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Sports Injury-plagued Blue Jays drop home series with Red Sox as difficult month stretches on

Blue Jay Clayton Richard threw 54 pitches in his first start for the team through four innings in a losing effort against the Red Sox at Rogers Centre on May 23, 2019. Toronto's bullpen has been ravaged by injury.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Matt Shoemaker inched his way to the interview area, as best someone can with a crutch under one arm and a bulky brace encasing a surgically repaired left knee.

The 32-year-old is a member – not in good standing, obviously – of that sad fraternity of injured starters that is complicating the life of Toronto Blue Jays rookie manager Charlie Montoyo.

“The stuff just doesn’t make sense,” offered Shoemaker of the rotation’s continued injuries, which ensnared him in April when he tore a knee ligament during a start against the Oakland A’s.

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Shoemaker had to undergo surgery, which will cost him the rest of the season. Too bad, because he was 3-0 in five starts with a 1.57 earned-run average.

He joins the likes of Clay Buchholz, who is on the shelf with a shoulder ailment, and Ryan Borucki, who hasn’t thrown a pitch after experiencing elbow pain in spring training.

This is not a good development for a rebuilding team whose starting pitching heading into the season was felt to be as thin as a dime.

Which brings us to Clayton Richard, another erstwhile starter who had yet to play this season – until Thursday afternoon at Rogers Centre, when he was thrust into his first starting role of the year, against the World Series defending champion Boston Red Sox.

Richard became the Blue Jays’ 11th starter through 50 games this season. He turned in a credible performance in his first outing, in which his pitch count was to be limited to no more than 60 pitches.

Richard tossed 54 through four innings but the Red Sox were not to be denied, rumbling for a decisive 8-2 victory over the punchless Blue Jays, who were outhit 15-5 in the matinee.

Former Blue Jay Steve Pearce hit his first home run of the season for the Red Sox, and accounted for three runs. Toronto’s Justin Smoak hit his eighth homer in the bottom half of the ninth inning.

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Despite the lopsided loss, Montoyo’s spirits were buoyed by Richard.

“I really feel good about this game just because of that,” Montoyo said. “He was really good, his four innings were good. And he threw strikes, his ball had movement on it. That’s a good sign for us.”

With the win, the Red Sox earned a 3-1 series victory over the Blue Jays, who are 6-15 for May.

Richard allowed only one run off two hits during his abbreviated outing, which was a victory in itself for the 35-year-old left-hander.

He came out of spring training in the rotation, was set to make his first start against Baltimore when he suffered a stress reaction to his right knee. It was slow to heal.

Richard only made one minor-league rehab start and the Blue Jays would have liked to have squeezed in another one. But the big-league club is so short on starters, he was rushed back into duty.

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“We got what we got and we’ve got to deal with it,” Montoyo said. “I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. Again, Clayton was good today. Sammy [Gaviglio] was good after, that’s what we get.

“Hopefully Clayton will get to his pitch count, 90 to 100 pitches, and then he’ll be good.”

Toronto opened the scoring in the third inning when the red-hot Rowdy Tellez doubled into the right-field corner, extending his hitting streak to a career-best eight games.

Tellez scored the game’s first run when Freddy Galvis doubled down the left-field line.

You could tell Richard was still working off some rust when he was charged with a balk in the third inning that moved Boston base runner Eduardo Nunez into scoring position at second base.

Nunez eventually scored after a couple of infield groundouts to tie the game 1-1.

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The Red Sox moved in front in the sixth when Gaviglio replaced Richard and gave up two runs off three hits.

The game got a little heated in the fourth when Tellez, who had stroked three homers in two previous games against Boston in the series, was promptly hit in the rump on a 0-2 pitch by Red Sox starter Ryan Weber.

Tellez glared at Weber for a few moments before making his way down to first base, after which home plate umpire issued an official cease-and-desist warning to both benches.

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