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Jays drop first home series of 2009

Jays drop first home series of 2009

TORONTO -- Brian Tallet knows he is not going to overpower hitters. The Blue Jays' left-hander relies on location and is at his best when he lives on the corners of the strike zone. That is how Tallet has found success in his time as a starter for Toronto this season.

On Thursday night, Tallet's command wavered in a few key situations against the Yankees, leaving the pitcher frustrated after another decent performance since his shift out of the bullpen. Tallet held his own in a tightly contested pairing with New York ace C.C. Sabathia, but the end result was a 3-2 loss, sealing Toronto's first series defeat at home this season.

Tallet walked away with a no-decision and a quality start, but the five walks he issued in the process left him disheartened. In the first inning, the southpaw walked three, including a free pass to Nick Swisher with the bases loaded. A leadoff walk to Brett Gardner in the seventh also led to a critical run for the Yankees.

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They were mistakes Tallet felt were inexcusable.

"I'm not a guy who can go out there and dominate guys in the zone," Tallet said. "So what do I have to do? I have to keep guys off base, and the way to do that is by not walking guys."

Ultimately, it was an eighth-inning solo home run off the bat of New York's Hideki Matsui -- launched over the right-field wall against Jays reliever Jesse Carlson (0-2) -- that sent the Blue Jays (23-14) on their way to the loss. That blast put Toronto behind, 3-2, opening the door for a save for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Tallet felt the game's turning point came an inning earlier.

In the seventh inning, with the Blue Jays clinging to a 2-1 lead, Tallet opened the frame by walking Gardner on four pitches. Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli settled into the batter's box with the intention of bunting the speedy Gardner to second base. Instead, New York manager Joe Girardi called off that strategy and put a hit-and-run into action.

On a 2-1 pitch from Tallet, Gardner sprinted away from first base and Blue Jays shortstop Marco Scutato bolted to his left to cover second. Cervelli pulled the offering into left field, sending the baseball through the hole that was created when Scutaro shifted up the middle.

"It was a fastball away," Scutaro said with a shrug. "We figured he might hit the ball to the right side. It didn't happen that way. That's baseball."

The well-placed single allowed Gardner to easily advance to third base for the Yankees (17-17). At that point, Tallet was pulled in favor of reliever Jason Frasor. One batter later, New York shortstop Derek Jeter singled to right field to bring Gardner home, knotting the score at 2.

"It worked good," Girardi said. "Cervelli did a nice job and Gardner's got speed. When you've got a guy who can run a little bit and a guy who can put the bat on the ball, you can do some of those things."

Frasor retired the next three hitters in order, but the damage had already been done. Considering Tallet had forced Gardner to ground out in two previous at-bats, the pitcher was kicking himself for putting the runner on base to lead off the frame.

Tallet felt that walk to Gardner was more costly than the bases-loaded pass in the opening frame.

"It wasn't that run that gave it up," said Tallet, referring to the first inning. "It was the walk in the seventh inning to lead that inning off and not make Brett Gardner earn his way on. What happens? They get a chance to hit-and-run and get guys out of position, and that led to a run. To me, that was the difference in the game.

"That run allowed the game to tie up," he later added. "If I get him out, what happens? The next guy, ground ball to short, two outs, and who knows what happens? More than anything, it's a momentum builder. Instead, it ended up being a momentum killer."

The walks loomed large in light of the fact that the Blue Jays were not able to mount much of an offensive attack against Sabathia (3-3). Alex Rios contributed a solo home run in the fourth inning and Rod Barajas doubled home a run in the fifth, but that was the extent of the scoring against Sabathia during his eight innings.

Tallet didn't necessarily pitch poorly, though. His six-plus innings gave the lefty three straight starts with at least six frames. In his two wins and three no-decisions since being moved into the rotation, Tallet has posted a 2.05 ERA with 18 hits allowed over 30 2/3 innings.

Once again, Tallet kept the Blue Jays within striking distance of a victory, even if the end result didn't go their way.

"He's done a great job," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "What more could you ask for? He gives up a couple runs against Sabathia and you figure you might have a chance to win that game. But we didn't, so we'll move on."

Tallet wasn't satisfied with his performance, and he plans on returning to his strengths. That means getting back to throwing strikes and avoiding unnecessary walks like the one to Gardner.

"It was just a mental lapse more than anything," Tallet said. "That's something than I'm better than and I know I'm better than that. Next time, we're not going to make that same mistake."

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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