Winless road trip

The Toronto Blue Jays were atop the AL East until they stumbled through their recently completed nine-game road trip and failed to win a game, including a sweep by the woeful Baltimore Orioles.

The last time Toronto had such a terrible road trip, Cito Gaston, their current manager, was asked to resign in 1997 after the team went 2-10. The Blue Jays had not lost nine straight road games since 1979.

Gaston welcomed yesterday's off day.

"I think it's going to be a welcome thing for all of us to get away from the game for a day," he said.

Beleaguered catcher

Red Sox pitchers threw six wild pitches in Wednesday's loss to the Twins. It marked only the fifth time since 1900 that a team threw six wild pitches in a game.

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw four of them, but the main cause may have been the inexperience of backup catcher George Kottaras.

"This guy's not caught a lot to begin with," Boston manager Terry Francona said in an MLB.com posting. "George's Canadian background came into play there. He looked like a goalie at times."

Matsuzaka took some of the blame. "I think I needed to take more of a leadership role with respect to working with Kottaras," he said.

An inspiration

Steve Palermo, whose umpiring career was cut short when he was shot in the back going to the defense of two waitresses outside a Dallas-area restaurant on July 7, 1991, is eager to share his story as a motivational speaker, according to Doug Miller of MLB.com.

Palermo was told he'd never walk again after the bullet pierced his spine. Three months later, he walked onto the field at a Texas Rangers game with crutches and leg braces. Now, he walks with a small leg brace and a cane.

After some prodding by his wife, Debbie, Palermo, private by nature, hopes he can be an inspiration by going public with his experience.

"I think a lot of people just take it for granted that they have all their faculties," Palermo said in the story. "I mean, I get up and walk to the refrigerator, grab something, and it's not a big deal. But it is a big deal for people who are paralyzed and can't do these things. So if they come and listen to me speak and I can somehow motivate them, it's worth doing."

Noteworthy

Yankees starting pitchers were 7-0 with a 2.75 ERA during the recent 12-3 stretch. . . . The Red Sox are fighting for first place despite their starters' combined ERA of 5.36, which ranks 26th out of 30 teams, and virtually no production from David Ortiz.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.