TORONTO – R.A. Dickey said it best after Casey Janssen's disastrous ninth inning coughed up a 4-2 lead and sent the Blue Jays to their sixth loss in seven games, a 5-4 defeat to the Tigers.
"They all hurt," said Dickey, who stood to win after tossing six innings of two-run ball. "From here on in it all matters. It mattered back in May when we were losing a game or winning a game. It matters. It always matters."
Yes, all losses hurt and it's understood there will be plenty of them over the course of a long, 162-game season.
Some will hurt more than others and it has to do with a combination of timing and circumstances.
First, the timing: the Blue Jays are about to embark on a stretch of three games in which they will face the last three American League Cy Young award winners. It happens they'll face the three pitchers in order, starting with the most recent. Max Scherzer, last season's winner, hurls on Saturday. David Price, acquired from Tampa Bay on July 31, was voted the AL's best pitcher in 2012. A road trip begins in Seattle on Monday against the 2011 winner, the man known as "King" and who has a court of yellow-shirted minions down Safeco Field's leftfield line, Felix Hernandez.
"That's a tough one," said manager John Gibbons. "There's no question. That's a tough one."
The Blue Jays are looking up at the Yankees and the Royals and maybe the Mariners, pending Seattle's late result on Friday, in the race for the second wild card spot. It's available to any of the above-mentioned teams and more. It's important for Toronto not to allow too many clubs in-between; that creates increased difficulty in nailing down that playoff spot.
Don't worry about the Orioles for the moment. They were busy blasting the Cardinals all over Baltimore to stretch their lead in the American League East to six over the now-third place Blue Jays.
Janssen was hit hard. J.D. Martinez lined a shot to the left-centre field gap to start the ninth. One out later, with Martinez on third, Nick Castellanos caught a hanging breaking ball and deposited it over the left field wall to tie the score. Next up, shortstop Eugenio Suarez belted a go-ahead homer off the facing of the batter's eye in dead centre field. Janssen was pulled one out later after allowing an Ian Kinsler double.
Three runs on four extra-base hits in two-thirds of an inning. The crowd, and Janssen, was stunned.
"My arm felt great," said Janssen. "I felt great and you know what? They beat me."
Janssen has pitched to a 9.72 ERA since the All-Star Break. He's long since over a virus, perhaps food poisoning, he contracted during a vacation to the Dominican Republic.
Still, he hasn't been the same.
"I haven't pitched that great," said Janssen. "Sometimes things can be streaky. Right now it doesn't seem like it's streaking in the right direction for me but I've just got to continue to work, to continue to execute pitches and maybe at times mix up what I've been doing. The hitters might be adjusting to me so now it's my turn to adjust to them. I'm not quitting and we've got a long ways to go."
There's a lot of baseball left to be played. Why not start with three games against three of the sport's best pitchers?