Laffey, bullpen unable to keep ball in the park

Laffey, bullpen unable to keep ball in the park

Laffey, bullpen unable to keep ball in the park
TORONTO -- Aaron Laffey looked better than he has all month but still couldn't escape what has become his biggest nemesis this season -- the home run.

Toronto's left-hander once again struggled to keep the ball in the park and the quick-strike offense proved to be his undoing for a fifth consecutive start.

Laffey surrendered just three hits but all of them left the yard as the Blue Jays were sent to their third consecutive defeat with a 7-2 loss to the White Sox on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

"For me personally, I get done and I'm sitting there and it feels like I just gave up 10 runs," Laffey said. "Regardless of how many runs I gave up, how many hits, at the end of those innings we were losing the game, we were down a run because I gave up those back-to-back homers.

"It's disappointing to throw so well but in the end, three big pitches hurt me and put us down."

Home runs have continued to be a nagging problem for Laffey during the past month. He has surrendered at least one in each of his last five starts and a total of eight over that same span. Not surprisingly, that has led to a 1-3 record with a 7.39 ERA during the stretch.

The problems were present again on Thursday night as Laffey impressed on the mound but a few mislocated pitches ultimately led to another loss. It's a frustrating trend for Laffey and comes on the heels of games in which he surrendered a crushing three-run homer to the Yankees and two by Oakland earlier this month.

"I only gave up three hits, they were big hits but at least there was no one on base," Laffey said. "So, I eliminated that factor of it, didn't give up any multi-run homers. I felt good, after the first inning I got into a pretty good groove and I don't think I threw out of the stretch after the first inning, so that's a pretty good sign as well."

Laffey's trouble began in the third inning when he served up a 3-1 fastball that outfielder Dewayne Wise sent over the wall in left for his second home run of the series and fifth of the year. The solo shot brought Chicago to within one but was just the beginning of Laffey's problems with the long ball.

In the fifth, Laffey surrendered back-to-back solo homers to left fielder Dayan Viciedo and catcher Tyler Flowers as the White Sox jumped in front, 3-2. It was the fourth time the Blue Jays have surrendered consecutive homers this year and the eighth time Chicago has accomplished the feat.

Laffey then got through the rest of the inning unscathed before eventually being pulled after the sixth. He surrendered the three runs while striking out five and walking just one on 91 pitches -- 51 of which were strikes.

"He stayed out of the middle of the plate with the exception of three pitches," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "For the most part, he worked ahead in the count and stayed out of the middle of the plate.

"Used his changeup a few more times here tonight -- as I mentioned two that were mislocated -- but in the overall mix he used his changeup a little bit more at his discretion than he had over the last three or four starts.

Toronto's difficulty of keeping the ball in the park continued even after Laffey departed the game. Former Blue Jay Alex Rios hit a three-run shot off left-hander Darren Oliver in the eighth and Alexei Ramirez followed two batters later with a solo shot off right-hander Brandon Lyon.

The Blue Jays' lone bright spot on offense also came via the long ball. Rookie outfielder Moises Sierra hit a sky-high fly ball to left in the second inning which just cleared the wall for his second home run.

That was all Toronto could generate off left-hander Francisco Liriano, who allowed just the two runs on three hits while striking out six. Toronto has now managed to score three runs or more just three times since July 29. As a result, the Blue Jays have won only four of their past 18 games.

"Got the first one out of the way," said Liriano, who won his first game with Chicago since being acquired from the Twins prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. "Like I said before, I want to go out there every five days and give us a chance to win a ballgame and try to do my job and have fun with the guys."

It remains to be seen what Laffey's latest loss will mean for his future in the Blue Jays starting rotation. Right-hander Brandon Morrow is expected to make his final rehab start on Monday and would then be in line for a return to the big league club.

That will leave someone in the current starting five on the outside looking in. Laffey will at least be part of that conversation and very likely could become the odd-man out but that's not something he's prepared to think about.

"I just worry about myself and in the end, go back and take the positives from this game," Laffey said. "Obviously, the three mistakes that I made, there's nothing you can really do about those, you can't take them back. So, just move on."

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.