Blue Jays sputter after fast start to twin bill

Blue Jays sputter after fast start to twin bill

Blue Jays sputter after fast start to twin bill

NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays' offense finally showed some signs of life, but it didn't take long for the lineup to fall back into a deep slumber at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

Toronto's lineup broke out with four early runs against the Yankees, but the bats soon disappeared for the rest of the afternoon in an 8-4 loss to the Yankees that opened a doubleheader. It has become an ongoing trend of late, and it leaves the rest of the team with little margin for error, as losses continue to mount.

The Blue Jays took a 4-0 lead in the second, but they were unable to hang on, as right-hander Neil Wagner surrendered a costly three-run homer to light-hitting catcher Chris Stewart.

"We haven't been scoring a whole lot of runs," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons conceded after the game. "When [the Yankees] swing the bat, they can turn the game around in a hurry. When we win, we generally hit some home runs, and we haven't done that."

The Blue Jays' offense is ranked fifth in the American League, so production hasn't been a problem all season, but it has become an issue of late. Toronto is mired in a lengthy slump during which the team has hit .200 (18-for-90) with runners in scoring position over its past 11 games.

During that span, the Blue Jays have averaged just 3.54 runs per game, and as a result, the club hasn't capitalized on starting pitching that has finally started to perform better. Toronto's starters have allowed three runs or fewer in all but two of its past 10 games, but the club has just three wins to show for it.

Early in the twin-bill opener, though, it appeared Toronto was headed for a different fate. The Blue Jays took advantage of an erratic Ivan Nova to produce four hits and two walks in the second. Maicer Izturis hit an RBI single, and Rajai Davis delivered the big blow with a two-run double to the gap in right-center field.

Nova eventually escaped the jam, then settled into a groove for the rest of his outing. He allowed just the four runs on nine hits and two walks, adding two strikeouts, before turning things over to the Yankees' bullpen with one out in the seventh.

"I thought he bounced back well," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Nova. "I thought his ball started to sink a lot. He got a lot of ground-ball outs. He wasn't doing it so much early in the game, but he got it going and gave us some distance, which was important."

After Nova settled in, the Yankees began to chip away at Toronto's lead. It began in the third, when Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer off Esmil Rogers, and it continued when Gibbons handed things over to Toronto's bullpen.

With one on and one out in the sixth inning, Wagner was called upon to protect a 4-3 lead. He got off to a good start by striking out Mark Reynolds, but the righty followed with a five-pitch walk to Jayson Nix that foreshadowed the trouble to come.

Stewart, the next batter, drilled a homer into the left-field stands. The long ball put New York in front for good and snapped a 173-at-bat homerless streak for Stewart that dated to May 15. It also marked the fourth home run allowed this season by Wagner, whose ERA jumped from 2.83 to 3.38 after he was charged with two runs in two-thirds of an inning.

The Blue Jays' bullpen has continued to struggle since the All-Star break; the unit has posted a 1-7 record over the club's past 12 games. Toronto's relief corps was once the club's greatest strength, but it appears to have hit a wall of late.

"It's a part of the game sometimes," said Rogers, who took a no-decision after departing with a 4-3 lead. "They pitch good [sometimes], and other times, they pitch bad. Today, we had an opportunity to win the game. One bad pitch to Stewart, and it happens -- they get a homer. They happen in baseball. ... They had an opportunity to win the game, and they got it."

With the loss, Toronto dropped to 0-7 at Yankee Stadium this season. The Blue Jays, who have won just one of their 10 games against New York this year, find themselves with a 7-11 record in August. Both clubs faced a quick turnaround for the nightcap, which started at 7:05 p.m. ET and pitted Mark Buehrle against Phil Hughes.

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.