Despite losing two in a row, the Toronto Blue Jays will still be in control of the American League East once they close out a four- game series with the Chicago White Sox this afternoon.
Toronto, which has posted back-to-back wins only once since the first week of June, is still 1 1/2 games in front of Baltimore for the lead in the division, with just two weeks remaining before the All-Star Break.
Yesterday the Jays made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth inning when they drew to within a single run, but that was as close as the hosts would get in the 4-3 setback. Darin Mastroianni stroked his first home run of the season and plated two of his team's three runs, the other RBI coming from Munenori Kawasaki.
Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman made it through 6 2/3 innings before giving way to the Toronto bullpen. The hurler allowed just two runs on a pair of hits and two walks, while striking out six. Dustin McGowan was charged with the loss, his third of the season, after permitting three runs on three hits in just one inning of action.
"If you could do things over, you leave him in," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Stroman. "But my thinking was, he pitched his butt off, it was kind of uncharted territory, I don't want him to lose the game right there. That's the way it goes. But you always look back on things like that. I had a plan and it just didn't work."
"It's tough, because obviously I want to be out there," said Stroman. "I felt strong but I'm also young, so that was Gibby's choice.
"Dustin has been great for us all year, so it's not like I was mad about coming out of the game. I had 100-percent confidence for Dustin to come in and get that out. Just one of those things and I'm sure he'll be right back to it."
McGowan was charged with giving up a three-run home run by Dayan Viciedo, one of his two hits on the day. Adam Dunn added a pair of hits and two walks as well for a Chicago squad that is fourth in the AL Central, six games below .500 and 8 1/2 games out of contention.
Chris Sale was credited with the win for the White Sox as he worked through seven innings, permitting just two runs on four hits, although he did have some issues with his control, issuing five walks. Sale also struck out six on the day. Zach Putnam stepped in late to collect his first save of the season.
The Sox now turn their attention toward Jose Quintana, their starter for the series finale today. The left-hander had gone four outings without a win until picking up a much-needed victory on Tuesday versus Baltimore on the road.
In that clash Quintana surrendered just a single run on six hits and three walks, striking out eight over the course of seven innings for his fourth win of the season. When it comes to his experience against the Jays, Quintana, now in his third major league season, has a record of 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in five starts.
Going up against the Chicago batting order is former White Sox standout Mark Buehrle. Selected by Chicago in the 38th round of the 1998 draft, the left- hander started his major league career with the Sox in 2000 and remained on the staff until 2011.
Now just four wins shy of 200 for his career, Buehrle has struggled of late, last earning a victory against Kansas City on the first of the month. Most recently the Missouri native went up against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, permitting four runs on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, but even though the Jays eventually came away with the 7-6 win, Buehrle did not factor into the decision.
Against his former Chicago team, Buehrle is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA.
Chicago, which won the season series with the Jays each of the last two years, now owns a 2-1 edge in 2014 battles.