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Oakland bullpen cools off the Blue Jays

Oakland bullpen cools off the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays weren't going to be able to out-hit their pitching forever.

They couldn't do it last night, losing 8-5 to the Oakland Athletics, who won a very one-sided battle of the bullpens after the two young starters departed early. Circumstances now suggest the Jays might need to do today what they couldn't last night.

The fun of this still-overachieving club this year has been mostly in the bashing, pretty much up and down the lineup, except for Alex Rios and he'll come around sooner or later.

Until blowing a 5-1 lead, partly because the A's bullpen provided five shutout innings of one-hit ball, the Jays' hitters had been out-performing their pitchers this season - aside from Roy Halladay, who once again is in his own category for staff dominance.

That trend surely is a welcome sign for the organization and its fans. A year ago, game after game was lost for want of not only a key hit, but often nothing more than a ground ball at the right time. Remember all those times they would get the tying run to third base with no one out and couldn't move him the final 90 feet? So far, there's no sign of that kind of problem. Not consistently.

David Purcey, who has live stuff and that certain natural flavour of built-in funkiness that most left-handers display, struggled to throw enough strikes and this was a night for the starter to not get out of the fourth inning, despite 86 pitches. It's not as if Purcey needed to nibble against the '61 Yankees, either. This Oakland team came into (and departed) the game having hit exactly three home runs this season.

The Jays' already thin rotation is challenged by the loss of Jesse Litsch for at least a month and likely longer and Brian Tallett has been called from the bullpen to start in his place this afternoon. Manager Cito Gaston, who looked (and admitted to being) awfully tired after a wee-hours arrival from Minnesota, said Tallett will be on a 70- or 75-pitch leash. That could be a contribution of anywhere from three to five innings, depending how things go, so the bullpen will be required today for an extended session. This the Jays (and Purcey) knew before he went out there last night. Gaston went as far as he could with him.

Purcey wasn't alone in his slog; Oakland rookie lefty Josh Outman, in his sixth career start, used up 97 pitches to get through a mere four innings. No wonder, with that many deliveries, the game trudged along, requiring nearly two hours for the first four innings. It was like one of those silly Red Sox-Yankees games, the kind that always last about 41/2 hours.

In the bigger picture, the Jays , with now four-fifths of their possible future rotation on the disabled list, also are not the only ones scuffling for pitching. Look to Fenway Park, where Boston's Brad Penny was giving up seven runs in the second inning last night and where Daisuke Matsuzaka already is on the DL. (Baltimore, by the way, couldn't hold a 7-0 lead and they had their good guy, Jeremy Guthrie, on the mound.) Or else look to Yankee Stadium, where that pre-Mariano Rivera bullpen of theirs gave up a nine-spot in their home opener to Cleveland and again looks hittable.

The point is, pitching stuff happens to everyone, sooner or later. A shortage in the arms race was not unexpected around here and ain't it great that, until last night, at least, the sticks had been able to pretty much mask most of the problems.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 18, 2009

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