Jays' bullpen gives up late lead in loss
Downs' run of 26 straight shutout innings ends vs. Seattle
SEATTLE -- The last thing the Blue Jays expected was for Scott Downs to surrender a game-changing home run on Tuesday night. Downs has been as close to a sure thing as Toronto has had in this season of uncertainties.
So, when Richie Sexson -- rumored to be on his way out of Seattle any day now due to his persistent woes at the plate -- stepped into the batter's box to face Downs in the eighth inning, watching a pitch rocket out to left field seemed the most improbable of scenarios.
But there it went, a 3-2 fastball sprung from Downs' fingertips sent hurtling into the stands over the wall in left at Safeco Field. It was a tying homer that ended a dominating streak for Downs and paved the way for one more stumble in a 7-6 loss that was tough to take for Toronto.
At one point, the Blue Jays (41-44) held a 6-2 lead and seemed well on their way to a fourth straight win. Missteps in the field and on the mound squandered that prospect, giving Toronto its 10th road loss in the club's past 13 away from home. The ill-fated pitch from Downs loomed large in the wake of the defeat.
"Everybody can have an off day," Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun said. "Fortunately for us, he doesn't have too many. He's been probably the best setup lefty in the game for the last two years. He'll bounce back and be ready to go."
Downs took the mound for Toronto in the eighth inning, with the Jays desperately clinging to a 6-5 advantage over Seattle (32-51). Downs, looking for a clean frame to set the table for closer B.J. Ryan, entered the game with a tidy 1.19 ERA and hadn't allowed a run since April 30.
Since then, Downs had pieced together 26 consecutive shutout innings, representing what had been the longest current run in the Majors. In that span, Downs had limited batters to a .157 average, striking out 21 in the process. On Tuesday, Downs finally flinched.
"I'm sure he'll go on another great run, because he's that good," Zaun said. "Sometimes you get away with mistakes and sometimes you don't."
Zaun called for a fastball in on Sexson's hands, but the pitch found too much of the plate. Sexson drilled it to pull the game into a deadlock, ending Downs' streak. In the ninth inning, Downs issued a leadoff walk to Raul Ibanez, who then advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt.
In order to set up a potential inning-ending double play, Downs then issued an intentional walk to Adrian Beltre, who had already contributed a two-run homer off reliever Jesse Carlson in the seventh. At that point, Toronto manager Cito Gaston turned to right-hander Shawn Camp to face Willie Bloomquist.
Camp hung a breaking ball on his first offering, and watched Bloomquist drill the pitch into left field for a single. That scored Ibanez, setting off an on-field celebration for the Mariners, who -- like the Blue Jays -- have had little to rejoice about this season.
"First-pitch breaking ball was just up," Camp said. "It's a situation I've been in before. It was just a lack of execution. The ballclub put together a nice lead tonight and we just let it slip away. It's just unfortunate that it happened."
The Blue Jays appeared to be in sound shape with three-run showings in each of the fourth and sixth innings. Left fielder Adam Lind led the charge, chipping in an RBI single off Mariners lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith in the fourth and adding a two-run double two innings later.
Seattle's first two runs came courtesy of a fourth-inning throwing error by Blue Jays right-hander Jesse Litsch, who walked away with a no-decision after giving up three runs over 5 2/3 frames. With two outs and a runner on second base, Litsch induced a grounder off the bat of Sexson to the left side of the mound.
Litsch hustled to retrieve the roller but threw wildly over first baseman Lyle Overbay, allowing Beltre to score from second base for Seattle. After that gaffe, Litsch also gave up a run-scoring single to Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, cutting Toronto's lead, 3-2, and creating a pair of unearned runs.
"Any time you lose a ballgame like that it's a tough loss," Gaston said. "We did some things where we beat ourself tonight a couple times. As far as pitches, and as far as Jesse [throwing] the ball away. He was trying, but that just happens."
It was another disheartening loss that led to a quiet Toronto clubhouse.
"When we cough up a lead like that late in the game," Zaun said, "especially with our bullpen, it's tough to take. It's something that doesn't happen too often."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.