TORONTO – Losing a starting pitcher to injury is tough for any team. Losing three in four starts is both devastating and bizarre.
Fortunately for the Toronto Blue Jays, the bullpen was able to come through and stem the bleeding.
Carlos Villanueva threw four strong innings of relief to get the win, and the Blue Jays overcame an injury to right-hander Drew Hutchison in a 3-0 interleague win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday.
“We all talked about it and I don’t think I’ve even seen two go down that way,” said Villanueva (2-0), one of five relievers to take the mound after Hutchison left with a sore right elbow after making just nine pitches.
Earlier Friday, the Blue Jays said that an MRI revealed right-hander Kyle Drabek has a torn ligament in his elbow that may require surgery. Drabek left in the fifth inning Wednesday in Toronto’s 6-2 loss to Washington.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow left Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Nationals after just nine pitches with a strained oblique muscle in his left side, and is also on the 15-day DL.
“Obviously we’re concerned for Hutch,” Villanueva said. “I haven’t talked to him and hopefully it’s not that bad. To have him nine pitches in like Brandon the other day, it’s tough to see.
Hutchison left his start with the count 2-1 on Hunter Pence and two out in the first inning with what was reported as soreness in his right elbow. Left-hander Aaron Laffey replaced Hutchison and completed the walk, but worked out of the inning and also pitched the second.
“I can’t say enough about the bullpen that came out and put up zeroes all night,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. “I’ve never seen this, three starters in four days to come out with injury.”
Farrell did not want to speculate on the severity of the injury.
“He’ll have more tests,” he said. “We’ll probably have a better read on this at tomorrow at some point but until then it’s pure speculation about the length and the severity. I’m not saying Drew’s fearing the worst but when you feel that discomfort he’s obviously concerned as we all are.”
Villanueva followed Laffey as Toronto (32-32) ended a three-game losing string. Still, the Blue Jays have won only two of their past eight games.
The Phillies (31-35) had won two in a row before being held to five hits by six Blue Jays pitchers in the opener of a three-game interleague series.
Casey Janssen pitched the ninth for his sixth save of the season.
Phillies right-hander Vance Worley (3-3) allowed five hits and three runs, one earned, in seven innings.
“It was a good victory for the ‘pen because we’ve been through some ups and downs and to be able to get in there and shut them down takes the sting off a little bit,” Villanueva said.
The Phillies also received some bad injury news in a season that has seen them lose such star players as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay. Carlos Ruiz left the game in the fifth inning with a strained left oblique muscle while taking a swing at the plate.
“We don’t exactly know how bad it is right now but we’ll know by tomorrow probably,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
“That’s a big one. I mean he’s our .360 hitter and he’s the guy that’s been hot (eight home runs, 35 RBIs). He’s the guy that’ been consistent. But at the same time he won’t be able to play for a few days for sure but we’ll know more by tomorrow.”
Villanueva overcame a double and a walk in the third and got better as is outing continued. He completed his four-inning stint by striking out the side in the sixth.
By that time the Blue Jays were leading 3-0.
They scored in the third on consecutive two-out doubles by Rajai Davis and Langley, B.C., native Brett Lawrie.
The Blue Jays added two unearned runs in the fourth. Jose Bautista led off with a single and scored from first when Philly third baseman Mike Fontenot threw the ball away going for the force out at second on a grounder by Edwin Encarnacion.
Encarnacion went to third on the play and scored on a ground out by Yunel Escobar.
The Phillies threatened to score in the eighth against left-hander Darren Oliver with runners at second and third, but Brian Schneider took a called third strike to end the inning.
“We didn’t have a very good game tonight although Worley pitched good,” Manuel said. “Worley pitched real good. We didn’t hit. They held us. It was a bullpen game for them and we didn’t hit.”
Villanueva made some starts for Toronto last season and could be pressed into that role again.
“I’ll do whatever they want me to do,” he said.
Notes: Attendance at Rogers Centre was 28,266 . … Lawrie extended his hit string to five games with his third-inning double. ….First baseman David Cooper was 0-for-3 Friday and is in a 0-for-18 drought. ….Fontenot’s error in the fourth was the 13th by the Phillies in their past 13 games. …Brett Cecil has been called up from triple-A Las Vegas to start Sunday for the Blue Jays …Toronto will send out left-hander Ricky Romero (7-1, 4.15 earned-run average) against left-hander Cliff Lee (0-3, 3.18) on Saturday.