Mills roughed up, Jays blanked by Phils
Rookie left-hander gives up eight runs in four-plus innings
TORONTO -- Brad Mills said it was no different than any other home run. History says otherwise. The first-inning blast that the Blue Jays rookie surrendered to Philadelphia's Jayson Werth on Saturday was a rare sight at Rogers Centre.
The pitch in question was a changeup that hung up in the strike zone, and Werth made Mills pay with a jaw-dropping swing that set an unfortunate early tone in the Blue Jays' 10-0 loss to the Phillies. The baseball jumped off Werth's bat and soared high above left field, carrying over four decks before crashing into the first row of the 500-level seats.
It would be enough to rattle any pitcher -- let alone a rookie making his second career start.
"If you have any sort of insides at all, I think it's going to affect you a bit," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "That stuff's just part of growing."
It marked just the 14th time a player had sent a homer to the fifth deck since Toronto's home stadium opened in 1989. The last player to accomplish the feat was Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, who crushed an offering from Baltimore's Rodrigo Lopez on Sept. 16, 2004. Werth -- a member of the Jays for parts of the 2002-03 seasons -- became the 11th different hitter to reach the 500 level.
"He had some height on it," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "He got through the ball. He got it very good."
Unfortunately for the Blue Jays (41-35), Werth was only getting warmed up, too. The Phillies right fielder finished a triple shy of the cycle in a 4-for-4 performance that included a pair of home runs. Werth added a solo shot off Toronto reliever B.J. Ryan in the sixth, pushing Philadelphia (38-34) to a 10-0 lead and sending his club to only its third win in 14 games.
Werth was a one-man wrecking crew, providing enough support on his own to back a complete-game shutout from Phils left-hander J.A. Happ. This season, Werth has homered five times in five games against the Jays, giving him eight blasts in 10 career contests against his former team. That includes a three-homer showing in a game against Toronto on May 16 last season.
Werth has been a nuisance for the Jays and Gaston would love nothing more to get him on a plane and out of Toronto. Gaston will get his wish, but only after the Blue Jays and Phillies wrap up this three-game Interleague set on Sunday.
"I'll be kind of glad to see the last of him -- that's for sure," Gaston said. "He's really hit us well over the last couple of years. We'll see him [Sunday]. We'll see if we can get him out and get him out of town."
On June 18 in Philadelphia, Werth welcomed Mills (0-1) to the big leagues with a second-inning homer in the left-hander's Major League debut. The outfielder's mammoth moonshot on Saturday ignited a four-run first inning for Philadelphia, which also received a two-run homer from Pedro Feliz in the opening frame. Mills struggled to keep the ball down in the strike zone and the visitors took advantage.
When Mills' afternoon finally came to a close, he was charged with eight runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and two walks over four-plus innings. In 7 2/3 innings between his first two starts on the big league stage, the 24-year-old southpaw cycled through 188 pitches and allowed 12 runs on 14 hits, including four home runs, posting a 14.09 ERA in the process.
Following Toronto's latest loss, Mills was optioned back to Triple-A Las Vegas, clearing a spot on the roster for Roy Halladay. The Jays' ace will be activated from the 15-day disabled list Sunday after missing the past two weeks with a mild right groin strain. He'll face the Rays on Monday.
"I told him I appreciated him coming up here and helping us out as much as he could," Gaston said of Mills. "We needed some help. He will be back. He's just learning to get the ball down in the strike zone."
As rough as Mills' starts have been, he feels he's heading back to the Minors with a valuable lesson in hand.
"At least I know what to expect when it happens again, as far as getting to pitch up here," Mills said. "Get over the nerves and all that stuff. I still know that my stuff plays up here -- I just have to execute a little better. That kind of stuff, you can take with you."
Happ (5-0) was handed a wealth of run support to work with, but he didn't need much with the type of outing he fashioned. In the first complete game of his career, the Phillies left-hander scattered five hits, struck out four and created 13 fly-ball outs and 10 outs via grounders. Happ issued no walks and the only player to reach second base against him was Aaron Hill, who doubled in the sixth.
"He threw the ball really well," Gaston said of Happ. "He wasn't really overpowering. He just hit his mark -- good control. He didn't walk anyone. I know that made [Phillies manager] Charlie [Manuel] happy over there. Any time you don't walk people, it's a good day for managers, anyway. That kid pitched great."
Happ pitched well enough that Werth's first-inning blast would have held up on its own.
It was a titanic shot that created a collective gasp from the crowd inside Rogers Centre. For Mills, it merely served as a learning experience.
"It's no different than any other home run -- he got it," Mills said. "That was almost just a product of the pitch being up. It just serves to almost bring you back to reality a little bit that, 'Hey, if you make mistakes like that, they're going to be hit.'"
Just not usually that far.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.