Yankees topple Jays 6-4 at Rogers Centre

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Following Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was asked about his starter, Drew Hutchison.

Making only his second start since June 15, 2012 (after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of that year), Hutchison (1-1) picked up the loss against the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre after giving up six runs on six hits and three walks in 31/3 innings. The loss dropped the Jays to 3-4.

“He’s the least of our worries,” Gibbons said of his right-hander.

“So what are your worries?” the manager was asked.

After a slight pause, Gibbons laughed and said: “Where I’m going to eat this evening.”

But after a couple of seconds, Gibbons’ demeanor changed. It was as if last year’s nightmare of a season — a 74-88 campaign which saw the Jays lose far too many close games and fail to come back too many times, and fail to hold on to leads — suddenly flashed through his mind.

“I will say this,” Gibbons continued. “To have a big year, you gotta start winning some games like this. You can’t fall behind, spot them five runs. There comes a time when you’ve got to start winning some of these games. Especially at home. You got to find that magic. Hopefully we find that.”

No doubt Gibbons, and plenty of Jays fans, where frustrated that a Toronto rally in the ninth inning, which showed so much promise, fell short. Trailing by two runs, third baseman Brett Lawrie smacked a one-out single up the middle off Yankees closer David Robertson. Adam Lind, pinch hitting for Moises Sierra, then walked, putting the tying run at first. But then Colby Rasmus, pinch hitting for shortstop Jonathan Diaz, flew out to third and Melky Cabrera — who hit his third home run of the season leading off the first — lined out to right. A scenario far too reminiscent of 2013. Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia (1-1) picked up the victory as New York improved to 3-3.

A 3-4 record to begin the season against AL East powerhouses Tampa Bay and New York is nothing to panic about, but the Jays understand that if they fall behind the top teams in their division early this year, the season will be over pretty quick. The Jays are not favoured to win the East or to even grab a wild-card spot this season. So it’s crucial for their starting pitching to keep them in games and for their big hitters to come through. Cabrera (.323 3 HRs), Jose Bautista (.227 3HRs) and Adam Lind (.308 1 HR) have come through so far, but too many are ice cold — Edwin Encarnacion (.179), Colby Rasmus (.087) and Lawrie (.120).

Hutchison also failed to answer bell on Sunday. To have success, Hutchison has to command the strike zone, and though he won in Tampa last week, his command hasn’t really been there this season, though he insisted that wasn’t his problem against the Yanks.

“I had my command, everything was good,” said the Lakeland, Fla., native. “To me, (it was) the free passes. Walks are bad, but lead-off walks and two-out walks are just unacceptable. Things you can’t do and be successful.

“I had good rhythm in the second and third innings, I just (didn’t) execute pitches,” he added. “It was that simple. We had a chance to win a series against an East opponent and I didn’t perform and it’s that simple.”

The Yankees drew first blood in the first inning when Hutchison walked leadoff hitter Brett Gardner on a 3-2 pitch. Gardner was brought home via a grounder by Jacoby Ellsbury. Later in the inning, former Jay Kelly Johnson hit a two-RBI double to centre, over Cabrera’s head, scoring Brian McCann and Alfonso Soriano, who got on base after Hutchison plunked him. Cabrera answered that in the bottom half of the inning with a lead-off home run to left-centre, his third career homer to lead off a game.

The Yanks scored again in the fourth when Hutchison walked Brian Roberts — the third time he allowed the lead-off batter to get on base. Roberts was then brought home on a ground-rule double to centre by Yangervis Solarte. Gardner then lined a homer to right to bring in Solarte, 6-1 Yanks. Todd Redmond replaced Hutchison after a single by Jeter.

The Jays rallied with two outs in the sixth. Bautista hit a single to right, followed by a Encarnacion single to right, followed by Dioner Navarro double to left, which scored Bautista. Erik Kratz then hit a single to centre, which scored Encarnacion and Navarro, making the score 6-4. Kratz was stranded on second when Lawrie popped out to centre.

Redmond did well in relief, holding the Yankees off the board in 32/3 innings.

Encarnacion smacked a two-out triple to centre off reliever Shawn Kelley in the eighth, but was stranded when Navarro grounded out to first.


What a difference a year makes.

Last season, Blue Jays fans weren’t exactly throwing garlands at outfielder Melky Cabrera, who suffered through one of the worst seasons of his career before being shut down in on Aug.2. In 88 games in the 2013 season, a former all-star had just three home runs and 30 RBI. However, it was later discovered that he had a benign tumour on his spine, which limited his movement and speed. Surgery was successful and now Cabrera is bouncing back in a big way. After seven games this season, the second-year Jay, who signed a two-year, $16-million deal with Toronto, is hitting .323 with three home runs.

And when he came up to bat in the ninth inning with runners at first and second and the Jays trailing 6-4, the fans at the Rogers Centre began chanting “Melky! Melky!”

Times certainly have changed.