Toronto's road woes continue in loss

Lilly falters as Jays drop fourth straight

NEW YORK -- It's been a long, frustrating road trip for the Blue Jays, and there's still one game left before they can catch a flight back to the comforts of the Rogers Centre in Toronto. The home fans might not know what kind of reception to give the club when it returns.

When the Jays embarked on their current 11-game journey that has taken them from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, they were still in the thick of the American League East and AL Wild Card races. There was a glimmer of hope that rested with how Toronto performed away from home.

That hope has been struck by a few damaging blows.

After the Blue Jays lost, 7-2, to the Yankees in front of 54,414 raucous fans on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, their record dropped to 2-7 on the road trip. Toronto has taken defeats in the first two games in the Bronx, where New York now resides in first place in the division -- two percentage points ahead of Boston. The Jays have slipped to 7 1/2 games back in the East and Wild Card standings.

Toronto's clubhouse, which frequently has bounced with loud music after wins this year, has been overcome with silence after its defeats lately. That silence has consumed the road trip that could've been a jumping-off point for contention.

"Sometimes we want to win so bad that it might work against us," Toronto starter Ted Lilly said quietly. "I don't know how that would make us play better -- putting pressure on ourselves. Baseball is a tough game to play like that."

On Wednesday, Toronto (57-50) had a tough time trying to solve New York starter Chien-Ming Wang (13-4), who handcuffed the Blue Jays' bats with a barrage of sinkers and powerful fastballs. Toronto managed just four hits and no runs in eight innings against the right-hander.

That, combined with a six-run outburst in the sixth inning by the Yankees (63-41), was more than enough to send the Jays reeling to their eighth loss in the last 11 games. Toronto, which took three out of four against New York in Toronto on July 20-23, has also slipped into a four-game losing streak for the first time all season.

"They're a tough team to play, and they're really tough here," Toronto manager John Gibbons said of the Yankees. "They're returning the favor from last week up in Toronto.

"The bottom line is, we didn't score enough to make a difference."

When Wang's night was over, he had induced 16 outs by way of grounders. All Toronto's hitters could do afterward was shrug their shoulders and give the pitcher credit.

"A guy that pitches 95-plus with sink like that, you've got to tip your cap sometimes," Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill said. "He did a good job tonight. It was just ground ball after ground ball, and you can't really put up runs when you're hitting balls to the infield."

The Yankees did quite the opposite -- belting two crucial home runs in the win.

After Lilly (9-10) allowed just one run -- a solo homer by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter in the third inning -- through the first five frames, he struggled in the sixth. New York's rally was kicked off by an impressive play by Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez led off the inning by pulling an offering from Lilly down the left-field line. New York's third baseman hustled toward second base, while Jays left fielder Frank Catalanotto retrieved the ball. Catalanotto fired the ball to Hill, who attempted to tag Rodriguez's left hand. The reigning American League Most Valuable Player pulled his arm back, avoided the tag, and grabbed the base with his right hand.

"It was just a play where Cat threw it and I did everything right," Hill said. "I put the glove down, and he was there early. He came in, and my first reaction was to go tag him. I went for the lead hand and, hey, good for him. Nice slide. I hate to give him credit, but you wish it was an out."

It wasn't, though, and the next batter, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, belted a 1-0 pitch into Toronto's bullpen for a two-run homer that put New York ahead, 3-0. Lilly then allowed two more hits before Gibbons pulled him from the game with one out.

By the time the inning was through, New York had upped the score to 7-0 with two runs off Dustin McGowan, who entered in relief even though he is scheduled to start on Saturday.

Toronto's only offense came in the ninth inning, when Troy Glaus belted his 28th home run -- a mammoth two-run blast to center field off Yankees reliever Ron Villone.

It was too little, too late, though -- the same as the rest of the current venture away from Toronto has seemed to go. The trip has seriously damaged the Jays' hopes for a late-season playoff push, but the players weren't ready to admit that.

"We want to win," Lilly said. "These guys in this clubhouse want to win bad. Throughout the rest of the season -- no matter where we are [in the standings] -- we're going to do that every day."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.