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HOU@TOR: Arencibia rips a solo homer in the sixth

TORONTO -- Talking to Kyle Drabek following Sunday's game, you wouldn't know the young right-hander had just thrown his fifth quality start of the season.

Rather, the 23-year-old rookie stood at his locker shouldering much of the blame for the Blue Jays' 3-2 loss to the Astros at Rogers Centre Sunday afternoon, which dropped the team back to .500.

The solemn Drabek was visibly upset with his performance both on the mound and after the game, lamenting the amount of times he got ahead of hitters only to allow them back into the count with pitches outside the zone.

"When things aren't going your way and you're trying and they just still don't -- I'm going to get frustrated. I'm not just going to sit there and hold it all in," Drabek said.

Drabek's numbers Sunday were all a manager could ask for -- a six-inning performance with eight hits, three runs and three strikeouts.

He struggled at times, facing 27 batters and allowing a two-run homer to Hunter Pence in the fifth inning. And while three runs over six innings would be considered a strong effort to many, by Drabek's heightened standards, Sunday was far from a good outing.

"Not for me," the young starter said. "I didn't accomplish much that I wanted to. I still walked people. ... I would get ahead and then give it right back, and that's not quality right there."

Drabek walked just three batters in the outing, but he threw 64 pitches through his first three innings. He fell behind 18 of the 27 batters he faced and threw 16 first-pitch balls.

He was especially upset with his third-inning sequence to Astros first baseman Brett Wallace, who he got ahead of with a first-pitch strike before falling behind with three straight balls. Wallace would eventually rifle a 3-2 pitch back up the middle for a single, scoring Pence from third base for the Astros' first run.

"Going out there and throwing 20-25 pitches in an inning isn't helping the team at all," Drabek said. "Even though we might come out with a zero in the inning, [the defense is] out there just standing there because I can't throw strikes. That's where I need to cut down. I want to get them back in there so they can score some runs."

Drabek was by far his toughest critic, however, as Blue Jays manager John Farrell saw many positives in the outing.

"I thought Kyle was solid. He gave us a good effort for six [innings,]" Farrell said. "He gave us every opportunity to stay in this game and gave us an opportunity to win. ... He doesn't have to be perfect."

Farrell thought Drabek regrouped well on the mound when he fell behind hitters and allowed runners to reach base, and saw the outing as continued progress in the right-hander's first full year in the Majors.

Drabek's catcher and fellow rookie J.P. Arencibia agreed, taking the opposite stance of his battery mate after the game.

"He's too tough on himself. He's a rookie and he has a quality start. He goes six innings, three runs. That's what his job is to do," Arencibia said. "He's not going to be out there throwing a no-hitter every time. He has to understand that he gave us an opportunity to win."

Opportunity was a key word -- Farrell used it 10 times in his postgame press conference -- for the Blue Jays, who went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.

With the exception of No. 9 hitter Jayson Nix, every hitter in the Blue Jays' starting lineup reached base at least once, and the team had runners on base in every inning except for the fourth and fifth. But when it came time to drive the runners in, the Astros managed to wiggle out of trouble.

That helped Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez pick up his third win of the season, as he allowed six hits and two runs while striking out six over six innings.

"There were a lot of tough situations," Pence said. "We made some good defensive plays and had some great pitching by Wandy to get out of those jams early."

The Astros loaded the bases with an intentional walk twice -- in the second and ninth innings -- working their way out of the frame both times.

The most disheartening missed opportunity for the Blue Jays was the bottom of the ninth, when cleanup hitter Aaron Hill had a chance to tie the game or win it with the bases loaded and two outs, but grounded out to third.

"We were 90 feet away from extending this game at the end," Farrell said. "We continue to create opportunities. We didn't get a timely hit when needed, but at the same time, if we continue to take an approach which continues to give us opportunities, we're going to cash in."

Both of Toronto's runs came via the homer, as Juan Rivera went deep in the third and Arencibia pulled Toronto to within one in the sixth, hitting a moon shot to left-center on Rodriguez's first pitch of the inning.

It was the rookie catcher's eighth home run on the season, moving him into sole possession of second place on the Blue Jays, behind Jose Bautista.

Meanwhile, Bautista was held without a hit for just the eighth time this season, striking out twice. He was intentionally walked in the ninth, and has now reached base safely in 36 of his 38 games this season. Comments