Hutchison's poor command digs hole too deep
Melky continues torrid stretch, but Blue Jays drop rubber match
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are now officially one week into the regular season, and their offense is still searching for an identity.
Yet to score more than four runs in a game, Toronto's lineup has gotten off to a slow start. The heart of the order has been producing with varying degrees of success, but for a number of spots in the order, the production has been relatively non-existent.
The Blue Jays attempted to make a late comeback during Sunday afternoon's 6-4 loss to the Yankees, but timely hits proved elusive and Drew Hutchison's rough start stood out.
"To have a big year, you've got to start winning some games like this," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "It's not easy; you can't fall behind and spot them five runs, but there comes a time where you've got to start winning some of these games, especially at home. You've got to find that magic. Hopefully we find that soon."
Toronto finished Sunday's game ranked second in the Major Leagues with eight home runs, but there has been very little in the way of offensive production outside the long ball. The club is hitting just .196 (9-for-46) with runners in scoring position, and it ranks 26th in the Majors with a .209 average and 25th with a .277 on-base percentage.
Melky Cabrera has done his part with three home runs and a .323 average (10-for-31), Jose Bautista has a .636 slugging percentage and Maicer Izturis has been a surprise contributor with four multihit games, but most of the regulars have been ice cold. Center fielder Colby Rasmus has just two hits in 23 at-bats, second baseman Ryan Goins has one and third baseman Brett Lawrie has just three.
Part of that has to do with the level of competition the Blue Jays have recently faced. They opened their season with a four-game series against a dominant Rays pitching staff, while a three-game set against the Yankees included the likes of Masahiro Tanaka, a rejuvenated Michael Pineda and No. 1 starter CC Sabathia.
There's also the fact that Toronto's offensive woes have come in a very small sample size, but it's still not the type of start the Blue Jays were expecting from what's supposed to be a strength of the club.
"I feel good because we've got a few guys in our lineup that are cold right now, we've won a few games, gotten some pretty good pitching, so I'm optimistic [for more wins] once they get going," Gibbons said. "It shouldn't be that far off. Too many of them have proven themselves in the past."
The Blue Jays' offense faced a daunting task on Sunday afternoon when the club fell behind early. Hutchison struggled with his command in the first inning, issuing a pair of walks and hitting a batter. All three of those baserunners came around to score, and Toronto immediately faced an uphill battle.
Cabrera gave the Blue Jays some life in the bottom half of the first when he hit a solo homer to left field. It was the third leadoff home run of Cabrera's career and marked his third consecutive game with a long ball. His three home runs on the season already match his total from last season, and he looks like a new player after undergoing surgery last year to remove a tumor from his back.
Hutchison got into more trouble in the fourth inning, though, and that's when the Yankees gave themselves some breathing room. Brian Roberts walked to lead off the inning, and Yangervis Solarte added an RBI single before Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer to right field.
Gardner's homer was the first allowed by a Blue Jays starting pitcher this season. It was just the second homer surrendered by the club as a whole in 61 innings so far this year.
"We were able to put some pressure on him early and get some runs early in the game," Gardner said. "Especially with CC on the mound, it's important to give the big guy a lead and let him work ahead. We just put together some good at-bats and scored some runs."
Right-hander Todd Redmond came in and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings to give the Blue Jays a chance at a comeback, and a rally finally came with two outs in the sixth inning. Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion each singled before Dioner Navarro hit an RBI double down the left-field line. Erik Kratz immediately followed with a two-run single, and it appeared as though the Blue Jays were gaining some momentum.
That ended up being the extent of the offense, though, despite the fact the Blue Jays put runners in scoring position during each of the final three innings. After the game, Hutchison took full responsibility for the loss and the fact that he allowed six runs on six hits and three walks over just 3 1/3 innings.
"It was just execution and not performing," Hutchison said. "When we score four runs, we should win. I didn't even give us innings. Redmond did a great job, coming in and keeping us in there, giving us a chance to win the game and really cleaning up my mess."