TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching is finally clicking — just as their hitting is misfiring.
Mark Buehrle worked 7 1/3 innings with five hits and four strikeouts as Toronto lost to the Seattle Mariners 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.
“Early in the season pitching wasn’t doing good and hitting was there,” said Buehrle (5-4) in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse after the game. “Now pitching’s there and hitting’s not doing so well.
“It’s a long season we got to try to get the pitching and offence going at the same time.”
Toronto has 11 losses in its last 14 games. Six of those defeats were by two runs or fewer. The Blue Jays had an 11-12 record in April but are 8-14 so far in May.
Despite its recent struggles, Toronto is only six games back of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East.
“A lot of one-run games that we’re not coming through on top,” said Buehrle. “We just got to keep battling. Put your head down. It’s a long season and it’s only coming up on two months into the season and we’ve got a lot left.
“We’ve been playing pretty bad and we’re not too far out of it. That’s the one thing we can look at and have some hope on.”
Edwin Encarnacion and Chris Colabello provided the offence for Toronto (19-26). Encarnacion earned an RBI with a sacrifice fly in the first, while Colabello had a solo home run in the fourth.
“I think all losing’s frustrating,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “I don’t know if it’s any more frustrating (to lose a one-run game). You feel you’re right there, a big hit or a bit out away, from a difference in the game.
“Losing’s losing. It’s never easy. You just got to move on, as cliche as that might sound, that’s just a fact. The baseball game doesn’t let up, either way you’re back at it the next day.”
James Paxton (3-2) of Ladner, B.C., pitched six innings with four strikeouts, allowing two runs for Seattle (20-22). Tom Wilhelmsen and Carson Smith each worked a scoreless inning of relief before closer Fernando Rodney came in to earn his 12th save of the season.
“It’s very cool to be back in Canada, pitching here,” said Paxton. “It’s special to be back in my home country.”
Encarnacion gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the first when his sacrifice fly to deep centre gave Josh Donaldson a chance to run home. Donaldson had led off the inning with a double, then advanced to third on a wild pitch from Paxton.
Kyle Seager’s solo shot to deep right in the top of the second tied it 1-1 for the Mariners, although it could have been a 2-1 lead for the visitors. Nelson Cruz reached first on a single, but was ruled out after a video review showed that Buehrle had tagged him on the base path.
Seattle took the lead in the third when Toronto left-fielder Danny Valencia failed to catch a hit from Willie Bloomquist, instead letting it bounce off the wall. That allowed Chris Taylor and Rickie Weeks to score for a 3-1 Mariners lead.
Colabello helped the Blue Jays chip away at Seattle’s lead with a solo home run over the left-field fence. It would’ve been a two-run shot but Valencia was tagged out at second when his single to centre-right field was quickly recovered by Bloomquist after Justin Ruggiano misplayed the ball.
Toronto shortstop Ryan Goins apparently tweaked his left ankle running out a groundball in the fifth inning. He was back on the field in the top of the sixth, however.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press