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Sanchez struggles with control in loss to A's

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons talked at length on Thursday afternoon about his hope that a recent strong outing by J.A. Happ would create some momentum for his starting rotation. It didn't happen.

Toronto's starting woes resurfaced yet again, as right-hander Aaron Sanchez was chased from a 10-5 loss to the A's in the fifth inning. Sanchez displayed erratic command throughout his outing, as he allowed four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out eight over four-plus innings of work en route to his fourth loss of the year.

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TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons talked at length on Thursday afternoon about his hope that a recent strong outing by J.A. Happ would create some momentum for his starting rotation. It didn't happen.

Toronto's starting woes resurfaced yet again, as right-hander Aaron Sanchez was chased from a 10-5 loss to the A's in the fifth inning. Sanchez displayed erratic command throughout his outing, as he allowed four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out eight over four-plus innings of work en route to his fourth loss of the year.

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Sanchez did not record an out in the fifth inning for the second time in his last three starts, and he needed 97 pitches to record just 12 outs. He denied after the game that mechanics were an issue, but he appeared to have some difficulty repeating a consistent release point.

"J.A. gives us seven innings, a 10-K start last night," a noticeably frustrated Sanchez said. "You try to follow up that. When you're ball, strike, throw 100 pitches in four innings, that's not cutting it."

The 25-year-old is far from being the only culprit of Toronto's rotation issues. Lefty Jaime Garcia hasn't tossed six innings since his first start of the season, and two of his last three outings he could not get out of the fourth. Veteran Marco Estrada has been inconsistent from one outing to the next, and overall the Blue Jays rotation currently has a 5.58 ERA, which is ranked 29th in the Major Leagues.

Toronto starters have one win this month, and they have pitched into the seventh inning only five times all year. The lack of innings has made things difficult for an overworked bullpen, and that was the case again vs. Oakland, as Gibbons used six relievers to get through the final five innings. For a team that has made at least one roster move on all but three days this month, more changes should be expected this weekend.

The biggest problem for Sanchez, who missed most of last season with blister issues, continues to be command. He has now walked 29 batters in 50 1/3 innings, which is tied for third most in the Majors.

"Just get out there and have a feel," Sanchez said when asked what he needed to do to cut down on the walks. "... I think the more time I'm out there, the more reps I get.

"I missed a year. That's a long time. I hate to use excuses, but I'm still trying to get my feet underneath me. In Spring Training, you can do it as much as you want, but until you get here, the adrenaline is where it's at, fans in the stadium, it's just one of those things. I'll find it, I'm not worried."

Gibbons did not appear to be in the mood to discuss much of anything after his team's latest loss. When asked specifically about Sanchez, he said: "Just a tough night, that's all I got." Gibbons was quick to cut off a follow-up question by stating: "Don't bother."

Toronto's record dropped to 13-5 when scoring first, as the club could not take advantage of a short night by A's starter Andrew Triggs, who was removed in the third inning because of right forearm nerve discomfort. The Blue Jays scored one in the second and three more in the fifth, which at the time cut Oakland's lead to 7-4, but that was as close as they would get.

Kevin Pillar went 2-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and picked up his Major League-leading 18th double of the year. Justin Smoak also chipped in with an RBI double, while Yangervis Solarte had an RBI single as the Blue Jays' record dropped to .500 (22-22). Toronto has now lost nine of its last 13 games overall, as well as nine of its last 12 home games.

Video: OAK@TOR: Smoak plates Urena with an RBI double

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Donaldson's last chance: Despite the early lopsided score, the Blue Jays loaded the bases and brought Josh Donaldson to the plate representing the tying run with two outs in the eighth. Toronto was one swing away from getting back into the game, but instead, Donaldson hit a grounder to shortstop to end the frame. Toronto's star third baseman has two home runs since returning from the disabled list on May 3, and both of them came in his first two games back. His average on the season has dropped to .233 with a .763 OPS.

Video: OAK@DET: Trivino strands the bases loaded in the 8th

Say it ain't Oh: Gibbons removed Sanchez with nobody out and one runner on base in the top of the fifth in favor of veteran reliever Seunghwan Oh, who entered play with a sparkling 1.45 ERA, but he did not have anything working on this night. Oh allowed three runs on four hits, including three straight to start his appearance, and a walk over two-thirds of an inning before he was removed. His ERA rose to 2.79.

SOUND SMART
The Blue Jays lost a game when scoring at least five runs for the first time this season. Toronto is now 18-1 when scoring five or more runs. The D-backs remain the only undefeated team with at least five runs at 13-0.

UP NEXT
Estrada will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the A's on Friday night at Rogers Centre, with first pitch scheduled for 7:07 p.m. ET. Estrada continues to be plagued by the long ball this season, having surrendered at least one home run in all but two of his eight starts. Oakland will counter with former Toronto left-hander Brett Anderson.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez