Hard-luck loss for Halladay as bats quiet

Hard-luck loss for Halladay

TORONTO -- Roy Halladay isn't questioning the effort from the players who occupy the Blue Jays' clubhouse. Toronto's ace believes it's still far too premature to begin assessing whether the team is grasping the sense of urgency he's discussed at length.

During Spring Training, Halladay made it known that he felt there were times last season when the team lacked the type of attitude needed to push the club to victory in winnable series. One could argue that Toronto's latest two-game set against Texas fit into that precise category.

On Thursday the Jays absorbed a 4-1 loss to the Rangers and dropped a two-game series at Rogers Centre. Toronto dropped the pair against a Texas team that lost three in a row to the Jays in Arlington last weekend. The common culprit for the Jays has been a lack of offense -- this time spoiling a complete game by Halladay.

As far as Halladay is concerned, though, the Blue Jays (8-8) haven't been void of proper effort. That doesn't mean that such losses aren't frustrating, or that similar defeats later in the season won't be more telling. But for now Halladay fully believes that his teammates comprehend what's at stake this year and that it's being shown on the field.

"We've all talked about it," Halladay said. "Everybody's talked about it, and I think we're all well aware of it, which is a step in the right direction. As things go on, we need to prove it a little bit. It's tough to have one or two games like that and look and say, 'We aren't giving it the effort we should be.'

"If the season goes on, and things like that continue to happen, then I think you'll have a better idea of where you're at. But after a couple of tough games, it's hard to look around and say that. I really feel like right now guys are giving a good effort. We've had some tough breaks the last couple of days."

True, the Jays have had their fair share of bad breaks, but they have also struggled to take advantage of ample opportunities. Evidence is provided in Toronto's 2-for-21 showing at the plate with runners in scoring position in the two losses to Texas. On Thursday the Jays' lone hit under that scenario didn't leave the infield.

Toronto simply couldn't solve Texas starter Vicente Padilla (2-1), who spun seven strong innings, limiting the Blue Jays to a solitary run. The Jays managed eight hits and drew four walks in the loss, but they also grounded into two inning-ending double plays and weren't able to advance a runner beyond second base until the seventh inning.

It's an unfortunate trend that also plagued Toronto in a 14-inning loss to Texas on Wednesday night. In that defeat, the Blue Jays finished 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14. Still, no one around the Jays is ready to question the club's effort.

"The intensity and the effort were there, but we just couldn't mount any offense," manager John Gibbons said. "We've been getting some hits, and we got some hits [on Wednesday], but we haven't been able to string anything together to push too many runs across the plate."

The same could be said for Texas (7-9), which was on a five-game losing streak before the series in Toronto, but the Rangers managed just enough offense to overcome a dominant outing by Halladay (2-2). Texas notched four runs on 11 hits on a night when no Toronto outfielders recorded a putout over Halladay's nine innings.

Halladay struck out six, walked only one and induced 17 outs via ground ball -- six courtesy of double plays. During one stretch between the third and seventh innings, he retired 12 batters in a row. Still, a few run-scoring hits by the Rangers scattered throughout the game were damage enough.

"They made the most of some opportunities," Halladay said. "They had some guys on base and got the ball in the air and put it in play. It's tough. When the other guy pitches well like that, there's not a lot of room for things like that."

Toronto's lone run came in the seventh inning, when David Eckstein legged out an infield single against Padilla to score Gregg Zaun. That cut Texas' advantage to two runs, but that proved to be a cavernous deficit on this night. Toronto put itself in position to score plenty of times, making for a frustrating loss.

"We're still getting good at-bats, to a point anyway," first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "We had our chances, and we got guys on. We just couldn't get that one key hit to kind of put us back in that game. We were right in it the whole time and just couldn't get anything done."

This early in the season, it can be easier to shrug off such a loss. Halladay's tune might change if the Blue Jays continue to lose similar games later in the year, especially if Toronto wants to realistically contend in the American League.

"You're not going to win every game, we know that," Halladay said. "But as the season goes on, we have to start pushing series like this. If we have some tough games like that, we have to be able to bounce back.

"I felt like the effort was there. As a whole, we didn't get everything done the way we would've liked, but I thought the effort was there."

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