Humber finds trouble early against Blue Jays

Humber finds trouble early against Blue Jays

Humber finds trouble early against Blue Jays
CHICAGO -- If Major League Baseball realignment ever placed Toronto in the American League Central via some strange geographic quirk, then the White Sox would find themselves in a great deal of trouble.

Playing the Blue Jays seven or eight times per year already is enough trouble for the South Siders, let alone tacking on another 10 or 11 games.

The Blue Jays' 9-5 victory Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field marked the first 2012 contest between the two ballclubs. It also raised Toronto's record to 27-11 against the White Sox (31-24) over the past six years.

Finding one or two reasons why the White Sox don't match up with the Blue Jays (29-26) becomes too hard to analyze with the change in players from year to year. Corey Patterson had five hits in a game to beat the White Sox last year, including a walk-off homer in the 14th inning, and he's long gone from Canada.

On Tuesday night, though, the reasons for the Blue Jays' success were two-fold: starting pitcher Ricky Romero and the top of their order.

Romero (7-1) improved to 3-0 lifetime over four starts against the White Sox. He allowed three earned runs (five total) over seven innings, but at one point from the second through the sixth, he retired 15 of 16 White Sox hitters.

A.J. Pierzynski's two-run homer in the seventh, giving him 10 for the year and a Major League-leading 37 RBIs among catchers, and Adam Dunn's towering solo clout leading off the eighth were the only real blemishes against Romero.

"We don't see him a lot, but he's obviously one of the best lefties that I've faced in a long time. He shut us down pretty good," said Dunn, who hit his fifth homer against a lefty this season. "We talked on the bench how he's got three really good pitches. If he throws strikes like he did tonight, he's pretty good."

"Five runs is no indication of how he pitched," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell of Romero. "He pitched with a lot of conviction. I thought he was outstanding."

Those homers from Dunn and Pierzynski weren't enough to offset a rough night from White Sox starter Philip Humber (2-3). Humber opened with a 37-pitch first inning, that albeit only resulted in one run, but by the time he departed after the fifth, Humber had allowed five runs on seven hits.

Four of those scored in the fifth when Colby Rasmus and David Cooper each knocked out two-run homers on 1-2 pitches. Rasmus also produced three singles and a double for the first five-hit game of his career and Toronto's first five-hit game since Patterson.

Brett Lawrie and Rasmus combined for eight hits and seven runs scored as the top two hitters in the Blue Jays lineup. Humber had put together three quality starts in his last four trips to the mound, but he fell to 1-3 with a 7.38 ERA over eight starts since throwing a perfect game on April 21 at Seattle and is 0-6 with a 5.72 ERA over his last 13 starts at U.S. Cellular.

That overall inconsistency has become a bit maddening for the right-hander.

"I'd love to go out there and be good. I know I'm capable of it," Humber said. "If you allow your struggles to make you stronger, they will. And I'm going to be really strong after all these struggles. I've just got to keep fighting because it's a long season.

"Of course I want to be out there being consistent and helping the guys out. Right now, I'm not really pulling my share of the rope. Hopefully, here pretty soon I'm going to be right back where I need to be."

Gavin Floyd seemingly has surpassed Humber's struggles with a 1-2 record and an 11.90 ERA over his last three starts. But White Sox manager Robin Ventura doesn't plan to make any rotation changes with either hurler.

"They're going to work through it," Ventura said. "[Humber] just has to get better. He has to get better at jumping ahead and better control. When he's got the count in his favor, just spot [the ball] better. They have the stuff. It's just being able to get through it."

"It's just an inconsistent feel," said Humber in describing his struggles. "I'll have it one inning and then not have it. Or one game and then not the next game. I felt like I was close where I need to be tonight. You just got to keep fighting. It'll come. Stay positive and keep working."

Cleveland's 4-2 victory in Detroit dropped the South Siders' division lead to 1 1/2 games. This series-opening setback took place without captain and the Majors' leading hitter Paul Konerko, who had a Tuesday procedure to flush a loose fragment in his left wrist to a less painful spot. It was the same sort of procedure he had at this time last year, causing him to miss two games.

Even great defensive plays from shortstop Alexei Ramirez, second baseman Gordon Beckham and first baseman Brent Lillibridge couldn't rescue the White Sox. With Toronto in town for two more, it could get worse before it gets better.

Recent 10-1 and 14-2 runs of success for Ventura's crew don't seem to hold much water with the Blue Jays.

"To get on the right side of the scoreboard in our case early in the game and keep some of those guys in their 'pen out of the game," said Farrell of the White Sox, "that's a big step for us to take an early lead and hold onto it."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.