Rios wins it for Jays to sweep Chicago
Richmond gets no-decision after another solid performance
TORONTO -- Scott Richmond delivered a standout performance against the White Sox, leading the Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory on Monday at Rogers Centre. It was a positive sign for Richmond, who bounced back after the worst start of his young career in a loss to the Yankees on Wednesday.
In that game, Richmond did not show the type of command that helped him win the American League Rookie of the Month award in April. He left too many fastballs over the plate for New York's lineup to feast on, and was taken out of the game with two outs in the second inning, after giving up five runs in the frame.
After the game, Richmond said his poor outing against New York was a "blip on the radar" -- the kind that is inevitable in a 162-game season -- and that the difficultly he had locating his fastball would not carry over to his next start.
He made a strong statement in support of that on Monday at Rogers Centre. Richmond was not credited with the win, but was instrumental in sealing Toronto's victory, logging seven innings of shutout baseball for the league-leading Blue Jays. He allowed five hits and one walk, striking out seven. Behind Richmond's performance and some late-inning heroics by the offense, the Jays improved to 27-14 and completed a four-game sweep of the White Sox (15-22).
"He did a heck of a job," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said of Richmond's outing. "He really pitched well today. It might be one of his better starts. He bounced back."
It was the second time Richmond has had to bounce back from a rough patch. Two starts ago, in Oakland, he gave up five runs in the second inning, but buckled down and shut down the A's from then on, pitching eight innings.
"Two five spots in [the] second inning [of two consecutive starts] -- mentally," Richmond said, "it can take a little toll on you. I just wanted to make sure I prepared myself. I didn't try [to] change too much -- go with my same game plan, stick to my strengths, and battle through it."
Richmond kept the White Sox off the board for seven innings on Monday, allowing his offense to take a 2-0 lead. He gave up only one extra-base hit to Chicago -- a triple off the bat of center fielder Scott Podsednik with two outs in the third inning. Podsednik did not get a chance to score, as Richmond got White Sox left fielder Jayson Nix to swing at a 1-2 curveball.
Richmond stranded runners at third on two other occasions -- one in the sixth inning and another in the seventh.
In the sixth, Nix got on base with a single. He then stole both second and third with designated hitter Jim Thome at the plate and the Jays' defense shifted to the right to accommodate the left-handed pull hitter. With two outs, Thome became another victim of Richmond's curveball, striking out to end the inning, wasting Nix's sprint around the bases.
In the top of the next inning, Richmond had to deal with runners on the corners after a fielder's choice and a single put A.J. Pierzynski on third and Chris Getz at first. With two outs, Josh Fields hit a grounder to his Blue Jays counterpart at third, Scott Rolen, who threw to second to get Getz on the forceout.
The Jays opened the scoring in the second inning when Kevin Millar hit a home run to left-center field on a 3-1 offering from Chicago starter Clayton Richard. Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro added to Toronto's lead in the next frame. Podsednik dropped a fly ball off Scutaro's bat in center, allowing Scutaro to sprint all the way to third base. Aaron Hill then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to put the Jays ahead, 2-0.
After Richmond made his exit, the Jays' two-run advantage appeared as though it would be enough.
Just as Richmond did, though, the Jays had to recover from their own blip in the radar in Monday's game. In the eighth inning, Chicago tied the score on a two-run home run from Thome on a 1-0 pitch from left-handed reliever Jesse Carlson. Thome's two-run blast moved the game into a deadlock, giving Richmond a no-decision.
Toronto bounced right back in the bottom of the eighth, when left fielder Jose Bautista drew a leadoff walk from right-hander Octavio Dotel.
"I actually wanted to swing the bat," Bautista said of his walk. "I was looking for some pitches to hit. I actually got two of them, and ended up fouling them off. It just ended up where he couldn't finish me off, so I'll take my walk, especially leading off the inning."
Bautista moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Scutaro and then advanced to third with a steal. Alex Rios then came through with a triple to center field -- where Podsednik came up just shy of catching the ball with a dive attempt -- that put the Jays ahead for good, 3-2.
That slim lead was ample enough for closer Scott Downs, who held the Sox in check in the ninth for his fifth save of the year.
"We had a team win again today," Gaston said. "Bautista had a big walk, Scutaro makes a nice bunt. Rios battles until he gets a hit."
The win allows the Jays to head down to Boston on a positive note for a three-game series with the Red Sox.
"This club's a good ballclub," Millar said. "It's a full team effort and we believe in each other. You look around this clubhouse and everybody contributes. That's the big thing."
The Jays will take on the Red Sox without their ace, Roy Halladay, who pitched on Sunday. It will be up to Toronto's young rotation to hold off a club that made it to the AL Championship Series last season. The rookies will need to build on their previous starts, as Richmond is trying to do.
"We're all young," the 29-year-old Richmond said. "I'm not exactly young myself, but young in this game. It's going to be a progression. It's going to be a battle and I'm just trying to have quality starts every time -- try and consistently keep my team in the game.
"Just make the adjustments, stay down in the zone and focus and stay with your game plan. It's working fine, I feel fine, everything is good. I just need to make sure and stay with it and not go outside of it when things start going awry."
Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.