TORONTO -- The Blue Jays’ streak of 24 scoreless innings to begin the season from their starting rotation came to a screeching halt on Monday night.
Right-hander Sean Reid-Foley allowed four runs in the first inning, and one more in the second en route to a 6-5 loss to the Orioles. Faced with an early deficit, Toronto’s offense stormed back late by putting the tying run on third base in the ninth inning, but not before Baltimore starter David Hess tossed 6 1/3 no-hit innings.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Blue Jays’ streak of 24 scoreless innings from the rotation was the fourth longest since the start of the expansion era in 1961. The 1963 Cardinals went 32 scoreless to start the year, the 1976 Brewers had a 31 2/3-innings streak and the Braves had 25 in 1994. Toronto’s previous record was eight, which was set entirely by Jack Morris in 1992.
“You give up a run, you give up a run,” Reid-Foley said, when asked about the streak after the game. “You don’t, you don’t. Obviously it would have been nice to extend it, and it would have been a good outing. But I just got hit around a little bit, and now I’ll just move on.”
Reid-Foley was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo prior to the game to take the spot of left-hander Clayton Richard, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right knee stress reaction. Reid-Foley had the unenviable task of trying to replicate the success of the starters who came before him with dominating performance after dominating performance late last week. It did not go as planned.
The 23-year-old struck out the first batter he faced, and it was all downhill from there. Jonathan Villar hit a two-run homer in the first inning while another run scored on a bases-loaded walk and a fourth came in on a wild pitch. There was more trouble in the second as Reid-Foley allowed two batters to reach base before another run came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Trey Mancini. By the time the third inning rolled around, Reid-Foley had to be removed from the game after he allowed the five runs on four hits with two walks.
“He struggled, there’s nothing more I can say,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He was trying his best. We didn’t make some plays, but he struggled the whole time with command and stuff. There’s not too much more I can say about that.”
Hess overmatched the Blue Jays’ lineup all night. He pitched into the seventh inning without allowing a hit, and Toronto only had two balls in play with exit velocities above 100 mph. Hess tossed just 42 pitches in his last outing and after throwing 6 1/3 innings on 82 pitches vs. Toronto, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde decided his pitcher had had enough. Hess was removed from the game only to see the no-hitter disappear two batters later, when Randal Grichuk hit a two-run shot over the wall in left for his first home run of the year.
Toronto has been no-hit five times before in franchise history, and Canadian James Paxton picked up the last one on May 8, 2018, at Rogers Centre. The lack of hits early in games has been an ongoing concern for the Blue Jays this season, with just one hit in 46 at-bats the first time through the order so far this season. The Blue Jays did bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning, but fell short in the bid for a comeback when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. struck out to end the game.
“I think it’s one of the things, it’s five games in -- I think everybody is just pressing a little bit too much,” Grichuk said. “Maybe trying to do a little bit too much. An 0-for-4 feels like an 0-for-8. An 0-for-12 feels like an 0-for-20. I think we have to take into perspective that it’s a long season. Almost anybody on that team that’s struggling, including myself, can go 3-for-4, 4-for-4, and be the best hitter in the lineup. It’s still early. We’re going to grind out at-bats.”
Pannone to the rescue
One positive for the Blue Jays on Monday night was the performance of left-hander Thomas Pannone, who tossed four scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Toronto entered the series opener with relievers Ken Giles, Joe Biagini and Tim Mayza all unavailable, because of their workload in the previous series vs. Detroit.
Complicating matters even more for Montoyo was that Javy Guerra and Pannone both pitched on Sunday. Despite all of the success from the rotation during the first series of the year, the eight-man bullpen was already running on fumes by the start of the week. With Reid-Foley only going two innings, it seemed like things were about to get much worse, until Pannone came into the game.
Pannone struck out five and allowed just one hit over four innings of work. The strong outing might put him in the mix for Reid-Foley’s next start, assuming Richard’s injured right knee still isn’t good enough to go.
“I knew I had to provide a little bit of length there,” Pannone said. “I just wanted to come in and work off what I’ve been doing. Pound the strike zone, and see how many innings I could get out of it. I felt fine.”
Reinforcements are on the way for the Blue Jays' pitching staff with Clay Buchholz, Ryan Tepera and Ryan Borucki all candidates to join the 25-man roster at some point this month.
Tepera (right elbow inflammation) and Borucki (left elbow soreness) are scheduled for bullpen sessions on Wednesday. Montoyo said Tepera might return by mid-April, while Borucki should be activated closer to the end of the month, barring any setbacks.
The Blue Jays also received a positive update on Buchholz, who joined Toronto late in Spring Training on a one-year deal. The veteran right-hander is scheduled to throw 60 pitches at extended spring training on Wednesday, and after that he's tentatively scheduled for 75 pitches at Triple-A Buffalo on April 7.
"He's ahead of schedule," Montoyo said of Buchholz, who isn't hurt and has been spending the last couple of weeks getting stretched out. "He's doing well. He could pitch against Tampa, [April] the 13th."
Norris still missing
One pitcher who still doesn't seem close to joining the big league club is right-hander Bud Norris, who also signed late in Spring Training, and has yet to round into form. Montoyo revealed on Monday afternoon that Norris has been hitting 90-91 mph on the radar gun recently, and the Blue Jays want him closer to 95.
Montoyo indicated that he's not overly concerned about the lack of velocity quite yet. The Blue Jays are instead pointing to the fact that Norris didn't return to Spring Training until the first week of March. Late in camp, Norris also dealt with a sore right arm, and he only made three appearances during the Grapefruit League season.
Norris has been working out in Florida at extended spring training and is expected to remain there until his velocity improves.
"He threw the other day, he was OK," Montoyo said, with a lukewarm response when asked about Norris.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook.