ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have seen this show before.
Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game against Tampa Bay in 2009 while with the White Sox. On Wednesday night, the Blue Jays' veteran lefty was more savvy than spectacular.
Buehrle, 35, allowed four hits and struck out 11 (eight looking), coming one out from a complete game in handing the Rays a 3-0 loss in front of 10,808 at Tropicana Field.
Even Buehrle, a 14-year veteran, said it was "surprising" he had 11 strikeouts, one shy of his career high (April 16, 2005). It was just the second time, in 430 starts, he reached double digits.
"He was throwing the ball where he wanted to, consistently," leftfielder Sean Rodriguez said. "When you do, umpires are going to give you the calls. He pitched well, that's why he's got a couple perfect games, and he's Mark Buehrle for a reason."
After an offensive outburst on opening day, Tampa Bay (1-2) has lost two straight, scoring a combined two runs. No Ray got further than second base Wednesday, though they did make it interesting again in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate. But lefty Brett Cecil struck out Matt Joyce swinging to end it.
If the Jays win tonight, they'll clinch their first series at the Trop since Aug. 6-8, 2007.
"We're fine, we're playing well," manager Joe Maddon said. "We just haven't hit the ball like we can the last two nights."
Rays left-hander Matt Moore, who struggled with his command during the spring, threw 60 of 106 pitches for strikes in his season debut but was encouraged with how he battled out of jams in a 5⅔-inning outing.
"I thought he pitched well — that's definitely good enough to win a ball game," Maddon said. "Two runs in 5⅔? I'll take that out of all of our starters actually."
There was more dazzling defense by third baseman Evan Longoria, who ended the first inning by leaping when a grounder caromed high off third base, then tagging the bag. "That," Moore said, "was awesome."
The Jays scored twice in the fourth, including the first of two solo homers by Jose Bautista.
"For the most part, their offense is centered around one guy," Maddon said. "And he can do that kind of stuff."
The Rays offense, however, couldn't muster much against Buehrle. The Rays hit the ball a few times early on but often right at people, including third baseman Brett Lawrie leaping for a Rodriguez liner with a runner on second in the fifth.
"One of our credos is that we catch line drives," Maddon said. "It kind of worked against us (Wednesday)."
The bullpen kept it close, including closer Grant Balfour's interesting debut (walk, HBP, two wild pitches, no runs). But it was Buehrle who stole the show and, perhaps, some favorable calls.
"He knows what he's doing, and he knows how to take advantage of things," Maddon said. "And he definitely took advantage of things."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]