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Blue Jays tripped up again by pitch-imperfect outing

Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (L) talks to pitcher J.A. Happ after walking the bases loaded against the Oakland Athletics during the seventh inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto July 24, 2012.

Mike Cassese/REUTERS

The supposedly pitching-strapped Toronto Blue Jays haven't even been able to figure out a starting assignment for J.A. Happ since he arrived from the Houston Astros on Friday.

And now the American League club, according to various reports from U.S-based media, are said to be in the thick of the hunt to reel in third baseman Hanley Ramirez or pitcher Josh Johnson off the Miami Marlins.

You can tell it is only six days from Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline.

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Despite a season where they've never really put together a decent run worthy of most playoff hopefuls, the Blue Jays still find themselves within spitting distance, along with eight others, for a wild-card berth heading into Tuesday's game against the Oakland Athletics.

Toronto entered the night just three games back of the surprising A's for the A.L.'s second wild-card spot, but the Blue Jays (48-48) could not help their cause as Oakland (52-44) won for a season-high sixth straight time, 7-2, at Rogers Centre.

And with the Blue Jays waiting for one of their starters to stub their toe in order to find a spot to insert Happ into the starting rotation, Brett Cecil was having no part of that equation.

Apart from a two-run home run to Derek Norris in the second inning that provided Oakland with a 2-0 cushion, Cecil was solid, striking out a season-high eight batters over six solid innings where he allowed just five hits.

"With the exception of the first pitch to Norris, Brett used his changeup, his curveball, his cutter in to right-handers," said manager John Farrell. "He had a number of guys off-balance throughout the course of the night."

Cecil (2-3) added an exclamation point to his night, striking out the side in the sixth inning before leaving the game after 94 pitches.

Happ is a known commodity as a major-league starter, the reason the Blue Jays made the trade to acquire him in the first place.

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But after a three-game weekend sweep of the Red Sox in Boston where the Blue Jay starters were all able to record victories, Happ was utilized just once out of the bullpen, waiting for his opportunity to assume a starting role.

On Tuesday, Happ didn't exactly endear himself to the Blue Jay faithful in his first home appearance since the Friday trade.

Making his second relief appearance since the trade, Happ got roundly booed in the seventh inning after walking two and surrendering two hits – including a three-run single off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.

That helped feed a five-run Oakland seventh that put the game out of reach.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos said last week following the trade that Happ will get the opportunity to start when a current member of the rotation "falters", but so far nobody has stepped up to the plate.

Cecil, along with Henderson Alvarez, Carlos Villanueva and Aaron Laffey are considered the moving targets as Farrell has ruled out the possibility that Ricky Romero's job is on the line despite his recent struggles.

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Romero, who will start Wednesday's game against Oakland, has lost five consecutive decisions where he is pitching to an 8.33 ERA. His record, once 8-1, is now 8-6.

"I think some guys have earned the right to have a longer stay than others," Farrell said simply when asked if Romero was in line for a demotion.

Cecil and the Blue Jays were hamstrung Tuesday night by a lack of offensive support as Toronto could only muster five hits off Oakland starter Travis Blackley (3-2), who went seven innings to earn the victory.

Two solo shots, by Travis Snider in the third and J.P. Arencibia in the ninth, comprised the team's hitting heroics. It was the second home run for Snider in the four games since his return from the minor leagues, while Arencibia's blast was the fifth home run he's struck in his last 13 games.

Brett Lawrie went 3-for-4 at the plate in Toronto's losing effort.

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