Errors sink Jays in finale vs. Indians
Two defensive miscues lead to three unearned runs
TORONTO -- At times this season, the Blue Jays' young pitching has faltered. On other nights, the bats have gone cold. But the Jays -- whose everyday starting lineup boasts two multiple-time Gold Glovers in center fielder Vernon Wells and third baseman Scott Rolen -- have typically been able to count on their defense.
For the second time in three days, though, the Jays' gloves let them down, as a pair of errors led to a 5-4 loss to the Indians on Thursday at Rogers Centre. After a throwing error by first baseman Lyle Overbay turned a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit in the ninth inning in Tuesday's loss, a ball that bounced past third baseman Jose Bautista and a wild pickoff attempt by reliever Shawn Camp led to three unearned runs for the Tribe on Thursday.
"We didn't play good defense," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "We lost here two games to the Cleveland Indians that we pretty much gave away as far as we played our defense. If we had not made those errors, we certainly would've won some games. ... Instead of going into today trying to win the series, we would've been trying to sweep as opposed to losing two out of three."
The defensive lapses, combined with left-hander Marc Rzepczynski's lack of command, put the Jays in a hole the offense couldn't climb out of, despite coming close a couple of times.
The most costly play of the game came in the fifth inning, with the score tied, 1-1, and Indians catcher Chris Gimenez standing on first base, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera chopped an offering from Rzepczynski toward third base. The ball bounced under the glove of Bautista -- who was filling in at third with Rolen enjoying a day off -- and into left field, sending Gimenez to third and putting Cabrera on second.
Cleveland right fielder Shin-Soo Choo followed that up with a triple that cashed both runners, ending Rzepzcynski's day.
The second error of the game came in the sixth, with men on first and second and the Indians looking to add to a 4-3 lead. With Gimenez at the plate, Camp threw to second, attempting to pick off Ben Francisco, but instead sending the ball into the outfield. Francisco advanced to third and scored when Gimenez grounded out to second.
That run loomed large in light of a solo shot to left field by Blue Jays first baseman Kevin Millar in the eighth off Cleveland starter David Huff, which would have tied the game if not for the Indians' add-on run in the fifth. Instead, it narrowed the Indians' lead to 5-4 -- a deficit the Jays could not overcome.
"That's something we really haven't done this year is give away ballgames, as far as defense," Gaston said.
Thursday's game did represent an anomaly in light of the defensive numbers the team has put up in recent years. The Jays (47-49) have not made multiple errors in a game since May 5, 2007, in Anaheim. The club's 33 errors are the fewest in the Majors, and the club's .991 fielding percentage is the highest in the big leagues.
It wasn't just errors that hurt the Jays, though. Rzepczynski pitched himself into a bases-loaded jam with no one out in the fourth with a single, a walk and a hit batter. He managed to escape with little damage, fanning three batters to end the threat, but not before walking in a run to give Cleveland (38-58) a 1-0 lead.
"My control has been the issue so far," Rzepczynski said. "Where I've gotten in trouble is basically getting myself in trouble. Getting out of jams is going to be key, it's just not creating those jams yourself. Let them hit the ball, let them get hits, and jams like that will happen. That's fine. But when you create your own jams, it makes it that much harder to pitch."
Rzepczynski (1-2) issued four walks in the outing, as the rookie lasted 4 1/3 innings -- the shortest start of his four-game Major League career -- allowing four runs (two earned) on three hits.
"The walks are going to kill you in this game, especially at this level," catcher Rod Barajas said. "It's a learning process, and I think he's definitely going to bounce back and understand what he needs to do next time."
The score stood at 4-1 when Rzepczynski left the game, and second baseman Aaron Hill put the Jays within one with a two-run homer in the fifth against Huff (5-4).
While the Jays' four runs paled in comparison to the 10 they scored on Wednesday in the team's lone win of the three-game set with Cleveland, they would have been enough without the defensive lapses.
"You lose when you've got a chance to win, just making plays," Gaston said. "It's tough in this game to hit -- that's a tough chore. But to make plays -- if you're on this level, you've got to make plays.
"It's one of those things that it's just going to happen, but you sure don't want it to be happening."
Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.