BOSTON – Josh Johnson wasn't looking for excuses.
"No," replied Johnson when asked if he felt he was getting squeezed by home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman early in Friday's 7-5 loss to the Red Sox. "I mean, that's part of the game. I don't ever complain about the calls or anything like that."
Johnson's performance of 3 1/3 innings, five earned runs on eight hits and a whopping 90 pitches, had manager John Gibbons rolling through his bullpen once again.
"We got beat up in the rotation again," said Gibbons. "That makes it tough."
Johnson's evening of hard labour came one night after Chien-Ming Wang was shelled for seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings. The math won't come up Blue Jays here: the bullpen's been taxed for 11 innings of work in 24 hours.
"We battled to come back and tie it," said Gibbons, crediting his offence for overcoming an early 5-0 deficit. "They dropped two on us, again, real quick. But the bullpen can't be perfect every night, they've been pitching so well. It starts with the starter and they've been taking it to us pretty good."
Toronto chipped away with three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and the tying run in the seventh on Edwin Encarnacion's club-leading 23rd home run.
In the bottom half, Neil Wagner was chased from the game after back to back singles by Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia, both of whom would later come around to score, breaking the 5-5 logjam.
It would have been inconceivable in spring training to consider the notion of Johnson having but one win as a Blue Jay at the halfway point of the season. But, due in part to injury and in part to inconsistency when available, the lone victory is all Johnson has to show for his time in Toronto.
The Blue Jays weren't taking the bait on the subject of Dreckman, who appeared to have a fluctuating strike zone early in the ball game, one that benefitted Boston's rookie starter, Allen Webster.
On the fourth pitch of the game, with the count 2-1, Jose Reyes took a second strike that, according to the Red Sox's TV rightholder's "K-Box," was slightly off the outside corner of the plate. A fair call, if it's made consistently and for both pitchers.
Johnson was forced to grind through deep count strikeouts of Jacoby Ellsbury and Victorino in the first. In both at-bats, Johnson was just off the outside corner with fastballs similar to Webster's versus Reyes. Those pitches were called balls.
In the second, Johnson battled Mike Napoli to a full count but lost him to a walk, then fell behind 2-1 to left-hand hitting Daniel Nava on another close pitch. Nava would single, both he and Napoli would later score and the Red Sox were off to the races.
Johnson struggled. He didn't pitch well enough to win. To his credit, he didn't make excuses when offered an opportunity to do so. That said, it's reasonable to argue Johnson was forced to pitch a different game than Webster, a game which required him to cut more of the plate with his pitches. Boston's offence, chalk full of notoriously patient hitters, sat on ready made fastballs and sliders which didn't have their customary break.
It added up to a tough night. Toronto dropped to 1-4 on the road trip and now the best the Jays can hope for this weekend is a split of this series at Fenway Park.
ROGERS LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK
Esmil Rogers gets the start in Saturday's late afternoon game against the Red Sox. He's looking to bounce back after taking the loss in a 4-1 defeat on Monday in Tampa Bay.
"I don't try to worry about nothing," said Rogers. "I'm just trying to go into the game like the same as I do right now. The confidence I lost was just one inning, the third inning that's it, the other innings it was great. I've just got to get everything back and get ready for tomorrow."
In four starts since taking the rotation spot of the injured Brandon Morrow (forearm strain), Rogers is 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA.
Left-hander Felix Doubront (4-3, 4.33) is scheduled to pitch for the Red Sox.
Munenori Kawasaki returned to the Blue Jays' clubhouse after a two-day stop with Triple-A Buffalo.
He didn't miss a beat with the media.
"Good to see you," he said.
As for his brief time in the minor leagues: "Buffalo," he said. "I like Buffalo teammates. Good. Everybody nice guy. I appreciate it. Thank you very much."
Asked what he hoped to accomplish this go-around: "I can't speak English."
The affable 32-year-old embraced teammates upon arriving in the clubhouse.
MILLER PASSES AWAY
The Blue Jays are mourning the death of pitcher Justin Miller, a member of the 2002, 2004 and 2005 teams.
Miller, 35, was found dead at his home in Palm Harbor, Florida. No cause of death has been released.
Miller had a career 24-14 record with a 4.82 ERA over 216 appearances, 33 starts. He had appeared most recently for the Dodgers in 2010.