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Brazelton road win slips away
BLUE JAYS 7, RAYS 5: A bad sixth after five strong innings drops the starter to 0-13 on the road.
By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 27, 2005
TORONTO - Dewon Brazelton just about got to the end of the road. With five shutout innings Tuesday against the Blue Jays, he seemed on the way to halting the away-from-home winless streak that has threatened to define his career.
But then Brazelton made a few bad pitches in the sixth.
And third baseman Alex Gonzalez made one horrible throw.
By the end of the night, Brazelton's road losing streak was the longest in more than 50 years and the Rays were left shaking their heads over a 7-5 loss in a game that seemed won.
"Actually," Rays manager Lou Piniella said, "we literally threw that one away."
The Rays were leading 2-0 through five and seemingly in control, Brazelton allowing only four hits and the Rays turning three double plays behind him.
But things changed quickly in the sixth.
A leadoff single by Orlando Hudson, a one-out single by Corey Koskie and a Shea Hillenbrand double cut the lead to 2-1. The Rays intentionally walked Eric Hinske to load the bases and set up a double play, and it seemed to work perfectly when Brazelton got a grounder to third by catcher Gregg Zaun.
Gonzalez has played very well since moving to third this spring from his natural shortstop position, but for maybe the first time his lack of experience and comfort showed.
Gonzalez took a step to his left to field the softly hit ball, so rather than get a force at third he decided to throw home immediately, with the possibility of a home-to-first double play.
But Gonzalez released the ball awkwardly, flat-footed and nearly sidearmed, and the throw sailed over catcher Toby Hall's head.
"I was trying to get the guy out at home because I realized the ball wasn't hit that hard for a double play," Gonzalez said. "It was obviously not too good of a throw. ... I just kind of threw it at a weird angle. When I caught the ball, I tried to throw it from the position I was at, and I just didn't get a good release on it."
The tying run scored on the play, and the Jays were just getting started, scoring four more that inning to open a 6-2 lead.
"I definitely didn't help the cause on that play," said Gonzalez, a former Jay. "I threw it away with the bases loaded; not too many good things can happen out of that."
The Rays bounced back to make a game of it again when Jonny Gomes made his first big-league homer count, a three-run blast to left in the seventh. But an errant pickoff throw by reliever Rob Bell gave the Jays an eighth-inning insurance run.
Brazelton is now 0-13 in his 17 road starts, the longest streak of futility since Cincinnati's Kent Peterson lost his first 18 road decisions from 1947-49.
"I'd like to see him win one, I really would," Piniella said. "He'll win one sooner or later. He actually pitched well (Tuesday)."
Brazelton insists there are no specific reasons for his road woes, that it's not a matter not sleeping well or not eating the right foods or staying out too late. He says it is simply that he hasn't pitched well enough to win or his team hasn't played well enough to win.
Tuesday he tried a new mental approach, forcing himself to take his time and make sure he knows what he is doing on each pitch, and he felt he did better at keeping the game under control.
"You can't ever say that you're pleased when you lose, you can't ever say that," Brazelton said. "But in the sense of ... what am I doing to not make this go the way I want it, and how can I correct that? I felt like I took a big step today in correcting that."