Happ, Blue Jays off the mark against White Sox
Lefty can't record a quality start for first time in his last four outings
TORONTO -- In a week where the Blue Jays' starting pitching looked ready to turn a corner, the offense remains visibly stalled. Manager John Gibbons likened the quiet bats to sputtering, and paired with pitching mistakes, this engine just won't turn over.
Starter J.A Happ has a number in the loss column, as the Blue Jays fell, 7-0, to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
"He was really out of sync all night, but in a lot of ways, that can be his style," Gibbons said of his starter.
Happ's start can be met with mixed reactions. Through 5 2/3 innings, he allowed five earned runs with one walk and three strikeouts, failing to record a quality start for the first time in his last four outings. He threw 58 of his 92 pitches for strikes.
"He's not a pinpoint control guy, but you still have to come in the zone enough to work ahead," Gibbons said. "He's been great all year, that was his first blip, so he'll bounce back."
Though the 30-year-old won his last start in Kansas City in similar fashion, giving up four earned runs and three walks, Happ received a healthy dose of run support from the Blue Jays' bats.
Toronto left eight men on base in Wednesday's contest, unable to generate anything on the scoreboard against Jose Quintana. It's the first time the White Sox shut out Toronto at home since June 1, 2007. The left-hander struck out seven, allowing just five hits in 6 2/3 innings.
"A lot of credit to him, he has really been doing his homework. We've been communicating a little more at what he wants to do," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He pretty much executed everything he wanted to."
The Blue Jays, already crawling to generate offense late in April, are finding it difficult to lay the blame in any one direction. Quintana's flawless game plan didn't make it any easier to find answers in a season that can't be called 'early' for much longer.
"I mean, it's time. I've been in this league before and you bury yourself too early, it makes it tough going," Gibbons said. "Tonight, they just kicked our [butt] basically all the way around."
Between Toronto batters chasing high balls from Quintana, and the White Sox batters making Happ pay for every mistake, Gibbons said the Blue Jays were never in the game.
"We were overmatched tonight on both sides."
Most glaringly, no matter how the Toronto lineup is constructed, the bats of Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista are still missing. Reyes was hitting .395 with a .959 OPS before landing on the disabled list on Friday. Bautista's home run tally for the season is stalled at three while he deals with back spasms that he says barely allow him to tie his shoes or put on a shirt.
"Obviously, those guys are a huge part of our lineup and it changes our lineup quite a bit," Happ said. "I wasn't thinking about anything [like that] going out. I was thinking about trying to go out and execute.
"If I do that, we're going to be in the game with any lineup we have. It just wasn't happening tonight."
Facing the White Sox for the first time in his career, Happ (2-1), a Peru, Ill. native, retired the side in the first inning with seven pitches, but failed to repeat for the final out of the second inning.
After putting away the hot-hitting Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, Happ allowed a double to Dayan Viciedo. A walk to Alexei Ramirez was the lefty's undoing, as Tyler Flowers brought everyone in with a three-run homer.
"I felt good and a couple of pitches, the pitch to Flowers was just too much of the plate," Happ said. "I felt like I was making pitches and making several in a row, and then I'd miss and they'd make me pay. It's frustrating in that sense."
Journeyman Ramon Ortiz pitched in relief of Happ for the final out of the sixth inning, making his first appearance with the Blue Jays. The 40-year-old hasn't pitched in the Majors since Sept. 28, 2011. He loaded the bases in the seventh, and tacked on two more runs with sacrifice fly balls.
Former Blue Jay Alex Rios has hit safely in 20 of his last 21 games dating to last season. He led off the sixth inning with a solo shot to center field to a chorus of boos.
New arrival Munenori Kawasaki, went 3-for-3 with two singles. He also fought an 11-pitch battle with Quintana that generated a walk and thorough applause from the Rogers Centre crowd. Rajai Davis followed up the charismatic infielder twice with hits, but Melky Cabrera squandered the threat with inning-ending at-bats.