The Blue Jays had an opportunity to play spoiler this trip, facing the two top teams fighting for the Wild Card in the American League. And, early in the game, it appeared the Toronto might do just that, at least for one night.
The Jays took an early 2-0 lead in the first, with RBI hits from Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay.
After the Rangers scored a single run in the second, the Blue Jays regained a two-run edge in the fourth. Overbay blasted the first pitch he saw from Texas starter Tommy Hunter over the center-field fence, giving Toronto a 3-1 lead.
The Rangers answered in the bottom of the fourth, though. Josh Hamilton led off with a double to right and scored on Nelson Cruz's single to right to cut the lead to one, 3-2. But that's all the Rangers' could muster that inning against Blue Jays starter Scott Richmond.
Simply having the lead through the fourth was an accomplishment for Richmond, who, by no means, had dominating stuff. In the fifth, however, things eventually caught up to him.
With one out, Richmond walked Texas' leadoff hitter, Julio Borbon. Then, Richmond served up a 1-0 fastball to rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus, who sent it over the left-field fence. With that, the Rangers took a 4-3 lead and never trailed after that.
"That one to Andrus, I was trying to concentrate on Borbon a little bit, trying not to let him get to second base," Richmond said. "I threw the ball up and in and he just hit it."
While a few mistakes are understandable, it's the third straight game in which Richmond has given up a home run. In his last start against Boston, Richmond lasted only five innings, allowing five runs on nine hits. On Aug. 22 against the Angels, Richmond went seven innings, but allowed four runs on six hits.
"[Richmond] got beat on the home run ball again, so I'd say it's not been too good for him lately," Gaston said. "I thought his velocity was down a little bit. I don't remember him hitting 90 or 91 [mph]. Maybe he just didn't have his good stuff."
Regardless, Gaston sent Richmond out to start the sixth. But Richmond wasn't able to redeem himself. He started the inning by giving up a home run to Cruz and then issued back-to-back walks to David Murphy and Ivan Rodriguez before leaving the game.
Richmond, who took the loss and fell to 6-8 on the season, allowed six runs, five earned, on seven hits over five-plus innings with four walks and three strikeouts when it was all done.
Despite his struggles of late, Gaston said Richmond would remain in the starting rotation. The Blue Jays really don't have many other options, either, as they have already shut down left-hander Marc Rzepczynski for the season. And rookie left-hander Brett Cecil will only get two more starts this season.
"We pretty much have to keep going with Richmond," Gaston said. "We don't have anybody and we're scuffling to fill spots with the guys up here. We'll just have to keep him."
Richmond knows he needs to get better, too. Late in games, Richmond said his focus could improve.
"I need to be more focused," Richmond said. "I feel like I am focused, but I need to be a little more focused on every pitch in terms of getting longer in games. Later in games is when I get tired and things aren't going as smoothly as they were the first couple of innings, so I need to execute every pitch."
Fortunately for Richmond, the Blue Jays intend to give him that opportunity the rest of the season.