ST. PETERSBURG — For the first eight innings of Sunday afternoon's Rays game against the Blue Jays, neither manager had much to do. Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi pitched seven solid innings, giving up two hits, although one was a fourth-inning home run.
Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, celebrating his 25th birthday, was just as good. He went eight innings and gave up three hits, although one was a sixth-inning homer to Evan Longoria.
Then came the ninth inning, where a series of managerial decisions led to the Rays' 5-1 loss.
Toronto manager John Gibbons decided to pinch-hit righty Darwin Barney for Ryan Goins against left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno. Barney delivered with a leadoff double. A walk to Michael Saunders ended Cedeno's outing.
Right-hander Alex Colome relieved and walked Josh Donaldson to load the bases with no outs. A strikeout to Jose Bautista gave the Rays hope, but with Tampa Bay's infielders shifted to the left side, Edwin Encarnacion hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Logan Forsythe, who was on the third-base side of second. With the shift, Forsythe had no play at second and was forced to take the out at first, scoring Barney.
That made it 2-1. Then Troy Tulowitzki, mired in an 0-for-16 slump, hit a three-run homer that sent some of the 27,217 at Tropicana Field headed to the exits. It was the first home run Colome has given up in 69 innings.
"They made a good move, I guess, bringing in Barney," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He gets the big hit."
But what really had Cash second-guessing himself was the decision to shift the infield against the right-handed hitting Encarnacion.
"Looking back on it, that's what I'm most frustrated about," he said. "In a perfect world we would've brought the infield in and put Logan in the exact same spot, and we would've had an out at home. But he hit it in the one spot we couldn't turn it."
The way the Rays (11-13) hit Sunday, it might not have mattered if they had gotten out of the ninth inning unscathed. Stroman struck out a career-high nine. The Rays' only other hit came in the ninth inning, when Longoria led off with a single against reliever Roberto Osuna.
Aside from Longoria's home run, Tampa Bay got a runner to second only once, in the third inning.
"(Stroman) throws four or five quality pitches," Longoria said. "He doesn't make too many mistakes. We didn't hit with runners in scoring position. We need to figure out how to get better in those situations."
The loss put a damper on a good start by Odorizzi. He walked the first batter of the game, Saunders, but got a double play to get out of that mini jam. He retired nine in a row until Donaldson came up with one out in the fourth and launched a fastball into the leftfield seats, his ninth homer of the season.
Longoria tied it in the sixth with his fifth homer of the season. The only other threat Toronto had until the ninth was in the seventh inning. Bautista walked and reached second on an errant pickoff attempt. But Odorizzi got the next two batters to get out of the inning.
"I just made better pitches and had command of the zone," Odorizzi said. "I thought the double play in the first inning was huge to get out of the inning and keep my pitch count low."