08/14/08 12:43 AM ET
Downs exits in ninth with ankle sprain
Jays reliever injured while sprinting to back up home plate
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
Downs sprained his right ankle while sprinting to back up home plate during a play in the ninth inning of Toronto's 4-3 win over Detroit -- an injury that instantly creates a hole in the Blue Jays' dominant bullpen.
"That's a big loss," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I can't tell you how much he's done for this club since I've been here. Time after time, night after night, he's just been outstanding. If we lose him for a while, it's really going to hurt us."
With a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning, Gaston turned to the left-handed Downs, even though Toronto's talented setup man had worked in each of the previous two games in Detroit. It marked just the second time this season that Downs was being called upon to appear in three consecutive games.
Downs issued a leadoff walk to Placido Polanco and then watched Magglio Ordonez send an offering down the line in right field for a single. While Polanco made his way around second base and toward third, Downs ran into foul territory and tumbled to the grass in front of the Tigers' dugout.
Downs fell at the feet of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who was in the on-deck circle, motioning for someone to come to the pitcher's aid. Gaston didn't see when Downs slipped, but Toronto's manager believes the wet conditions -- caused by a rain delay earlier in the game -- might have contributed.
"I was watching the ball," Gaston said. "I just noticed that Cabrera was pointing at me to come get him. I didn't see him go down at all. I was watching the runners. I think he must have tried to stop or slip or something. It was wet out there. It could be a costly win for us tonight."
Brandon League took over on the mound for Downs and, adding insult to injury, the injured Toronto lefty had his run of 17 2/3 consecutive shutout innings come to a close. Cabrera grounded out to third base to score Polanco and, following a costly error on a missed catch in center field by Toronto's Alex Rios, Ordonez later scored on a two-run single by Edgar Renteria.
The one earned run charged to Downs represented only the fourth he's allowed since April, giving the lefty a 0.78 ERA over his last 43 appearances. Entering the game, Downs' 1.25 ERA was the third-best mark among relievers in baseball and he leads Toronto's pitching staff with 54 appearances this season.
Gaston said he might've turned to another reliever in the ninth had the Jays scored more than four runs up to that point. Now that Downs is likely out of the picture, Gaston said Toronto could potentially promote lefty John Parrish from Triple-A Syracuse, and he added that lefty Jesse Carlson could possibly help out in the eighth inning.
No matter what the Jays do going forward, Toronto's bullpen -- ranked first in the Majors with a 2.87 ERA, entering Wednesday -- took a major hit in losing Downs, who signed a three-year contract worth $10 million over the offseason.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.