TORONTO -- It seems that every time the Blue Jays take a positive step forward this season they end up taking a couple of steps back.
The Blue Jays were coming off a solid performance against the White Sox, splitting the four-game series, and Jose Bautista made his return to the lineup, but things unraveled quickly after Brandon Morrow stepped on the mound for the first inning.
Morrow allowed two runs in the first and three in the third, and the Blue Jays were roughed up for the second time in three games, losing, 9-4, to the Yankees at Rogers Centre on Friday.
"It was a lot like in Kansas City, his first inning, it almost seemed like he wasn't getting loose," manager John Gibbons said after the game.
"I was just falling behind guys early in the counts during the first few innings," added Morrow, who's now had two starts this season in which he's allowed five earned runs.
Morrow was tagged for seven runs, with two unearned tallies coming on a strange play in the third inning that contributed to the Blue Jays' undoing.
With two men in scoring position and one away, Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez hit a fly ball to center fielder Colby Rasmus, who threw to the plate anticipating the runner on third to try to score on the sacrifice fly. The ball bounced in front of Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia, then hit off of his chest protector and ricocheted into the Yankees dugout, scoring both runners and giving the Yankees a four-run lead.
"I tried to attack it, keep it in front of me, but with that happening it kind of ate me up even more," Arencibia said. "So I tried to block it, and it hit off of me and went into the dugout."
Rasmus was charged with the error, but after the game, Gibbons said the correct play for the Blue Jays catcher was to stay back and let the ball come to him. Arencibia admitted his mistake after the game but said he was trying to be aggressive to avoid the ball short-hopping him.
"That ball that hit off me, that kind of changes it right there, those two runs don't score," said Arencibia, who later clubbed his sixth home run of the season with a solo shot in the ninth. "That's a tough draw."
Before the miscue, the Blue Jays trailed, 3-1, and the game was still in reach. But when the ball went into the dugout, everything changed. What could've been an easy way out of a jam turned into a deflating 5-1 deficit.
"The ball that we throw away, it scores two runs and changes the complexion of the game," Gibbons said.
While Morrow and the defense struggled, Andy Pettitte was strong on the mound for New York. The veteran left-hander faced only one batter over the minimum since the second inning, before surrendering a two-run homer to Bautista in the sixth. He allowed three runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out five, in 7 1/3 innings to improve to 3-0 after missing a start due to back spasms.
"Guys like Pettitte, the great pitchers, they don't make enough mistakes that you can get back in it," Gibbons said. "Even at his age, it's pretty special what he's still doing, he doesn't make a whole lot of mistakes."
"Andy's remarkable," Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said in his return to Rogers Centre. "I've had a chance to see him for a long time, and he's the same guy that he was 10, 12 years ago. It's fun to watch, and it's a pleasure to watch an individual that has been around this long and still continues to have success."
Wells, the ex-Blue Jay, was there to rub a little salt in the wound for his former club. With the Yankees up, 8-3, in the seventh, the 34-year-old hit a deep home run into the second deck in right field to extend the lead.
"This place has always played, if you hit it, it goes. It has always played true to that," Wells said.
Wells' homer was the second by a former Blue Jay, coming after Lyle Overbay cleared the fences in the sixth with a solo shot.
There was some encouraging news for Toronto. Bautista's homer onto the 200-level patio came after he missed the previous four games with back spasms. And Brett Lawrie finally got his first hits of the season in his fourth game, reaching on an infield single in the second -- breaking an 0-for-10 skid to begin the year -- and adding another single in the fifth.
But the offense is continuing to struggle, scoring only 19 runs since Jose Reyes was placed on the disabled list Saturday.
With the loss, Toronto fell three games below .500 -- not exactly the start the team was hoping for.
"It's a game of failures. Everybody wants to produce, confidence in this business can waver, so we have to fight through that," Gibbons said. "[But] you still have to play good, sound baseball until things get going. That's how you stay in the game and give yourself a chance to win. Tonight we didn't really do that."
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.