Laffey's recent struggles continue in loss to Yanks

Laffey's recent struggles continue in loss to Yanks

Laffey's recent struggles continue in loss to Yanks
TORONTO -- Aaron Laffey's recent trend of one bad inning continued against the Yankees on Saturday afternoon.

The veteran left-hander got off to a hot start with the Blue Jays, but in each of his past four outings, there always seems to be at least one pitch he'd rather have back.

It happened again at Rogers Centre as Laffey surrendered four runs in the fourth inning while receiving little run support in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees in front of sold out crowd.

"It's another game where you kind of want to beat your head against a wall," Laffey said. "I pitched real well pretty much the entire game and have one inning wreck the whole outing.

"Can't let it be one pitch every time out. You just can't let that happen. You've got to make your misses smaller, and in that inning I left two balls up and over the plate, and that's what big league hitters do with that -- especially this ballclub. One in the gap and one over the fence."

Laffey posted a 2.70 ERA in his first five starts with the Blue Jays, but he hasn't been nearly as effective of late. Laffey is now 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA while walking 10 batters over 22 innings in his past four games.

Most of the damage has been done in one frame, with a lot of the production coming via the long ball. During his last outing against the A's, it was a pair of homers by Josh Reddick and Brandon Inge that proved to be Laffey's undoing. In two of his previous three starts, a three-run and two-run shot were the difference makers.

It's a frustrating trend for Laffey, especially considering the rest of his outings have gone well with the exception of those one or two pitches. When Laffey, who doesn't have a lot of velocity on his fastball, leaves a ball up in the zone, the opposing team often makes him pay for it.

"He has been hurt with a couple of pitches that have found the middle of the plate -- whether it was the three-run homer over in Oakland or the three-run homer today," manager John Farrell said. "That has been the difference, the consistency on the edges where he's got to pitch.

"He used four pitches today for strikes, but as deep as that lineup is, regardless of what the batting averages say, they have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark one through nine."

That was the case against New York on Saturday afternoon. Laffey's outing began on a positive note, as he allowed just a pair of baserunners in the first three innings of the game, but things took a turn for the worse in the fourth. Laffey retired two of the first four batters he faced, but the final out proved to be elusive.

He allowed an RBI single to Jayson Nix and then the big blow came on a three-run shot by third baseman Casey McGehee. It was McGehee's first home run in a Yankees uniform and it came on a 1-1 pitch to give New York an early 4-0 lead.

Laffey then got through the fourth, but he surrendered another run in the sixth on an RBI double by Derek Jeter. Farrell then pulled Laffey from the game after he had been charged with all five runs on seven hits while walking four and striking out two.

"He was doing a good job," said McGehee, who went 2-for-4. "A lot of his pitches were the same speed, but he was sinking them, cutting them. Sometimes it's a little tough to tell exactly what [pitch] it was."

Right-hander Ivan Nova ensured the Blue Jays' offense didn't break out of its prolonged slump at the plate. The lone bright spot came courtesy of Edwin Encarnacion, who is one of the few regulars not currently hampered by some kind of injury. Encarnacion hit an RBI single in the fourth and added another in the eighth to set a new career high with 77.

The 25-year-old Nova was charged with just the two runs on five hits while striking out 10 over 7 1/3 strong innings. It was an impressive turnaround for a hurler that allowed 16 runs and 21 hits over his past 10 1/3 innings, but he didn't experience any of those troubles against the Blue Jays' injury riddled lineup.

The Blue Jays are currently trying to get by with five players that began the season in Triple-A Las Vegas. On Saturday, top prospects Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Adeiny Hechavarria combined to go 0-for-11 with four strikeouts. It has been a steep learning curve of late for some of the club's rising talent.

"I thought Adeiny put a couple of good swings on some balls, drove a ball to center field," Farrell said. "He looks balanced at the plate, he shows good bat speed, not much to show for it today, but I thought he squared up a couple of balls.

"Gose had a hard time handling the breaking ball of Nova, who had a very good one today. And then Sierra, he made some contact but still nothing to show for it to continue to build inside of a given inning."

Toronto dropped to 2-11 over its past 13 games and fell seven games under .500 for the first time this year. The Blue Jays have scored an average of just 2.38 runs per contest over that span, and to make things worse, they've also now lost five consecutive games.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for 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.