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Blue Jays offence AWOL again as Tigers win 5-1 to earn series split

TORONTO - So far this season, victories have been very hard to come by for the Toronto Blue Jays if pitching hasn't carried the day.


TORONTO - So far this season, victories have been very hard to come by for the Toronto Blue Jays if pitching hasn't carried the day.

That simple equation held true Monday afternoon, when an error helped lead to Shaun Marcum's undoing and forced the home side to settle for a four-game series split with the Detroit Tigers after a lacklustre 5-1 loss.

The Blue Jays (10-10) scored just 19 runs in a 2-4 homestand, during which their pitchers resembled the boy with his finger in the dyke trying to prevent a flood. The water finally broke through before a crowd of 25,287 on get-away day, before the team departed for a nine-game road trip.

"We haven't been scoring a ton of runs but we still like our offence," said manager John Gibbons. "(Scott) Rolen isn't that far away, he'll give us a boost. But you hit those spells, it's just how it goes."

Despite generating ample opportunities to ease the load on their pitching staff, their offence just couldn't clutch up. They were an atrocious 7-for-56 (.125) hitting with runners in scoring position during the homestand after an 0-for-8 effort Monday, and are now batting .224 in those situations for the season.

"We've got the capability to score runs every day, we're just not getting that timely hitting and giving ourselves a chance," said first baseman Lyle Overbay. "When we were going good we were executing, taking our walks, getting guys on, doing the little stuff to start those rallies.

"Right now we're not."

The numbers to this point, a small sample size, are a regression from last year, when they were 14th in the majors at .276 and their situational hitting was viewed as a major issue. Their only run came in the ninth, when Gregg Zaun homered off Todd Jones with things already decided.

"We're better than that," said Gibbons. "We'll get better than that."

The Tigers (7-13), trying to emerge from a slow start, pressured Toronto pitchers all weekend and were rewarded in the finale to earn their second win in five outings.

Marcum (2-1) battled mechanical issues and a change-up he described as "garbage" yet did a reasonable job of keeping things from getting out of hand. He did, however, let things unravel during the pivotal second, when the floodgates opened after Miguel Cabrera walked and David Eckstein booted Jacque Jones' short-hopper.

Left with runners on first and second with none out instead of a possible two outs and the bases empty, Marcum was unable to squirm out of the jam. Edgar Renteria singled to load the bases before Ryan Raburn brought home a pair with a sharp single to centre. Brandon Inge's sacrifice fly brought home a third run and after Clete Thomas walked, Ivan Rodriguez made it 4-0 with a grounder up the middle.

"Maybe if we make that play, we may not have gotten the double play but we would have gotten an out," said Marcum. "You've just got to put it behind you and try to move on and damage control, limit them to one or two runs."

Facing a pitcher who eats up right-handers, the Blue Jays were pretty much toast after that.

Armando Galarraga (2-0), making his third career start, tossed 5 1-3 shutout innings, walking four but allowing just three hits, all to Toronto's lefties. The Blue Jays' four right-handed hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with three walks, snuffing out hopes for a rally.

The Blue Jays put runners on first and third with one in the third but Eckstein's liner to left wasn't deep enough to score Zaun from third. Shannon Stewart followed with a walk before Aaron Hill grounded out to end the inning.

"Obviously we didn't bring anything to the table today," said Hill. "Marcum didn't have his best day, we didn't hit, didn't play defence, it's one of those games that's going to be easy to forget."

In the fourth they loaded the bases with one out but it was the lefties' turn to squander the opportunity, with Zaun striking out and Joe Inglett grounding out.

Renteria provided some padding for Detroit in the sixth with a solo shot off Marcum that made it 5-0.

Marcum allowed five runs, four earned, in 5 2-3 innings on five hits and four walks. He struck out two.

Galarraga, a 26-year-old who originally signed with the Montreal Expos as a non-drafted free agent in 1998, struck out four. He was called up when Dontrelle Willis was placed on the disabled list.

Notes: The Blue Jays are not considering Barry Bonds as a potential LF/DH following the release of Frank Thomas on Sunday. While a team source described Bonds as "enticing," he added that baseball's all-time home run leader "in the end would probably harm more than he helps." Once he heals from a neck injury, Lind is expected to assume the duties in left, with Matt Stairs and Shannon Stewart doing the DH duties. ... The Blue Jays are donating the Frank Thomas bobbleheads that were to be given to fans May 25 to their Jays Care Foundation. The team's charity will auction off some and give away the others. ... Tigers 2B Placido Polanco missed his third straight game with a sore back. ... Miss Universe Canada Inga Skaya threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

 
 
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