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Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Roy Halladay tries unsuccessfully to field an infield single by Atlanta Braves batter Jeff Francoeur in the seventh inning in Atlanta on Friday night. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Roy Halladay tries unsuccessfully to field an infield single by Atlanta Braves batter Jeff Francoeur in the seventh inning in Atlanta on Friday night. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

Braves edge Jays in pitchers duel Add to ...

This really wasn't the homecoming that Casey Janssen was expecting when his surgically repaired right shoulder had finally healed sufficiently for him to resume his promising pitching career with the Toronto Blue Jays.

It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Blue Jays, kind of a bridge to next season when the American League team, with all healthy hands on deck, was expecting to be a contender in the shark tank that is the AL East.

So for Janssen to stroll into the clubhouse here yesterday afternoon after being summoned from the minor leagues with his team still hanging on to first place was gratifying indeed.

"I think a lot of people [within the organization]believed that we could do it," Janssen said. "The press and all of baseball might not have thought that.

"We've been pitching great and our hitters have been outstanding. When you get both of those working, you're going to be a tough team."

But the tough team is going through some tough times.

In Atlanta to kick off a three-game interleague series, the Blue Jays' offence was once again flat as the Braves made off with a 1-0 victory before 21,533 at Turner Field.

"We seem to be just having trouble scoring runs right now," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "That's going to happen over the course of a long season, as long as it doesn't happen too long."

The loss was Toronto's season-high fourth in a row, but the Blue Jays (27-18) still remain in first place by a half-game over the Boston Red Sox, who lost last night to the New York Mets.

It was just the Jays' luck these days that the interleague rules played a role in the outcome as there was no designated hitter in play.

That meant when the Blue Jays had the potential go-ahead run on second base in the form of Scott Rolen in the top of the eighth inning in a 0-0 game and pitcher Roy Halladay due up, manager Cito Gaston had little choice but to send in a pinch hitter.

Joe Inglett, another minor-league callup yesterday, struck out looking against Atlanta winning pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, who struck out seven over eight innings, the longest outing of his major-league career.

Atlanta then pushed across the winning run in its half of the eighth when Casey Kotchman lifted a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Matt Diaz from third.

The Blue Jays left the potential tying run at third in the ninth when Vernon Wells hit into a game-ending groundout.

The outcome snapped a five-game winning streak by Halladay (8-1), who also had his run of 26 consecutive starts with a decision ended.

"It's definitely tough coming out of games like that, but obviously you understand why," Halladay said. "You have to take that chance and try to score."

Priorities can change fast when you're duelling for first place, and after being swept in three games by the Red Sox in Boston to begin this nine-game trip, the Blue Jays felt some changes were in order.

Along with Janssen and Inglett, a useful utility player, the Blue Jays also brought up rookie left-hander Ricky Romero, who will rejoin the team tomorrow in preparation for his start on Tuesday in Baltimore against the Orioles.

Janssen, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in March of 2008, will make his first major-league start since 2006 when he takes the mound tonight in the second game against the Braves.

To clear room on the 25-man roster, the Blue Jays optioned two of their rookie starting pitchers - Brett Cecil and Bobby Ray - to their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

Travis Snider, Toronto's promising rookie outfielder, who was suffering through a batting slump after a fast start to the season, was sent down to Las Vegas following Thursday night's 5-1 loss to the Red Sox.

Both Cecil and Ray had done a decent enough job since they were brought up on May 1 as injury replacements.

Cecil was 2-1 with a 4.38 earned-run average in four starts. Ray was 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA in four outings.

But with both Janssen and Romero - 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA before going down with a sore right oblique muscle - prepped and ready to go in the minors, Cecil and Ray knew their time was limited.

"Cecil and Ray are both part of our future and they're just a phone call and a red-eye flight away," said Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays' assistant general manager.

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