Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox beats a tag by Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin at the Rogers Centre Friday. (Nick Turchiaro/USA Today Sports)
Joe Biagini has performed admirably as a fill-in starter for the Toronto Blue Jays, pitching seven innings in each of his last two outings prior to his taking the mound Friday night against the Chicago White Sox.
There were even rumblings from the peanut galleries that Biagini should not have to relinquish his starting role and return to bullpen once the sore-fingered Aaron Sanchez is finally ready to resume his rightful spot in the rotation.
That chorus has surely been muffled, if not downright silenced, after the ugliness that transpired on the mound early on in the game against Chicago at Rogers Centre.
Biagini was very bad and the White Sox made mincemeat of the rumpled righthander, socking him for seven runs (six earned) off eight hits all in a disastrous first two innings.
It made for a rather long evening for the 39,000 or so fans that showed up expecting, at the very least, a competitive outing from the home squad against a Chicago club mired in last place in the American League Central.
What got served up instead was an arduous 11-4 blowout victory by the White Sox in what the Blue Jays certainly hope is not a harbinger of things to come in the first of a three-game weekend set.
Biagini was rocked for four runs in the first inning that began with the speedy Alen Hanson beating out an infield single and then promptly stealing second base.
Melky Cabrera, the former Blue Jay, then worked a four-pitch walk.
The next batter was Jose Abreu, who massaged the count to 3-0 before an increasingly restless fan base and then was given the green light to swing away if he saw a pitch to his liking.
Biagini obliged, serving up a 94-mile-an-hour fastball over the fat part of the plate that Abreu lashed to right. The ball struck off the wall and bounced back past Jose Bautista.
By the time the dust had settled, Abreu had his second triple of the year and the White Sox had grabbed a 2-0 lead.
It was 3-0 when Matt Davidson doubled into the left-field corner before Biagini only added to his misery, fielding a ground ball off the bat of Tim Anderson to the right of the mound.
In his haste to try to get Anderson out, Biagini flung the ball well over the head of first baseman Justin Smoak for an error, allowing Davidson to romp all the way home for Chicago’s fourth run.
The fun and games continued in the second inning when Biagini served up four consecutive hits to the first four batters he faced, including a couple of doubles by Cabrera and Abreu that cashed in three more Chicago runs.
That brought the score to 7-0 Chicago, more than enough carnage for Toronto manager John Gibbons to have witnessed for one night and he came out to rescue Biagini.
As he did so, the boos from some of the more unruly patrons started to rumble throughout the stadium in disdain of Biagini’s performance.
Cabrera would certainly enjoy himself, walloping a three-run home run in the fifth inning for Chicago to give him five runs batted in on the game.
As the White Sox came in with a firm grip on last place in the A.L. Central, the Blue Jays were viewing the series as a good opportunity to begin that long-awaited extended winning streak that would take them up the A.L. East ladder.
The Blue Jays began the day tied for fourth place with the Baltimore Orioles with a record of 32-33, 6.5-games off the pace.
Friday’s game also marked the sixth opportunity Toronto has had to level its record at .500, territory the Blue Jays have yet to explore this season.
“I can’t believe we’ve had so many shots at it,” Gibbons remarked before the game.
As anticipated, the Blue Jays activated Steve Pearce from the disabled list prior to the game and he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup in left field.
“Good to see him, been a while,” Gibbons said. “We need his bat.”
Before he got hurt, Pearce was hitting all of .205, and that after a three-game hit streak.
But Pearce provided what little the home town fans had to cheer about when he stroked a line-drive home run over the wall in left in his first at-bat in the third inning.
Kendrys Morales also homered in Toronto’s losing cause, his 14th of the season, as did Justin Smoak, with his 19th.