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Nunez singles to put the Yanks on the board

TORONTO -- The fallout was less dramatic, and it happened later in the game. But there has been one glaring, common theme in the Yankees' first two games of this second half: A veteran starter who attained surprising success in the first half wasn't himself.

On Thursday, it was Bartolo Colon who got shelled in the first inning.

On Friday, it was Freddy Garcia who labored in the fifth.

That's the frame when Garcia's run of five consecutive quality starts ended, when the Blue Jays put up three runs to build a five-run lead, when the home crowd began its anti-Yankees chant, and when the Bronx Bombers fell behind for good, eventually suffering a second straight loss at Rogers Centre, 7-1.

"It's not the way you want to start out [the second half], but let's not make too much of them," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I mean, it's two games. We'll get back on track, and we'll start playing well again."

The question is whether the two back-end, veteran starters who practically carried the Yankees in the first half will be just as effective in this shorter second half.

After Colon gave up eight runs (three earned) in two-thirds of an inning in a series-opening 16-7 loss, Garcia lacked command of his go-to splitter and wound up surrendering six runs (five earned) in five innings.

The Yankees remained 1 1/2 games back of the Red Sox in the American League East after Boston's loss to the Rays, and they hold a 3 1/2 game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL Wild Card race.

But with the non-waiver Trade Deadline now barely over two weeks away, perhaps it's time to wonder if New York can get a full, successful second half out of Colon and Garcia.

Girardi doesn't think so.

"If every time your starter went out and had not such a good start you lost confidence in him, you'd run out of starters in a hurry," he said. "Starters, sometimes, are going to get hit, and that's the bottom line. They live on a fine line every time they go out there, and sometimes they're just not going to make the pitches that we're used to seeing them make. And that happens."

It happened to Garcia after four innings.

The Yankees had a hard time mustering runs against Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow, but it was only a 3-1 game heading into the bottom of the fifth.

Then Toronto pulled away, even with slugger Jose Bautista out of action once again.

Garcia started the frame by issuing a leadoff double to Eric Thames, then walking back-to-back hitters to load the bases with nobody out. The Blue Jays then scored on a force out at second base after Aaron Hill barely beat out a double-play attempt, added another run on a sacrifice fly by Travis Snider, and notched their third run when Russell Martin's throw to third on Hill's second attempted steal landed in the outfield.

"He really had most of our hitters off balance early on, but we did a good job of making the necessary adjustments," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell, whose club has now won five straight. "We didn't chase as many balls out of the zone."

Garcia's problems stemmed from leaving his offspeed pitches up too often. One, in particular, was a splitter he says he never has a good feel of in Toronto, for some reason.

In eight career starts at Rogers Centre, Garcia has a 7.17 ERA -- the highest of any park in which he's pitched more than one game.

"That's my best pitch," Garcia said, "and if I don't have it, I get in trouble."

Perhaps the signs were another reason Garcia couldn't get into a rhythm.

With the Blue Jays allegedly relaying signs on Thursday, the Yankees were extra cognizant of them on Friday -- almost to the point of paranoia. Girardi made the decision to go with multiple signs, even when there was nobody on base.

That led to more mound trips and more confusion.

"You don't want them knowing what's going on," said Martin, who didn't feel they were stealing signs on Friday. "But at the same time, you still have to execute pitches and keep the game simple. But it did seem like the game was a little slower today out there."

Garcia, who hadn't pitched since July 3, came in with a 1.35 ERA in his last three starts, and had been at his best this season during long layoffs. But he wasn't very sharp en route to giving up seven hits and four walks through five frames.

Morrow, on the other hand, was.

He gave up just one earned run in 6 2/3 innings, scattering four hits, walking two and striking out six while throwing 112 pitches.

Morrow came in with a 4.60 ERA, but was coming off limiting the Indians to three runs in eight innings on July 9. After getting a run on an RBI single by Eduardo Nunez in the second inning, the Yankees managed just two baserunners off Morrow between the third and seventh.

The top four spots of the Yankees' lineup -- Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano -- combined to go 0-for-11 against him.

"He threw everything really well," Granderson said. "He had fastball, slider and split -- all three of them working really well. Fastball was getting up to 96, slider was going anywhere from 89 to 91, and his changeup and/or split were between 80 and 81. And he was locating them very well. Not too many balls in the middle of the plate." Comments