Jays' late rally comes up short
Rios, Wells, Stairs go deep in eighth; Litsch takes loss
PHILADELPHIA -- As Phillies starter Adam Eaton went into his delivery, Vernon Wells shuffled a few paces to his right before bursting into a sprint toward third base. Toronto's center fielder has used the delayed steal to his advantage many times, but this didn't turn out to be one of those occasions.
The problem was that third baseman Abraham Nunez had spotted Wells' charge while the fourth-inning pitch was in flight. Nunez, playing toward the hole with left-handed-hitting Matt Stairs at the plate, hustled to cover the bag just in time to receive the throw from catcher Rod Barajas.
Nunez tagged out Wells, who dusted himself off and jogged back to the visitors' dugout at Citizens Bank Park. It was just one of a handful of missed opportunities that sunk Toronto to a 5-3 Interleague loss to the Phillies on Sunday afternoon.
"[Nunez] did a good job of looking at me once the pitch went through the zone," Wells said. "Sometimes, third basemen don't look at the runner, and that's when you're able to do it. You've got to give Nunez credit and Barajas credit for making the throw."
The play proved more costly as the fourth inning continued to unfold. Stairs singled, which would've likely advanced Wells to third, and Aaron Hill followed with a flyout to center that could've potentially turned into a run-scoring sacrifice fly. The rest of Sunday's contest was also filled with scoring chances in which the Jays came up dry.
Toronto (19-24) was able to put its leadoff hitter on base in seven of the nine innings, but the Jays only lit up the scoreboard in the eighth. That's when Alex Rios led things off with his ninth home run of the season -- a solo shot to left-center field off reliever Geoff Geary. Wells and Stairs each chipped in solo blasts of their own off Geary in the three-run frame.
"It was just too late," Toronto manager John Gibbons said about the eighth-inning outburst. "We had guys on base -- we were getting the leadoff guy on base a lot. We just couldn't really do anything after that. We had some chances against Eaton, but he came through."
Just a day removed from pounding out 14 hits and a season-high 13 runs against the Phillies (22-22), the Blue Jays went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. On three occasions, Toronto ran into inning-ending double plays, though not of the typical variety.
In the first inning, Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay was running on a 3-2 pitch to Wells with one out. Wells lined out to Philadelphia first baseman Greg Dobbs, who then stepped on the bag to easily retire Overbay. In the second, Troy Glaus was also bolting on a 3-2 offering -- this time with Hill at the plate. Hill flew out to center and Glaus was doubled off first base to end the inning.
"That's just baseball," Gibbons said with a shrug. "With 3-2, you put the guy in motion, because you figure the guy at the plate is going to put it in play -- to stay out of double plays."
Toronto ran into another crucial double play in the seventh inning, when Royce Clayton bolted from second base, misreading a fly out to right field off the bat of Ryan Roberts. Clayton wasn't able to retreat before Phillies right fielder Shane Victorino relayed the ball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins for the final out in the frame.
"Those are obviously big plays," Wells said. "What was it, three lineout double plays? That's baseball, and unfortunately we happened to do it a few times today."
The squandered chances only made things more difficult against Eaton (4-3), who issued five walks, but still earned the win after giving up no runs on four hits over six-plus frames. Toronto put at least one runner on base in every inning Philadelphia's starter, but the right-hander escaped every threat unscathed.
The same couldn't be said for Jays rookie Jesse Litsch (1-1), who wasn't nearly as sharp as in his big-league debut on Tuesday. The 22-year-old right-hander yielded four runs on seven hits, including a pair of solo homers by Pat Burrell and Aaron Rowand. After four innings, Gibbons opted to pull the plug on Litsch, who lasted 8 2/3 innings in his previous outing.
"I left some balls up -- left a lot of balls up, actually," Litsch said. "It wasn't like last week where I was working down in the zone. With me, when the ball's up, it flattens out. I've got to get the ball down or that's going happen."
Litsch's issues were the least of Gibbons concerns.
"He didn't pitch bad," Gibbons said. "It's just the National League game. You've got to lift him when you're down to try to get something going."
That was something the Jays weren't able to do.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.