One big inning costs Towers, Jays

One big inning costs Towers, Jays

TORONTO -- Josh Towers could do no wrong. The wiry Toronto pitcher sliced through the Texas lineup in the first two innings Friday night, striking out the first four hitters he faced and providing no hint of the collapse that waited just around the corner.

When Towers took his place on the mound in the third inning, everything came unraveled. The Rangers exploited a trifecta of misplaced pitches to the tune of three home runs -- a trio of blasts that proved too much for the Blue Jays to overcome in a 5-3 loss at Rogers Centre.

"Three mistakes," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, summing up the performance by Towers.

That was all Texas needed.

The first came against Rangers right fielder Brad Wilkerson, who was 0-for-6 in his career against Towers (1-3) when he stepped in against the right-hander in the third. Not only that, Wilkerson was in the midst of an 0-for-8 slump and was hitting just .205 for the year.

With Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler standing on first after a leadoff single, Wilkerson was simply looking for a way to advance the runner. Towers sent a 1-0 slider toward the lower half of the strike zone that Wilkerson somehow managed to lift, sending it deep to center field for a two-run blast that put Toronto (11-11) behind, 2-0.

"It looked to me like it was a hit-and-run, and he was just looking for something to beat into the ground," Towers said. "He just happened to get below that slider. He hit it really well, too. I actually asked [catcher Jason Phillips] right afterwards, 'How was that pitch?' He said, 'I don't think it was a strike.' He hit that ball well."

Towers conceded the victory to Wilkerson in that confrontation. The pitcher admitted defeat over his next two miscues -- mistakes that he felt could've been taken advantage of by any professional batter.

After retiring Texas catcher Chris Stewart and center fielder Kenny Lofton, Towers yielded a single to Michael Young. Up next was Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira, who struck out on four pitches against Towers in the first inning.

In fact, Towers needed just 10 pitches to fan Lofton, Young and Teixeira in order in the opening frame. Texas slugger Sammy Sosa then was caught looking at strike three to open the second inning, making Towers the first Toronto pitcher to strike out the first four batters in a game since David Wells accomplished the feat on April 7, 1999.

"I was locating the balls pretty well," Towers said. "I was getting ahead and actually putting the balls in the dirt or wherever they needed to go [for them] to go after it. It was the opposite of that third inning, obviously."

Including his strikeout in the first inning, Teixeira was 1-for-8 in his career against Towers going into that third frame. Teixeira had also opened the season with no homers in 76 at-bats -- the longest drought to open a year in his career.

That all changed with an errant two-seam fastball. After working Teixeira into an 0-2 count with a pair of sliders, Towers decided against throwing a four-seamer above the hitter's hands. The decision resulted in a two-seamer that tailed over the plate and then landed over the left-field fence, putting the Rangers (9-13) ahead, 4-0.

"The Teixeira home run was completely my fault," Towers said. "I was going inside, and I threw a two-seamer and it just opened up and came out across the plate. He did a good job of hitting, too. He stayed with it instead of doing anything dumb."

Towers' woes didn't stop there, though. The very next pitch he threw -- another ill-fated slider -- sailed deep to center field for a solo homer off the bat of Sosa, who was 0-for-10 lifetime against Towers. The blast was the 595th of Sosa's career and gave Texas consecutive homers for the first time this season.

"That was just a slider out over the plate," said Towers, shaking his head. "It's embarassing. You know who he is and how many homers he's hit, but you can't hang a slider to anybody."

The damage had been done.

"It was just that one inning," Gibbons said. "Sometimes that's too much. Five runs was just too much to overcome tonight."

Towers left the game after 4 2/3 innings, and Toronto's bullpen silenced the Rangers' bats the rest of the way. The Blue Jays received home runs from Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind, who each went deep off Texas starter Robinson Tejeda (3-1), but that wasn't nearly enough offense to overcome the Rangers' fifth-inning outburst.

"You really can't go out and give up five-run innings, or multiple-run innings," said Towers, who finished with seven strikeouts. "That's tough on the team always, putting them down, 5-0. It's hard to bounce back from that, and that's the tough part to swallow."

Even if it was just three mistakes.

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