TORONTO — In a season full of them, this likely will rank as one of the Rays' most frustrating losses.
After getting outslugged in the first two games of this series in Toronto, the Rays did all they could to slow down the red-hot, first-place Blue Jays on Wednesday night. They got a strong six-inning start by Chris Archer and sharp bullpen work, and might have hit the ball as hard as they have all year.
But the Jays could probably fill SportsCenter's Top 10 plays with the display of diving and leaping catches, including two at the outfield wall. And the Rays lost 3-2 in weird walkoff fashion, as pinch-runner Kevin Pillar raced around from first on a throwing error by reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo, who was fielding Anthony Gose's sacrifice bunt.
"We played well, we pitched well, we actually swung the bats well and lost the game," manager Joe Maddon said. "We got beat with our own stick."
The Rays (23-31) fell back into last place in the American League East, and nine games out of first, as they head to Boston to open a three-game series Friday night at Fenway. The Jays have won nine straight and 14 of 16.
"It's just been our luck here recently," Wil Myers said.
The good news for the Rays is they expect catcher Jose Molina to be ready to play by Friday. Molina was pulled after the eighth inning when he took a foul tip of a Jake McGee fastball off the mask. "A pretty severe blow," Maddon said. Molina, the Rays' lone experienced catcher with Ryan Hanigan going on the disabled list, wanted to stay in and said he felt no concussion-like symptoms.
"I'm 100 percent good," he said.
Archer looked good after the Jays' two-run first, settling in to throw five scoreless frames and quieting one of the league's most potent offenses. Archer said he hasn't felt that good with his fastball in a long time. "Outstanding," Maddon said.
After Myers hit a tying two-run homer in the second, the Rays racked up at least 2,000 feet in flyouts against righty Liam Hendriks. Gose made a leaping catch atop the centerfield wall to rob James Loney of extra bases, and an RBI, in the third. In the fourth, Desmond Jennings just missed a homer left of the leftfield foul pole, and in the sixth, leftfielder Melky Cabrera caught an Evan Longoria blast as he crashed into the wall. Third baseman Juan Francisco made a diving stop on a David DeJesus grounder in the eighth.
"We were smashing balls," Archer said. "They were playing outstanding defense. One of those tough nights."
After some stellar relief work, including a McGee strikeout of Edwin Encarnacion on a 100 mph fastball, it ended badly. Oviedo gave up a leadoff single to ex-Ray Dioner Navarro. Pillar pinch-ran, and when Gose dropped a bunt down the first-base line, Oviedo rushed a wild throw from his knees, and it sailed down the rightfield line.
"It's been pretty much how this season has gone to this point," Maddon said. "But we're going to change it all. All these weird awkward breaks, we're just not catching them.
"Turned out, they caught them."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]y.com.