The season is well into its sixth month, and a handful of the Blue Jays' pitchers have shown some signs of wearing down recently. On Wednesday night, Dustin McGowan labored through a five-inning outing against the Yankees, who sent Toronto to a 4-1 loss at Rogers Centre.
Considering McGowan's inconsistent performance, it was hardly a surprise that Gibbons faced questions about whether the young right-hander was battling fatigue of his own or not. That didn't mean that Toronto's skipper wasn't a little annoyed, especially after hearing the same inquiries a night earlier after starter Shaun Marcum struggled to tame the Yankees, too.
"Everybody's talking about fatigue -- I don't really want to talk about fatigue anymore," Gibbons said. "It's a long season. That's baseball -- you deal with it. We're not any more tired than anybody on the other side. That's why teams advance; they're the better teams for six months."
After capturing their seventh win in a row, the Yankees (83-62) are in the driver's seat to advance to this year's postseason as the American League's Wild Card winner. The Blue Jays (72-73), on the other hand, have rapidly fallen out of contention, courtesy of a five-game losing streak that has dropped them below the .500 mark for the first time since Aug. 1.
McGowan (10-9) shook off any suggestion that he was tired, but he was certainly worn down by New York's patient and potent offense. The 25-year-old starter saw his pitch count climb to 99 after five innings, in which he gave up just three hits, but he ran into trouble by issuing three walks and hitting two batters.
"It was a grind out there," McGowan said. "Every little thing, from taking their time getting in the box to taking pitches, you don't see very many first-pitch swings from [the Yankees]. They're an older, veteran club and they make you work. That's what great teams do."
McGowan quickly ran into control problems in the first inning, when he issued consecutive two-out walks to Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez. Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui followed with an RBI double, and Rodriguez later crossed home plate on a wild pitch.
In the fourth, McGowan opened the inning with a leadoff walk to Matsui, who made his way to third base after the Jays starter allowed a single to Jorge Posada and hit Jason Giambi with a pitch to load the bases. New York then tacked on two more runs on a single by Robinson Cano.
"The walks killed me -- every guy I walked scored," said McGowan, who allowed more than three runs for the first time since July 14. "They might not have had many hits, but they all came right after the walks, and all of them scored. When you walk people, that's what happens."
Four runs were more than enough for New York's Mike Mussina (9-10) to pick up his first victory since Aug. 11. The veteran right-hander spun 5 2/3 shutout innings, marking the first time that Mussina didn't allow a run in an outing this season since an injury-shortened two-inning appearance on April 11.
Over his prior three starts, Mussina had gone 0-3 with a 17.69 ERA after allowing 19 earned runs on 25 hits across just 9 2/3 innings, leading the Yankees to remove him from the rotation. After Roger Clemens was forced to miss a turn due to an elbow injury, Mussina got the call against the Blue Jays and scattered five hits.
Toronto loaded the bases twice in the loss, but the club went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners along the way. During the five-game skid, which has sunk the Jays 11 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card race, Toronto has hit .218 overall and just .176 with RISP.
"We had the bases loaded a couple times," Gibbons said. "We had some runners and we got some hits, but we just couldn't get that big hit. We've just been outplayed. That team over there has done it to us a few times this year."
New York hadn't gotten to McGowan until Wednesday, though. Entering the game, he was 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA against the Yankees this season. Needless to say, McGowan was also hit with questions about possibly battling fatigue.
Like Gibbons, he wasn't interested in using that as an excuse.
"It's the middle of September," McGowan said. "I'm sure every guy in here is feeling a little sore here and there, and everybody's a little tired. But I'm fine. I'm not really feeling the effects of it right now."
Toronto's just tired of losing.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.