Blue Jays can't come through for Villanueva

Blue Jays can't come through for Villanueva

Blue Jays can't come through for Villanueva
TORONTO -- The elements of a perfect day for baseball were all in place -- great pitching, numerous baserunners and the sun. But it was that blinding light that robbed Carlos Villanueva, the model citizen of consistency on the Blue Jays' pitching staff, of a win.

The 29-year-old continued his strong run in the starting rotation, but he took the loss as Toronto fell, 2-1, to the Texas Rangers on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

"He was outstanding," said pitching coach Bruce Walton. "He mixed his pitches up well. He had his good slider again, he sunk the ball pretty good today. Also with his four-seam location, just keeping them off-balance -- he can just flat out pitch."

The right-hander tossed 6 1/3 innings of four-hit ball, giving up just two earned runs while striking out three. The loss was not a fair marker of Villanueva's performance, with his only mistake coming on a two-run home run to Nelson Cruz in the fifth inning that drove in Adrian Beltre. Villanueva was pulled for Aaron Loup in the seventh, with lefty David Murphy due up, despite only throwing 86 pitches.

"I felt fine. I didn't feel great warming up, but once I got out there in the first inning, from the first pitch on, I did exactly what I wanted to do," Villanueva said. "Circumstances happen in the game that you really can't control. We had some chances. It's frustrating that we couldn't really pull through."

In an earlier talk with the media, John Farrell mentioned that Villanueva's starts will be monitored on a start-by-start basis, with only a soft limit set at 100 pitches. He was also pulled in his last start against the White Sox after throwing 85 pitches over seven innings.

"While he might not agree with that, when we get through the end of the season and he looks back and says, 'You know what, I didn't drop off with my stuff,' or health-wise, in combination with the work that he does, maybe there was some merit to that," Farrell said.

Villanueva has held opponents to three runs or fewer in all but one of his starts this season. He's holding batters to a .219 average, with a 3.10 ERA.

"Consistency is something that we all strive for," said Villanueva. "Going out there, going six, seven innings every time and giving the guys a chance to win is what we get paid for as starters."

The Dominican native (6-3) made quick work of the Rangers' lineup the first time through the order, and Beltre reached in the fifth on what should have been a routine flyout. Right fielder Anthony Gose lost the ball in the sun with the Rogers Centre roof open, and the ball bounced over the wall for a double.

"I looked up and the sun was right there," Villanueva said. "It's obviously a little frustrating because it's a fly ball. I know he feels bad enough, he doesn't need anybody telling him anything.

"It gets magnified because the very next pitch is a home run, and we lose 2-1. He's out there trying his best, and he's learning as he goes."

Rangers starter Roy Oswalt's day ended in just 4 2/3 innings, tying his shortest start of the season. He struck out five and walked two, allowing just two hits. Ron Washington felt after the first and second innings that the veteran started to labor his way through the next innings, missing the strike zone.

Troubles for the 34-year-old righty began in the third, when he walked Gose. Gose then stole second with Adeiny Hechavarria at the plate. Oswalt balked, advancing Gose to third. Hechavarria then singled to left field to drive in the Jays' lone run while picking up his first Major League RBI.

The Blue Jays' offense wasn't completely silenced, but Toronto went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10, overshadowing the two men that Texas left on base. Gose fought a hard 10-pitch battle against reliever Robbie Ross in the sixth with the bases loaded, but he wasn't able to capitalize on the opportunity.

In the seventh, the Blue Jays were able to generate more chances to score. Rajai Davis stole his 38th base after reaching on a single off Tanner Scheppers. Davis has reached safely in 24 of his last 29 games. Edwin Encarnacion was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out before the Rangers made another pitching change for Michael Kirkman (1-2).

After retiring David Cooper, Kirkman's 97-mph sinker on the first pitch to Yunel Escobar was called a strike. Escobar's flyout to end the inning left the bases loaded and prompted him to argue with home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson when he took the field for the eighth inning. Escobar was ejected from the game by Nelson, marking the club's fifth ejection of the season.

The Blue Jays have dropped seven of their last 10 contests and are now 3-5 against Texas in 2012. This homestand, the Blue Jays' pitching staff has been plagued by the long ball, offering up 15 home runs in the last eight games at Rogers Centre.

Steph Rogers is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.