Try telling Jo-Jo Reyes that 2011 is the Year of the Pitcher Redux.
Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers throws a no-hitter at the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday, coming within an umpire's whim of a perfect game a week after Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins tosses a no-hitter, while in the National League Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers carried a no-no into the eight inning against the St. Louis Cardinals and on Sunday the Florida Marlins Anibal Sanchez flirts with a no-no. There is no sign that 2010's trend of diminishing offence has abated.
And all poor Reyes wants is a win. One, measly, stinking win. Sunday, Reyes pitched into the eighth inning for the third time in his career and first time since June 13, 2008, and it was all for naught: the Blue Jays lost 5-2 to the Detroit Tigers and Reyes (0-3) has now gone 25 starts without a win, the longest stretch since Matt Young went 27 starts between victories spread over three seasons and two teams, the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.
As Felipe Alou would say: You got to be quite the pitcher to go that long without a win - and still have a manager who wants to run you out there.
"I'm not out there thinking about it," Reyes said after the Blue Jays lost for the sixth time in eight games in front of 17,392 on a Mother's Day matinee with the roof open at the Rogers Centre. "I'm competing, pitch to pitch."
To his credit, Reyes is competing. Unfortunately, he is - as manager John Farrell said - "unable to get away with mistakes over home plate." Brett Cecil can't get back here fast enough, eh? Offensively, the Blue Jays welcomed back Jose Bautista (absent for five games with a stiff neck) and Aaron Hill (activated off the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring) and while Bautista drilled his 10th home run of the season in the second inning, one of seven hits scattered by Tigers starter Brad Penny, it would be charitable to say they competed top to bottom. Even if Adam Lind only misses one game with a stiff back and returns for Monday's finale of this four-game series, Rajai Davis and Corey Patterson are dragging this team down. "Myself included," noted Bautista, "we could have had better at-bats."
Bautista was the designated hitter Sunday and will be back in right field Monday. Thank goodness, because there was wear and tear showing on this team, as the Tigers were sent on their way to victory on Austin Jackson's two-run homer in the seventh. Jose Valverde struck out the side in the ninth for his 200th career save.
Like most of the Blue Jays, Juan Rivera was an easy mark on Saturday when Verlander tossed his second career no-hitter and the seventh in Tigers history, in a 9-0 win. Jogging past Verlander after grounding out in the seventh, Rivera told the Tigers ace he was "getting lucky." Had Verlander not been in the middle of a perfect game, Rivera likely would have received something other than an 0-for-3 by which to remember Verlander - who barely seemed to be breathing as he serenely carved up the Jays lineup.
Verlander's bid for the perfect game was ended when Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia battled the Tigers ace for a 12-pitch walk with one out in the eighth, despite falling behind 0-2 in an at-bat where Verlander hit 101 miles an hour on the radar gun once and 100 mph twice, including a painfully close ball four. Three pitches later, Verlander was out of the inning after inducing a double-play grounder off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion on an 82 mph curveball.
Home plate umpire Jerry Meals received nothing but kudos from both Verlander and Arencibia for the call, although Arencibia said "if he had called something differently, I don't know how much of an argument he [Meals]would have gotten out of me."
Indeed, there's not much to argue about. This is the Year of the Pitcher, and if Jo-Jo Reyes can't beg, borrow or steal a win now, he never will.