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Ponson, Yankees endure rough night

Ponson, Yanks endure rough night

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TORONTO -- Matched against one of baseball's best arms, the Yankees turned in their worst showing of the season, a crushing blow as they fight to keep their fading playoff dreams alive.

Sidney Ponson and the pitching staff did little with the Blue Jays in a 14-3 drubbing on Thursday at Rogers Centre. Stifled by Roy Halladay, the 11-run margin of defeat and 21 hits allowed set new lows for the scuffling Yankees, who fell six games back in the chase for the American League Wild Card.

Ponson never was able to find his rhythm and wound up watching most of the game from the clubhouse, touched for seven runs in two-plus innings. He said that his sinker, slider and changeup were all absent from his arsenal, leading him to continually fall behind batters.

"I gave it up," Ponson said. "I'm not happy. These guys play so hard behind me and they're trying so hard. To go out there for two innings and give up seven runs is unacceptable."

The right-hander saw five batters in the third inning and was not able to retire a single one, then watched them all race around the bases in a frame in which Toronto sent 10 men to the plate.

"The game was horrible for me today," Ponson said. "After the first couple of hitters, I was falling behind, ball one and ball two to everybody. You can be the worst hitter in the league, and [after] ball one and two, you become a great hitter. If I could have thrown strike one to every hitter, it would have been a different outcome."

The seven runs allowed by Ponson matched a season high set on July 27 in Boston, and the normally gregarious Ponson was just as despondent after this one. The start was Ponson's shortest as a starter since July 3, 2005, vs. the Indians, when he was pitching for the Orioles, and Ponson has logged a victory only once in his past six starts.

"Sidney's pitched well for us, and I don't make too much out of one game," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "You're not going to forget how to pitch after one game. He just had an off-night."

The Yankees' relief corps didn't help matters much after Ponson's early exit. Marco Scutaro had four RBIs and four hits to lead Toronto's offensive barrage, supporting what would become a breezy seven innings for Halladay, marked only by Hideki Matsui's three-run homer after the game had long since been out of hand.

"There's really nothing more you can really do about this game," Matsui said. "We lost the game and we just have to accept it and move on. It's certainly tough to lose a game like this."

Dipping into the bullpen pool early, Girardi said that he still wasn't ruling out a comeback, but each out Halladay recorded made that seem all the more unlikely. Dave Robertson followed Ponson and allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings, and the big hit off Billy Traber was Matt Stairs' bases-clearing double in the fourth, which put a 10-spot on the board for Toronto.

Scutaro would join the party with a three-run homer off Traber in the fifth, but the Yankees already seemed to be looking ahead. By the time Girardi was considering which relievers could use mound work -- Edwar Ramirez hadn't worked in four days and recorded an out, and Chris Britton cleaned up with the final two frames -- the Yankees had seemed to recognize their deficit to be insurmountable.

On a night when the Yankees had little pitching, the All-Star Halladay gave the Jays more than enough, handcuffing the Bombers on three hits through six scoreless innings. New York would regret not breaking through in the first inning when Johnny Damon singled and stole second base, stranding the leadoff hitter as Halladay struck out both Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu before getting Alex Rodriguez to fly out.

"It's unfortunately how things have been going for us," Damon said. "We still went up against them and tried to have some good at-bats. He's not the best pitcher in the league for nothing. ... He could be the ace on any team in the big leagues. That's how good he is."

The sum total of the Yankees' offense came with one out in the seventh, when Matsui connected for his eighth home run of the season and his first since returning from the disabled list -- an encouraging sign on a personal note, as Matsui doubled on Wednesday and followed up with the round-tripper in Thursday's defeat.

That would have to suffice as far as moral victories went. Halladay wrapped up holding the Yankees to five hits through seven innings, walking two and striking out nine before Scott Downs and Brandon League took over, facing a skeleton crew of Yankees as Girardi pulled many of his regulars from the game for the top of the ninth inning.

The Yankees dropped two out of the three games at Rogers Centre, opening a six-game road trip that next takes them to Baltimore. The loss was another uninspiring effort for New York with 35 games remaining. Girardi said that he was not yet giving up hope.

"I believe there is ability in the room, and I believe our guys know how to play the game," Girardi said. "Obviously, tonight is an ugly game for us. We didn't get the starting pitching that we've been getting for most of the year, and that's going to happen. You're going to have some games like this, and you've got to bounce back."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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