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Oakland cools off red-hot Toronto

Oakland cools off red-hot Toronto
They can still hit it. Five runs, including a pair of home runs, should be enough to get it done on most nights, particularly when the Toronto Blue Jays stake their pitcher to a 5-1 lead.

But getting starters not named Roy Halladay deep in games might be a problem. Last night, an erratic David Purcey couldn't get out of the fourth inning.

Jays manager Cito Gaston will have the scotch tape out today, when he improvises in the absence of injured starter Jesse Litsch. If the offence dries up, things might get tight.

Last night, Gaston had to use four relievers in a 8-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics when he was trying to save his bullpen to pick up the slack this afternoon, when fill-in Brian Tallet takes to mound with a pitch count.

There was some good work in relief by Jesse Carlson and Jason Frasor, but Brandon League allowed Oakland to pull ahead with two runs on two hits and wild pitch in the eighth, and for once the Jays offence couldn't bail the team out. League (1-1) got charged with the loss; Andrew Bailey (2-0) got the win, while Brad Ziegler got his third save.

The Blue Jays' pitching will be important if only because it's unlikely they'll continue to murder the ball at a league-leading rate.

Their pitching has been respectable - their staff earned-run average of 4.06 ranked sixth in the American League and well ahead of expectations - but tenuous.

Yesterday, Gaston said he hoped to get a productive outing from Purcey - in part because Tallet, starting today in place of Litsch (forearm) would be limited to 70 or 75 pitches. Unless he can somehow sprinkle them over nine innings, Gaston joked, the expectation was the bullpen would be on call today.

Purcey turned heads in his first start of the season: Not just because he struck out 10 in just 42/3 innings; he walked six too. Somehow, he was able to find time also to yield four hits as the Jays lost 8-4 to the Indians on a cold day in Cleveland. In that game, Purcey struck out the side in the fourth using 10 pitches and got pulled an inning later.

"If he concentrates and really focuses in on where he wants to throw the ball and if he could figure out what he did that fourth inning [against Cleveland]," Gaston said, "he'd probably be a Cy Young candidate. Because he was lights-out."

That's a big if.

Purcey acknowledged last season that he had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in the years since the Jays made him the 16th overall pick of the 2004 draft. He takes medication for it, but focus remains a challenge.

After a couple of ragged early innings last night, Purcey seemed to find his groove in the third when he dispatched Oakland in order. The Jays' still-sizzling offence responded in the bottom of the inning, as a two-run homer by Aaron Hill - his fourth of the year - and a two-out, two-run double by Kevin Millar staked Purcey to a 5-1 lead.

But with one out in the top of the fourth, Purcey loaded the bases on two singles and a walk before giving up a triple to light-hitting Bobby Crosby (who scored one batter later when Purcey uncorked a wild pitch). Making things worse, veteran catcher Michael Barrett left the game after injuring his right shoulder diving for the ball. It appeared he landed on a piece of equipment in the A's on-deck circle.

Gaston switched Purcey out for Carlson and Rod Barajas came into catch and another uneven outing for Purcey was in the books, having given up four walks, four hits and five runs in 32/3 innings.

"The biggest thing with him is repetition or command," Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said before the game. "There's a lot of guys who could go their whole year and not have 10 strikeouts and he did it in half a game. ... He's got to harness it."



NOTES The Toronto Blue Jays went into last night leading the major leagues in batting average (.317), runs (77), hits (128), doubles (29), extra-base hits (50), total bases (218) and tied for first in home runs (19). ... Toronto has won its first three series of the 2009 season. The Jays have never started a season with four successive wins in series of at least three games. ... Manager Cito Gaston cancelled batting practice yesterday, as his team got back to Toronto in the wee hours after closing out a series in Minnesota. ... With an early game today, Gaston decided to sit veteran third baseman Scott Rolen for the second of the Jays' three-game set with Oakland. ... Gaston said long-reliever Brian Tallet would be allowed to exceed 75 pitches starting in place of the injured Jesse Litsch if he got into the fifth inning with a chance to win.

Next Today, Oakland A's at Rogers Centre, 1:07 p.m. EDT

Probable pitchers Jays LHP Brian Tallet (0-0, 6.14 ERA) v. A's RHP Trevor Cahill (0-1, 2.25)

TV Rogers Sportsnet

Michael Grange

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 18, 2009

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