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Litsch looks good, but bats don't help

Litsch looks good, but bats don't help

OAKLAND -- It was an act of desperation. Considering the way Toronto was being handcuffed by Oakland starter Joe Blanton on Tuesday night, Troy Glaus simply wanted to attempt to jump-start a rally for the slumping Blue Jays.

So, when Frank Thomas belted a seventh-inning pitch to the warning track in center field, Glaus tagged up at first base. After A's center fielder Mark Kotsay caught the ball, he fired a bullet to the second base, where Glaus was forced out for an unexpected double play.

Glaus' sprint seemed ill-advised, but it was understandable at the same time. Blanton was well on his way to his third complete game of the season, outdueling rookie Jesse Litsch in a 3-1 loss for the Blue Jays at McAfee Coliseum, where Toronto hasn't won a season series since 1996.

"Troy's a smart player," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, defending Glaus' decision to run. "I didn't mind that. It's a big ballpark and it took a perfect throw, and that's what they got. He was just trying to make something happen. We weren't scoring."

The Blue Jays (40-43), who dropped to 3-6 on their current road trip, only managed to reach home plate once against the fast-paced Blanton, and that was courtesy of a throwing error by Kotsay in the first inning. Similarly, Litsch's first outing for Toronto since May was tainted by a pair of fielding miscues in the opening two innings.

On Sunday, the 22-year-old Litsch (1-3) was called up from Triple-A, where he went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts, after Toronto's A.J. Burnett landed on the disabled list for the second time this season with a right shoulder strain. Litsch was originally called up from the Minors in mid May after Roy Halladay was sidelined with appendicitis, and he made four starts for Toronto before being sent back down.

In his Major League debut, Litsch turned in a stellar outing, limiting the Orioles to just one run on four hits in 8 2/3 innings. This time around, Litsch lasted seven frames, but he gave up no earned runs for the first time in his big-league career. The young right-hander might've lasted deeper into the game had Toronto's errors not forced Litsch to throw additional pitches in the first and second innings.

"I threw a lot of pitches in the first two innings," said Litsch, who notched 48 pitches in that span, but finished with 106 in the game. "That kind of hurts all the time, but I settled down and stayed within myself."

In the first inning, Litsch allowed a leadoff single to Shannon Stewart, who followed by successfully swiping second base. On the steal, Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun made an errant throw to second, allowing Stewart to easily advance to third. Stewart then scored Oakland's first run on a groundout by Kotsay before Litsch escaped the frame.

The A's (43-40) benefited from an additional error from the Blue Jays in the second, when Glaus misplayed a grounder at third base. With Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby on first base and two outs, Stewart chopped an offering from Litsch to Glaus.

Glaus retrieved the ball and one-hopped it to first base, where Matt Stairs was unable to glove the ball for the Jays. That allowed Crosby to advance to third base, and later score on a single by Kotsay. Then, after the A's loaded the bases, Litsch struck out Jack Cust limit the damage.

"That's a part of the game," said Gibbons, downplaying the errors by Zaun and Glaus. "Both guys pitched great. That's all there was to it. It was one of those games. Blanton's awful tough at home here and he's always been tough against us. I thought maybe we'd get some momentum off of last night."

On Monday, Toronto's offense pounded out 11 runs on 16 hits in a series-opening victory over Oakland. The Jays had no such luck one night later against Blanton (8-4), who owns a 1.55 ERA at home this season. After having eight players reach base consecutively for the Blue Jays during the third inning on Monday, Blanton only allowed five Toronto baserunners in the entirey of Tuesday's contest.

Two of those runners came in the first inning, when Zaun got things started for the Jays with a one-out double to the gap in right-center field. One batter later, Toronto's catcher scored when Kotsay made an errant throw home on a single by Alex Rios. After that, though, the next 28 Jays to the plate tallied just two hits in a game that lasted a brisk two hours, eight minutes.

"He commands everything," Gibbons said about Blanton. "He can pick the plate apart. He can go to that outside corner at will whenever he needs it."

That made for a difficult opponent for Litsch.

"It was a quick game," he said with a shrug. "I wish it'd would've turned out a little better with us on the other side. But, stuff happens."

Or, almost happens, in Glaus' case.

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

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