Tired bullpen pushed to limit as Blue Jays fall

Tired bullpen pushed to limit as Blue Jays fall

Tired bullpen pushed to limit as Blue Jays fall
ARLINGTON -- After a grueling couple of days, the Blue Jays' bullpen finally reached its breaking point on Saturday evening in Texas.

The relief corps had been tasked with pitching 7 1/3 innings on Friday night, and the following day another heavy workload ensued. The overtaxed relievers kept things in check for most of Game 2 against the Rangers, but eventually something had to give.

That moment occurred in the bottom of the 13th inning when Jason Frasor surrendered a two-run walk-off homer to Josh Hamilton to send Toronto to an 8-7 loss at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"I like those situations," a somber Frasor said of the pressure-packed 13th. "I feel like the last couple of years I've been pretty good at it. Man, that happened quick. Very disappointing.

"Just looking back, you second-guess the pitch selection. I shook off the catcher and it wasn't a well-executed pitch. But that's what makes it hard to sleep tonight. If you made a good pitch and he popped it out, maybe you get some rest. But it will be hard to sleep."

Prior to Saturday's game, Blue Jays manager John Farrell stated that Frasor, Ryota Igarashi and Carlos Villanueva would all be unavailable to pitch because of a high number of pitches thrown the night before.

Farrell had no choice but to change his mind later on, with the Blue Jays and Rangers locked in an extra-innings affair that saw Toronto quickly running out of pitchers.

The Blue Jays carried a 7-5 lead into the bottom of the 13th, after scoring a pair of runs in the top half of the frame when Farrell had to make his move. The first opportunity went to Igarashi, who threw 41 pitches the night before, but came on in an attempt to record the first save of his big league career.

Igarashi, who was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday, promptly walked the first batter he faced before surrendering an RBI double to Elvis Andrus, which brought Texas back to within one.

Frasor then entered to face Hamilton. After he got ahead in the count 1-2, Hamilton drove a hanging changeup well over the wall in center field. It was the third career walk-off of Hamilton's career and 20th home run of the year, which dealt Frasor his first loss.

"That was huge," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We didn't deserve to lose that ballgame because we put ourselves in position [to win] quite a few times. Josh wasn't the only [one] out there on fumes. Everyone was out there on fumes. And Elvis did a heck of a job late in the game trying to set things up."

Hamilton's blast came with a runner on second and first base open with nobody out. Despite the scenario, the Blue Jays didn't put any thought into intentionally walking the Rangers' most dangerous hitter because it would have meant putting the winning run on base.

"With no outs, if they sac bunt, we're looking at putting another guy on," Farrell said. "You can say that, 'Here's the best player in the game currently, why do you pitch to him?' But we get ahead two strikes, 1-2 count, and we see what took place. We were in the thick of it, right there."

Lost in the late-inning collapse was an admirable performance by the Blue Jays' bullpen just to get the game into the 13th. Toronto used four different relievers to get through 6 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Henderson Alvarez, who was ejected in the sixth inning.

Veteran left-hander Darren Oliver had been in line to pick up his first win, after allowing just two hits and one walk in 2 1/3 innings. But things didn't turn out that way, as each reliever was pushed to the brink before passing the baton to the next guy because of a high pitch count.

"It was such a great game. It was a long day in the bullpen and I felt like we were going to win that one at the end there," said Frasor, who threw 31 pitches on Friday. "Then, you're two hits away and a hanging changeup away from losing the game, and that's what happened."

The Blue Jays fell behind, 2-0, early in the game but bounced back in the fifth, when Colby Rasmus hit a two-run shot for his fourth homer of the season. The score remained tied until the bottom of the sixth, when things began to fall apart for Alvarez.

Nelson Cruz, Yorvit Torrealba and Mitch Moreland hit back-to-back-to-back solo home runs off Alvarez to temporarily put the Rangers ahead by one. It was the first time since Aug. 25, 2004, that a Blue Jays pitcher surrendered three consecutive home runs in an inning. The last person to do it was right-hander Josh Towers, when he served up home runs to Boston's Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Orlando Cabrera.

"Those three pitches might be the worst pitches I threw," said Alvarez, who now owns a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts. "They were up in the zone. I was keeping the ball down, getting ground balls, those three were up in the zone. They're a good hitting club, and they took advantage."

Alvarez then got ahead 1-2 to Ian Kinsler in the next at-bat before throwing an inside fastball. Kinsler had to step back to avoid the pitch and home-plate umpire Marty Foster immediately ejected Alvarez. There was no warning from the umpire prior to the ejection and a livid Farrell ran onto the field to argue, but to no avail.

The second-year righty was forced to depart the game after 5 2/3 innings, having been charged with five runs (four earned) on nine hits and one walk, while striking out one. The three home runs allowed tied a career high previously set on Aug. 26, 2011, against the Rays.

The ejection also caused the Blue Jays to go to their bullpen earlier than expected, and now the club finds itself in some trouble for Sunday afternoon's finale. Farrell said after the game something will have to be done to help ease the burden.

"I'm sure there will some changes made," Farrell said. "We need one, or two, just with how much guys have been pushed here."

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