole," Thomas said. "We're eight games back, but in reality, [Boston] can go into a funk just like this -- every team can. So, we just got to keep fighting and try to win a couple of series. Things will turn around."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.