TORONTO — The ball that rocketed off Josh Donaldson's bat had barely cleared airspace over the leftfield wall Sunday when the Rogers Centre sellout crowd erupted in a roaring crescendo of celebration.
A weekend of playing in a frenzied playoff-like atmosphere ended in dismal failure for the Rays, as Steve Geltz gave up the walkoff home run that sealed the 5-4 defeat and three-game sweep that also officially eliminated them from the wild-card race and dropped them back into last place at 75-81.
At the least, the Rays and their rookie-laden roster (10 played Sunday) figured to gain something for being party to the Blue Jays' coronation after a 22-year postseason absence.
Rays manager Kevin Cash said they had better.
"We're definitely experiencing it. I hope that we're learning from it," Cash said. "We experienced it, so now it's up to us to get it right and get better from it. Hopefully this was an eye-opening deal for a lot of these players."
Sunday was microcosmic of the entire weekend, and certain stretches of the season, as the Rays made a series of mistakes that derailed them in assorted ways.
Cash said they must be addressed if the Rays soon want to be the team headed to playing meaningful games in October.
Such as on the mound, where ill-timed walks allowed the Jays to flip their lineup over:
"We had some questionable pitches on the mound thrown. It was questionable how we attacked some guys the entire series."
Such as in the field, where misplays and missed plays — the list including a fly ball that dropped between outfielders Brandon Guyer and Mikie Mahtook — extended innings and pitch counts:
"We did some things on defense that were uncharacteristic of us. I don't think you can blame the magnitude and the atmosphere of these games for the Blue Jays on that, but you got to give some consideration to that's a factor."
Such as on the bases, where rookie Mahtook's over-aggressiveness Sunday, costing them a potentially huge tack-on run, was the most recent transgression:
"There's no doubt we have to get better as a baseball team on the bases. We have allowed too many outs on the bases this year. That's not a secret and given the way we're going to win games, those extra outs are precious. …
"We've run into outs. We've overslid bases. We've stolen bases and got caught stealing at the wrong times. A lot of things."
The Rays took a 4-1 lead into the sixth and a 4-3 edge into the eighth Sunday, and that was when their mistakes finally caught up to them.
Mahtook's hustle on beating out an infield single and forcing an errant throw then stealing third had them in prime position to add on. But Mahtook incorrectly broke in when Evan Longoria hit a sharp grounder to Donaldson, and when he dived back to the base, Donaldson tagged him out.
It got worse. Alex Colome gave up a one-out single in the eighth then a two-out double that cost the Rays the lead. Then Geltz, after getting two outs to start the ninth, missed badly with an 0-and-1 slider that Donaldson launched to ignite the party.
Longoria, the lone remaining player from the Rays' 2008 World Series team, said he hopes there was some benefit to his young mates.
"You can't really get the whole experience when you're not playing for anything — they are, and we're playing to be spoilers and that's about it. So I think the dynamic changes a little bit if you're playing for a playoff spot as well," he said.
"But, yeah, the pressure and the intensity is definitely amped up a little bit when you're playing in an environment like this. So I thought it was a good learning experience for them. Hopefully they took a lot out of it."
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.