Jays' late comeback falls short

Jays' late comeback falls short

MILWAUKEE -- It was an afternoon of improbabilities for the Blue Jays. Toronto was headed toward its lowest point of this trying season and then nearly came up with what would've been one of the greatest finishes in club history.

In the end, after as many ups and downs as can fit within one nine-inning contest, the Jays wound up with more of the same. Despite a late seven-run charge, Toronto departed Milwaukee in the wake of an 8-7 defeat at the hands of the Brewers on Thursday at Miller Park.

The Jays' desperate rally over the final two innings came after Brewers pitcher Dave Bush gave up no hits over the first seven innings against his former club. Bush's dominance, combined with a dismal showing by Jays starter A.J. Burnett, created a deficit too large for Toronto's taking.

The result was a 13th loss in 17 games for the Blue Jays (35-39), who dropped four games below .500 for the first time since May 12. Toronto -- loser of six straight series -- was swept by the Brewers and has now lost five games in a row with three remaining on this six-game Interleague road trip.

"We don't quit. We never do," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We're just not winning games right now. We're not playing good enough to win. That's all there is to it. We felt good coming in here, but we didn't have a good series here."

The decisive moment arguably came in the fifth inning, when Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder -- all 270 pounds of him -- made an unlikely sprint around the bases for a rare inside-the-park home run. It was a hit that pushed the Brewers' lead to 7-0, but one that could have easily been a double.

Fielder pulled an offering from Burnett (6-7) down the right-field line, where the ball came to rest underneath the padding at the base of the fence. Blue Jays right fielder Alex Rios threw his hands up, believing the hit could be ruled a ground-rule double.

While first-base umpire Chad Fairchild jogged out to right field to get a closer look, Fielder continued to round the bases -- the crowd's decibel level rising with his every step. When Fielder rounded third, Rios easily retrieved the ball and whipped it to the infield, though far too late.

"When you throw your hands up, you can't touch the ball," said Gibbons, referring to Rios' initial reaction. "You've got to wait until he gets out there to look at it. As soon as he grabbed it, it's off."

Brewers manager Ned Yost indicated after the game that there's no ground rule at Miller Park that calls for a ground-rule double in that situation. Perhaps unaware of that fact, Rios waited for Fairchild's ruling as long as he could, picking up the baseball after no call came.

"He never actually made a call, so I just grabbed it and threw it," Rios said. "He took forever [to jog out to right field]. At that moment, you want to know what you've got to do right away and he took forever."

Later in the fifth inning, the Brewers (39-33) added another run off Burnett to increase their lead to 8-0. It was a gap that seemed insurmountable in light of the effort from Bush, who handcuffed Jays hitters for eight innings. For the first seven frames, Bush (3-7) was literally unhittable.

"If I keep my damage to a minimum," Burnett said, "we have a good chance of winning that ballgame. It just shows you -- no matter how many we lose, no matter what happens -- this team never stops. They showed that today."

Bush -- traded to the Brewers in the winter of 2005 as part of the package that brought first baseman Lyle Overbay to Toronto -- was perfect through the first 15 batters he faced and retired 21 of the first 22 Jays to step to the plate. It wasn't until Overbay's triple to open the eighth that Toronto registered a hit.

That hit sidestepped what would've been the first no-hitter thrown against Toronto since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan accomplished the feat for Texas on May 1, 1991.

"Somebody had to do it," Overbay said. "That's the last thing you want to do is get no-hit. Somebody was going to do it. He was doing a good job, but hopefully we were bound to get a hit at least.

"He was throwing cutters and fastballs, and it just seemed like he made the right pitch at the right time. It seems like it's been happening to us a few too many times. We have to figure out how to get around that and do our job."

Overbay's triple down the left-field line apparently woke up Toronto's slumbering bats.

Alex Rios followed with a run-scoring single to left to put the Blue Jays on the board, though they still trailed by seven runs. In the ninth inning, Milwaukee turned to reliever Tim Dillard, who produced two groundouts to move within one pitch of sealing Toronto's loss.

Then the Jays rallied.

With a runner on second, Overbay slammed a pitch from Dillard to deep center field for a two-run homer, cutting Milwaukee's lead to 8-3. Four batters later -- after a hit, two walks and a pitching change -- Joe Inglett crushed a 3-2 pitch from reliever David Riske deep to center for the first grand slam of his career.

"We did the right things," Overbay said. "Guys weren't getting strikes thrown to them, and they were taking their walks. Then, when they had to come to them, we made them pay."

Inglett's slam pulled the Blue Jays within a run, moving the team closer to what would've been the second-largest comeback in team history. But Matt Stairs struck out swinging with a man on first to bring an abrupt halt to the whirlwind contest.

At the least, the Jays are hoping the late rally can spark their slumping offense.

"Hopefully, that can kind of get us jump-started," Overbay said. "We need something. That right there just kind of shows us that we can do it. We just have to start doing it a little earlier."

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