BLUE JAYS 1 – WHITE SOX 0
The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t provided Dustin McGowan with very much run support so far this season and it seems that’s a luxury he’s learning to pitch without.
McGowan made the most of what little offence he got Monday night, making a Matt Stairs home run in the seventh inning stand up for a 1-0 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the reeling Chicago White Sox.
It was a fifth straight victory for the Blue Jays (16-17), who continued their rebound from a terrible 3-11 stretch with yet another outstanding pitching performance. They surrendered just five runs on 16 hits during the sweep and have allowed a mere 12 runs in their last nine games, posting three shutouts over that span.
“God love them they go out there and do their job, and don’t let anything bother them,” said Stairs. “It would be very easy for them to lower their head and say, ‘Where’s the offence?’ But these are the games you get through and how championship teams win. The pitching takes over, you get timely hitting and you win 1-0.”
McGowan (2-2), who began the night with a rotation-low average of just 2.5 runs of support per outing, was as dominant as he’s been this season before a crowd of 16,602. He allowed just four hits, struck out six and was in trouble just once in winning for the first time since April 19.
“I’m just trying to pick up where the other guys left off from,” said McGowan. “I don’t want to be the one to mess up this string of starts for us.”
The only hiccup came in the third, when Juan Uribe singled and Toby Hall doubled to open the frame. McGowan responded by getting Orlando Cabrera on a grounder to short, Carlos Quentin on a fly ball to right and Jim Thome via strikeout, the first three of 16 straight batters sat down by the right-hander.
“It’s always good to do that,” said McGowan. “A lot of times there’s going to be at least one run scored there, so you’re just trying to stop as many as you can. When you get a zero it’s really big.”
The run of batters retired and McGowan’s night came to an end with one out in the eighth after Uribe singled. Manager John Gibbons brought in Jesse Carlson, who promptly hit pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski to put the go-ahead run aboard, but Shawn Camp retired Cabrera and Quentin to end the threat.
Then B.J. Ryan closed things out in a drama-filled ninth for his fifth save, walking the bases loaded with one out but escaping unscathed when Pablo Ozuna hit into a 1-2-3 double play.
“That’s the way we wrote it up,” quipped Stairs. “Earlier (last) week on the road, that probably goes off (Ryan’s) glove and they score a run. When things are going well, he makes a good play.”
Javier Vazquez (3-3) was yet another hard-luck loser for the White Sox (14-16), who dropped their sixth straight game and ninth in 12 outings.
Adding to their woes was some controversy back home over a lewd shrine they created using their bats and couple of female blow-up dolls Sunday morning in an attempt to get their offence going. Manager Ozzie Guillen found himself defending his players’ unusual attempt at slump-busting before Monday’s contest.
“One hundred per cent of the people in the clubhouse are 18 years old and I think that’s a private thing,” he said. “A lot worse things happen in the clubhouse. I don’t know why people are making a big deal.
“If people’s feelings are hurt because of that, they don’t know about baseball much.”
Vazquez’s one mistake was a 1-2 curveball to Stairs that the Fredericton native ripped over the wall in right for his fourth homer of the season. It was just his second hit in 24 at-bats versus Vazquez.
“I was praying for contact,” said Stairs. “I was sitting changeup every pitch throughout the night and he made me look stupid in my first at-bat, even when I was sitting on it.
“I got lucky, he threw a curveball and probably wanted to bounce it. He kept it up a little and it was down in that hockey swing.”
That was the only run the Blue Jays could push across, even after revamping their batting order before the game.
Shannon Stewart, who went 3-for-4, will now handle most of the work in left field and bat second, bumping David Eckstein down to ninth in the lineup. Gregg Zaun moves up a spot to bat eighth. Alex Rios will continue to hit leadoff for now, with Scott Rolen, Stairs and Vernon Wells remaining at 3-4-5 versus right-handers.
The Blue Jays did generate a few chances, but went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. But the White Sox did even less at the plate in the series and return home on their worst run of the season.
“We needed that, no question about that,” Gibbons said of the sweep. “And we’ve started to play good ball at home, which we weren’t doing earlier in the year but we’re doing it now.”
Notes: The Blue Jays have received the green light to start using Ryan on consecutive days. The news shortly before the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery last May 10, considered a significant bench mark in recovery from the procedure. … White Sox 3B Joe Crede was scratched with a migraine. … John McDonald came in to play shortstop for Eckstein in the ninth, a defensive replacement some have been calling for in recent weeks. “That’s something we’ll probably do,” said Gibbons. “He may be the best defensive shortstop in the game. If he was just very good we probably wouldn’t do it, but the way he can take away runs, it’s the right thing to do.” … The Blue Jays have used 28 different batting orders this season.