It is only 10 games into the season, but new manager John Farrell is beginning to learn which players he can trust and which he can't as some of the glow of a bright start has faded.
After a 4-1 start, the Blue Jays are 5-5 after their stunning loss to the Mariners on Monday. Toronto took a 7-0 lead against the 2010 AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez but blew it, as the Mariners scored five in the eighth -- with three of the runs walked in -- and two in the ninth to end a seven-game losing streak with an 8-7 win.
On a testing trip that has two games left in Seattle and four to play in Boston, the Blue Jays have lost three in a row after winning the first one in Anaheim on Friday night. All three losses have been close, including a 14-inning marathon Saturday. But in those games, they have had been picked off first more than once and escaped a couple of others by pure luck. A dropped flyball proved costly Sunday, and they stranded 18 runners in the 14-inning loss.
It's nice to throw out all the cliches about being competitive and hanging in there and not quitting, but the Jays also haven't been smart about it. Moral victories get old quickly and always show up as losses in the cold, hard print of the standings.
The problems Monday started with right-hander Jesse Litsch, who needed 111 pitches to get through five scoreless but stressful innings. That meant the bullpen came into play early.
After the second reliever Carlos Villanueva gave up a seventh-inning homer to Milton Bradley, things still looked good at 7-1.
But left-hander David Purcey has not proven to be trustworthy. He gave up two hits and a walk while retiring one batter. Octavio Dotel showed experience is overrated by walking in two runs. Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski, who is still learning, walked in another run and allowed a two-run single before dependable Shawn Camp made one pitch to end the inning with a double-play grounder.
With closer Jon Rauch remaining in the bullpen in the ninth, Camp gave up two runs on a two-out single by Luis Rodriguez, who went down to get a changeup on the 10th pitch to him. The winning run was scored by Ichiro, who was walked intentionally after the count on him reached 2-0 with two outs and a runner at third.
There are six games left on the Jays' trip. The real test has begun, and so has the sorting-out process.
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