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Richmond's luck running out


Richmond's luck running out
Baseball REPORTER

During spring training, if you suggested that Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Scott Richmond would post a 4-1 record with a 3.29 earned-run-average over his first six starts of the major-league season, the skeptics would have had a field day.

"You'd probably have said, 'really?' " Blue Jays first baseman Kevin Millar said. "Now, you believe it. He throws strikes, he's got a great curve ball, he's got great presence. You pull for that guy."

But these days, you have to start to wonder about Richmond's continued presence in Toronto's rotation.

The 6-foot-5 native of North Vancouver was brutal last night in his seventh start of the season, failing to survive the second inning as the New York Yankees (16-17) laid an 8-2 beating on the Blue Jays (23-13) to even their three-game American League set at one game apiece.

The contest was played out before 20,164 fans and was in stark contrast to Tuesday's series opener, when more than 43,000 turned Rogers Centre into a party palace during the highly-anticipated Roy Halladay-A.J. Burnett pitching duel.

Any momentum the Jays might have gleaned from that 5-1 victory was quickly erased as Richmond was tattooed for six hits and five runs in the second inning.

That onslaught provided New York with a 5-1 bulge the flat Blue Jays were unable to challenge.

Richmond was yanked after 12/3-innings, his shortest outing of his major-league career.

The Yankees earned the victory without the services of shortstop Derek Jeter, who sat out for the second consecutive game nursing a sore right oblique muscle.

For Richmond, a late bloomer who, at 29, is still considered a rookie despite five starts last season, it appears his luck is starting to run dry.

In his previous outing last Friday in Oakland, Richmond tossed his first career complete game but wound up on the losing end of a 5-3 decision to the Athletics.

His record on the year now sits at 4-2.

With injured pitchers Casey Janssen and Ricky Romero both close to returning from the disabled list, Toronto manager Cito Gaston says he has some tough decisions ahead about the composition of his starting five.

But Gaston said before last night's game that he will continue to show confidence in Richmond's abilities.

"He's earned some chances out there, he really has," the manager said. "He hasn't pitched bad at all."

He did last night. Of the six hits Richmond surrendered in the fateful second inning, five were for extra bases, including a two-run home run off the bat of Brett Gardner.

Ramiro Pena and Johnny Damon both clouted triples, while Mark Teixeira and Melky Cabrera chipped in with doubles.

Gardner accounted for New York's third triple of the game in the fifth inning. It drove in another Yankee run, giving him three RBIs to help earn the victory for New York starter Andy Pettitte (3-1).

Pettitte struggled with his control, walking four over his six innings of work, but he had enough to subdue the Blue Jays .

Richmond's surprising start to the season is one of the reasons why the Jays have been able to construct the best record in the majors despite a pitching staff that has been ravaged by injury.

After Halladay, no other starter on the Blue Jays has as many wins as Richmond, and heading into last night he had held opponents to a respectable .222 batting average while eating up 381/3 innings.

"One thing about playing in the big leagues it's easier to get here sometimes but it's tough to stay here," Gaston said. "I think Scott is aware of that, I think that when he goes out there he's going to give everything he has every day."

Another Toronto pitcher who has plenty to think about these days is Scott Downs, the newly anointed closer. B.J. Ryan, who remains on the disabled list, is trying to work on a new delivery that will allow him to consistently throw strikes.

Ryan is also close to rejoining the team but even after he does the Jays have said that Downs will remain the new closer for the time being.

Downs is a good friend of Ryan's and taking Ryan's job should not be cause for any consternation within the clubhouse.

"It's not difficult because he's got 100-per-cent confidence in me and I've got 100-per-cent confidence in him," Downs said. "In my eyes he's still our closer and I'm just filling in until he's ready to go."

****

ON DECK

NOTES Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston admits to being superstitious. "I drive the same way to the ballpark if we're winning," Gaston said. "If we don't I'll change it up." Gaston has not had to break out the GPS device in his car yet as the Jays carried a 12-4 home record into last night's game. ... The 23 wins after 35 games overall are the most for the Blue Jays since the 1992 season, the year they won their first of back-to-back World Series. ... Over their past six victories, Jays' starters have pitched to an earned-run average of 1.20. ... Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro leads the majors in bases on balls with 29, and ranks fourth in runs scored with 32.

NEXT Tonight, against the New York Yankees, Rogers Centre in Toronto, 7:07 EDT

Probable pitchers Jays LHP Brian Tallet (2-1, 4.95) v. Yankees LHP CC Sabathia (2-3, 3.94).

TV Rogers Sportsnet.

Robert MacLeod


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 14, 2009

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