NEW YORK, New York - The late, great Earl Weaver once surmised that momentum, in baseball, is the next day's starting pitcher.
So when Mark Buehrle struggled in a 5-3 loss to the Yankees, any hope Wednesday's gut-it-out, 11-inning win in Baltimore would spark the Blue Jays was lost.
The offense got to Yankees' starter Hiroki Kuroda early, scoring three runs on six hits in the first two innings. Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie each hit home runs; for Encarnacion, it was a third consecutive game with a round-tripper.
Then, as New York began to chip away, the Jays' bats went silent. Vernon Wells homered to lead off the second. Then, in the third, after Jayson Nix and Brett Gardner reached on infield hits, Robinson Cano knocked a 3-1 pitch into the right field bleachers. The Yankees were up 4-3 and wouldn't relinquish the lead.
"Went fastball in, got it in there and he hit it out," said Buehrle, who's 1-1 on the young season and will conclude April with a 6.35 ERA. "I mean, he's a great hitter and I think that's why this game is kind of frustrating at times because you make pitches and they get hits. Right before that, two infield hits and then a home run and like you said, that changes the game."
From the third inning on, the Blue Jays mustered one hit - an infield single by Brett Lawrie in the seventh - off Kuroda and three Yankees' relievers.
"Well, I mean, we started off good," said manager John Gibbons. "We had some big hits off Kuroda early but he settled in. He's one of the great pitchers out there. We had a lead but this is a tough ballpark to pitch in."
Toronto has scored three or fewer runs in 14 of 23 games. While the Blue Jays rank second in the American League with 28 home runs, 18 of them have been of the solo variety. Part of the reason for that: the club's on-base percentage is .29; second-worst in the AL and bottom four in the majors.
They aren't hitting enough, the pitching has been inconsistent and the defense has lacked. There have been base running miscues. Pick a fundamental and the Blue Jays, through 23 games, probably have fallen short. Frustration is mounting, as witnessed with Gibbons' second ejection in as many games.
In the seventh, New York had a runner on first and one out. Ben Francisco laid down a bunt. Brett Lawrie charged, bare-handed the ball and made an off-balance, low throw to first. Edwin Encarnacion appeared to have made the catch and first base umpire Chad Fairchild called Francisco out in a bang-bang play. Moments later, the umpires huddled and overruled, awarding Francisco a base hit.
Gibbons argued, it got heated and the manager was tossed after spiking his cap to the ground.
"From the outside, they were watching - the other umpire - and they said (Encarnacion) bobbled it," said Gibbons. "I didn't see a bobble. My big concern was that there was no appeal by the other side. I thought the rules say, you know; if there's an appeal by the other side, the umpire making the call can check. That's my interpretation of the rule. Luckily nobody scored. That's a good umpiring crew…but I just didn't see a bobble."
"We saw the ball on the ground, where the ground was assisting the ball staying in the glove while the runner went over the base and it was after the fact that (Encarnacion) pulled it up," said crew chief Jeff Kellogg, who was umpiring second base. "You've got to have secure possession in the glove or the hand. That ball is resting on the ground with the glove wrapped around the top of the ball."
The controversy and the ejection, ultimately, had no effect on the game's outcome. The Blue Jays lost because the same issues that plagued them during most of their first 22 games plagued them in their 23rd.
They'll give it another go on Friday.
JOHNSON TO MISS START
The Blue Jays have confirmed that Josh Johnson will be scratched from Friday's start against the Yankees due to right triceps tightness.
Left-hander Aaron Laffey, claimed on waivers from the Mets and who last pitched on Saturday, will get the start.
Right-hander Ivan Nova is scheduled to start Friday's game for the Yankees.