Jays' struggles continue vs. Sox

Jays' struggles continue vs. Sox

TORONTO -- A silence fell over the Blue Jays clubhouse on Wednesday night. The team stereo sat unused in the corner, collecting dust while players sat solemnly in their chairs, slowly changing out of their uniforms. There was no celebrating on this day.

On one side of the clubhouse stood Blue Jays starter Tomo Ohka, who tried to explain his outing to five Japanese reporters. The number paled in comparison to the traveling media circus that was camped out in the Red Sox clubhouse to talk to Ohka's fellow countryman, and opposing Red Sox starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka.

This was the outing Ohka had been waiting for all year. The 31-year-old has the second-most wins among Japanese-born pitchers in the history of the Major Leagues, but he doesn't get nearly the same kind of attention or respect in his native country that Matsuzaka does. This was going to be his chance to make a statement. Unfortunately for Ohka and the Jays, though, it wasn't meant to be.

Toronto fell behind in the first inning and was never able to get back into the game as they dropped their second straight game to the Red Sox, 9-3, on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre. Ohka (2-4) struggled with his control early in the game, walking four and allowing three runners to score in the first two innings. When he finally started to regain his command, the right-hander's pitch count had already escalated and he had absolutely no chance to pitch late into the game.

"I threw 4 2/3 innings," said a quiet Ohka, who took the loss in Toronto's eighth consecutive defeat. "I should pitch five, six, or seven."

Matsuzaka, on the other hand, was dominant for the Red Sox (22-10). He allowed just one run on five hits over seven innings of work, and his only mistake of the game came in the sixth inning, when Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay sent a pitch over the wall in right field for his fourth home run of the season. The Red Sox rookie is now unbeaten in his last four starts.

It was just the fourth time in the history of Major League Baseball that two Japanese starting pitchers have faced each other. The last time it happened was in 2002, when Ohka was the winning pitcher against Kansas City's Mac Suzuki. This time around that honor goes to Matsuzaka (4-2).

"When he gets himself into trouble, there's usually two outs and it's one of those things where you've got to get two hits instead of just one," Overbay said. "He knows how to pitch and how to locate [his pitches]. It was just one of those days."

Those kind of days seem to be happening a lot for the Jays (13-20) lately. It was the second straight day that Toronto's offense was silenced by a strong performance from a Boston starting pitcher. The Jays have been held to four runs or less in their last five games and, with the back end of their rotation struggling, the lack of production from the bats couldn't come at a worse time. Toronto shortstop John McDonald thinks the offensive woes are making things harder on the Jays pitchers.

"It's never easy trying to put that type of pressure on our pitching staff," McDonald said. "When we're not swinging the bats well I'm sure they're thinking they've got to throw up two or three runs, or pitch a shutout."

Toronto has now lost a season-worst eight games in a row. It is the longest losing streak since the Jays dropped nine straight games from April 24-May 3, 2002. With their latest loss, the Blue Jays also slipped to 9 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the American League East. According to Jays manager John Gibbons, if his team hasn't hit rock bottom yet, they're close.

"We're about as low as you can go right now -- there's no question about that," Gibbons said. "It's a cruel sport."

Despite the losses that are piling up, Jays catcher Sal Fasano doesn't think anyone is questioning the ability of the guys in the clubhouse.

"I don't think confidence is the issue," Fasano said. "Sometimes you feel like it's an uphill battle, getting behind and feeling like you have to come back all the time. That will wear on you physically and mentally both. I think everyone on this team realizes how good they are, but when it rains it pours."

Despite the subdued atmosphere in the Jays clubhouse on Wednesday night, Gibbons knows his team needs to keep battling if it wants to get back into the AL East race.

"It's a tough streak," Gibbons said. "I've never been through one this long, but as I've said before, this game doesn't let up good or bad. We still have to come out here tomorrow and we've got Roy Halladay [pitching]."

Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.