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Millar delivers in extra innings

Millar delivers in extra innings
BOXSCORE: Rangers- Jays , S9

B.J. Ryan continues to pitch himself out of the role he once so clearly dominated.

The Blue Jays closer, one of the most feared left-handers in the fraternity of ninth-inning specialists - is having a rough season and nothing underlined that more than last night's ninth-inning collapse against the Texas Rangers.

The big southpaw, coming off two relatively decent outings that restored a bit of confidence in his otherwise shaky pitching this season, was lighter fluid again last night in allowing three runs in his single inning of work.

Ryan gave up the game-tying run on a solo homer by Michael Young, but the Jays bailed him out in the 11th when Kevin Millar singled to deep centre to drive home Vernon Wells for an 8-7 Toronto victory.

The 13,090 fans in attendance booed Ryan off the field, a harsh but deserved fate for the proud and fiercely competitive closer who is struggling with his command.

Toronto seemed well-positioned to earn its 11th win in 16 games, having built a comfortable 7-4 lead heading into the ninth with strong pitching and some timely power hitting from catcher Rod Barajas.

Barajas, shut out in the Jays' homer parade to start the season, hammered a pair of two-run shots off Texas starter Matt Harrison to finally get on the board.

Walk-happy starter David Purcey delivered his best performance of the season, issuing just two free passes while allowing seven hits and striking out six over 51/3 innings.

The Jays got additional help from Alex Rios, another big hitter who has performed below expectations in terms of RBI production.

Rios had his second four-hit game of the season and drove in a pair of runs. It was a sound contribution from the Jays' all-star right fielder, but he remains homerless so far this season.

Jose Bautista also had four hits - a great performance for a bench player - as the Jays pounded out 16 hits to up their league- leading total to 171.

All that made for another rousing chapter in the Jays' feel-good story so far this season. But the struggles of Ryan - one of the game's biggest, baddest closers - remain of grave concern to the club.

Last night, he gave up the three runs, including Young's homer, walked one, hit a batter, and recorded just one strikeout.

His totals for the season are worrisome: In 52/3 innings, he has surrendered eight hits, seven runs, two homers and five walks, and his ERA has ballooned to 11.12.

The Jays are without a ready replacement in case the worst-case scenario evolves and the Jays decide to relieve Ryan of the closer's role until he recovers his form.

The Jays , however, do have an interesting prospect in Jason Frasor. The hard-throwing right-hander saved 17 games in 2004 before the organization went in a different direction with their closer.

Frasor has quietly earned his keep since as a long relief specialist. But the Chicago native has perfected a forkball known as the "Fosh" pitch, something he first learned from bullpen coach Bruce Walton two seasons ago.

That's now his strikeout pitch. Frasor also has a 90-m.p.h. fastball and he is certainly putting together a strong start to the season.

The season is only 16 games old, but Ryan has cost the Jays two wins over the course of the six games he's appeared in.

Manager Cito Gaston said last week he would "keep running (Ryan) out there," but with the caveat that he would only do so as long as Ryan's pitching wasn't hurting the team.

Clearly, Ryan's pitching has hurt the Jays . Despite some awful stats, Ryan still deserves more time to prove he can work his way out of his funk. But Gaston may be running out of patience.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 23, 2009

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