Long balls do in Litsch as Jays fall
Righty yields three homers; offense quiet in first loss of '09
TORONTO -- Jesse Litsch ran off the mound in the fourth inning on Wednesday night, doing what he could to try to stop the baseball that was skipping up the middle of the field. The ball quickly became the least of the Blue Jays pitcher's worries.
The pitch Litsch had just delivered obliterated the bat of Detroit's Ramon Santiago, and a large chunk of the barrel was twisting and spinning toward the right-hander. Litsch threw up his hands, using his glove as a shield, backpedaling away from the splintered missile.
"It kind of grazed my leg a little bit," Litsch said.
That was the kind of night it was for Litsch, who was victimized throughout Toronto's 5-1 loss to Detroit at Rogers Centre. When he wasn't dodging the Tigers' lumber, Litsch was witnessing just how handy a solid strip of maple or ash can be in the hands of professional hitters.
Litsch matched an unfortunate career high with three home runs allowed -- two from Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrea. On an evening when the Blue Jays' bats were silenced following a brief flirtation with offense in the first inning, that was all the damage needed to hand Toronto its first defeat of 2009.
In the wake of the loss, Litsch wasn't searching for excuses.
"Three pitches. Three home runs," Litsch said with a shrug. "It's self-explanatory."
Litsch could have cited the lack of run support, or he might have got away with pointing out that much of his spring was spent pitching in Minor League or "B" games while Toronto handed the big league innings to other rotation candidates.
Instead, Litsch actually seemed annoyed that his Spring Training schedule was brought up after what was a disappointing season debut.
"I still got my innings in," Litsch said. "I got my work in just as good as I would've at the big league level. You're still getting your pitches ready. I came in here ready today with my arsenal. There's no looking back at Spring Training and saying, 'I wish I would've, I wish I would've.'
"I was ready to go, and they got the best of me tonight."
The night began to unravel early, courtesy of a three-run burst from Detroit's lineup in the first inning.
Litsch allowed consecutive one-out singles to Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez, and opted to open his first meeting with Cabrera with a sinker. The pitch didn't dart down through the strike zone as much as Litsch would have liked, and the Tigers first baseman promptly pulled it deep to left field for a home run that put the Jays down, 3-0.
"He kind of ambushed me," Litsch said.
Litsch (0-1) escaped the inning with two quick outs, and the Blue Jays (2-1) appeared poised to erase the Tigers' work. Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill led off the home half of the first with back-to-back doubles to plate one run, and Toronto went on to load the bases with no outs.
Considering the Jays scored 17 runs over their first two games, coming through often in clutch situations, another outpouring of offense seemed to be at hand. Instead, Toronto designated hitter Adam Lind bounced into a fielder's choice that forced Hill at home, and a flyout off the bat of Scott Rolen evolved into a double play.
When Detroit right fielder Josh Anderson snared the ball out of the air, Alex Rios tagged up at third base for the Jays and sprinted home. Anderson rifled the baseball to the plate and retired Rios easily to end the inning.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston had no issues with Rios' effort.
"The kid made a great throw," Gaston said. "He made a good throw -- what can you say? We want to stay aggressive, because that's part of our game that we're going to have to play this year -- be aggressive and take the extra base."
Following that scoring chance, Detroit starter Zach Miner (1-0) and three members of the Tigers' relief corps combined to quiet Toronto's lineup the rest of the way. While they went to work on the Jays, the Tigers (1-2) kept adding on against Litsch, who allowed five runs on seven hits over six innings.
In the fifth inning, Cabrera strolled into the batter's box with two outs and drilled a 1-1 offering from Litsch to dead center field. The ball caromed off the facing of the second deck -- just below Windows restaurant -- an estimated 440 feet away from home plate.
Cabrera didn't bother to keep an eye on where the ball landed.
"Sometimes, you don't have to watch it," he said.
In the sixth inning, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge sent a 2-2 cutter from Litsch to left field for another solo homer to put the Blue Jays behind, 5-1. That was Inge's third blast in as many games, making him the first Detroit hitter since at least 1954 to open a season with a home run in each of the first three games.
It was just that type of night for Litsch.
"After the first, two bad pitches again and two more home runs," Litsch said. "That's today in a nutshell, I guess you could say."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.