Blue Jays' bullpen falters in loss to O's

Blue Jays' bullpen falters in loss to O's

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' bullpen has been generating a lot of positive news in recent weeks. But closing out tight ballgames has been an issue for most of the season, and that was the case again on Saturday afternoon.

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Toronto was locked in a 2-2 tie with the Orioles until the bullpen had issues keeping the game in check. Lefty Aaron Loup was charged with three runs in the ninth inning, after allowing two hits and hitting a batter, en route to a 5-3 loss at Rogers Centre.

Loup allowed a leadoff single and then retired two batters before the turning point came when he hit Ryan Flaherty. Caleb Joseph followed with the go-ahead single and Manny Machado added a two-run double, as the Blue Jays dropped to 7-30 this year when scoring fewer than five runs.

Joseph's clutch RBI single

"It put the guy in scoring position and then the base hit right there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said after the game.

Toronto's bullpen entered play on Saturday with a 2.19 ERA in June, which ranked third in the American League. The Blue Jays' relievers also led the AL in opponents' batting average (.160), walks and hits per inning pitched (0.79) and strikeout to walk ratio (4.36) during that span.

Despite the impressive numbers, there have still been a few red flags along the way. Closer Brett Cecil has struggled during his last two outings, allowing four runs on four hits over 1 2/3 innings, while the rest of the bullpen hasn't exactly had a lot of high-leverage situations.

That's one of the reasons why upgrading the bullpen will remain a priority, as the club moves closer to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. In this particular case, though, the issues overshadowed what was otherwise an impressive day on the mound for Toronto.

Veteran lefty Mark Buehrle came through with another strong outing by allowing just two runs over seven innings. He's allowed five earned runs over his last 37 innings and continues to make his slow start to the season a distant memory, with an ERA that now sits below 4.00 for the first time since April 15. Even though there has been a strong turnaround, Buehrle insists he hasn't changed anything along the way.

Buehrle's solid outing

"Today was a good example of getting away with a lot of stuff," said Buehrle, who is 7-4 with a 3.90 ERA. "I wasn't as sharp as I've been my last four or five outings. Just when I missed location, they'd either foul it off or didn't put the ball in play.

"Today was a lot of luck. Today could have been one of those games where I didn't last very long and gave up a lot of runs. I'm feeling good. I haven't changed up anything, I haven't changed anything in 15 years. I'm going out there and attacking guys, just the way I do."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.