On Wednesday night, Richmond's strong start to the season came to a crashing halt in an 8-2 loss to the Yankees at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays can only hope the pitcher's reputation as a fighter will once again come into play in this situation, making his latest outing merely a slight setback -- another learning experience.
Richmond was pulled from the contest with two outs in the second inning, shortly after a 10-pitch confrontation with New York's Robinson Cano ended with a run-scoring single to right field. That brought in the fifth run of the frame for the Yankees, who pounded out five extra-base hits off the right-hander in the inning.
It was a brutal showing from Richmond, whose 1 2/3 innings on the hill represented the shortest outing of his career and the most abbreviated performance for a Toronto starter this season. One outing before, Richmond had logged eight innings on the road against the A's for his first complete game, giving him five starts in a row of at least six innings for the Jays (23-13).
This time out, Richmond finished with 58 pitches, including 31 for strikes. In the second inning alone, Richmond logged 33 pitches. He registered first-pitch strikes to eight of the 14 batters he faced and fell behind in the count eight times as well. The seven left-handed hitters in the order to face Richmond combined to go 7-for-10 with two doubles, two triples and one home run.
Richmond knew exactly what went awry against the Yankees.
"Fastball location -- plain and simple," Richmond said. "Obviously, I wanted to get the fastball across better and you can work off your other pitches from there. But if your fastball is not getting across down in the zone, then it's going to be a rough outing."
The evening began well enough for the Canadian right-hander. Richmond (4-2) struck out the first two hitters he faced and escaped the first inning unscathed after allowing a single to Mark Teixeira and walking Alex Rodriguez with two outs. The opening frame hardly went smoothly, but the second wound up being a complete disaster.
Three batters into the second inning, Richmond had already surrendered two runs and three extra-base hits, erasing the 1-0 lead Toronto grabbed in the first inning. Melky Cabrera opened the second with a double for New York (16-17), Brett Gardner followed with a two-run home run and Ramiro Pena pulled a pitch into the right-center field gap for a triple.
With one out, Johnny Damon added a run-scoring triple off Richmond. With two outs, Teixeira belted an offering to deep center for an RBI double. Richmond then issued a walk to Rodriguez and a single to Cano that pushed the Blue Jays behind, 5-1. With that, Gaston strolled to the mound and Richmond headed off.
"He struck out the first two guys and then he got in some trouble," Gaston said. "He just couldn't locate his fastball. If you can't locate your fastball, you're in trouble. Hopefully, he'll get past that and come back and pitch a good game for us."
A similar turn of events took place in Richmond's previous start.
Against the A's on Friday, Richmond also allowed five runs in the second inning. In that game, though, Richmond was able to recover, and he blanked Oakland's lineup the rest of the way in an eight-inning loss. His two consecutive defeats come after Richmond opened the season 4-0 with a 2.67 ERA, earning the American League's Rookie of the Month honor for April in the process.
"The second inning got me again, and I wasn't able to get out of it this time," Richmond said. "I have positive starts behind me, but I can't live in the past. I can't live on what I did earlier. I have to build off each one now and grow as a pitcher and build onto the next outing."
Following Richmond's departure, the Blue Jays did what they could to rally against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte (3-1). In the fourth inning, Toronto scored one run on a single by Rod Barajas, cutting New York's advantage down to 6-2, and the Jays then loaded the bases with two outs. Pettitte induced an inning-ending flyout off the bat of Marco Scutaro to escape the jam.
From there, the Yankees added a pair of runs off reliever Bill Murphy to pad their lead, and Pettitte fashioned six solid innings en route to a win.
"Give Pettitte a little credit," Gaston said. "He's always been a good pitcher, and you've got to battle and stay close to him. He moves the ball around, up and down, in and out."
That is precisely what Richmond did not do against New York.
"I'm just going to mature as a pitcher and come out next time firing," Richmond said. "We've thrown how many fastballs in our careers? It's just getting it back, getting it down in the zone. If it leaks up a little bit against good hitters, they're going to make good contact with it. That's what happened today."