TORONTO — The Rays on Friday not only got to experience the frenzied atmosphere at the Rogers Centre as the Blue Jays close in on their first playoff berth in 22 years, but the brute force as to why they are in that position in a 5-3 loss.
AL MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista homered as the powerful Jays erased a 2-0 lead the Rays took in the first off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey before a sellout of 47,696.
Starter Jake Odorizzi lasted only five innings, and needed 111 pitches to get that far, allowing four runs on seven hits, including the first two homers. Though Odorizzi said he threw a lot of good pitches to limit further damage, he took the blame.
"A loss is a loss, and it's my fault. I didn't do my job,'' he said. "I had a two-run lead in the first inning and playing a team like this, a playoff-caliber team obviously, it's kind of disheartening just to see. We should be in these games when we have an early lead.''
Odorizzi said the Jays made it tough on him, as he felt he either risked getting hit early in counts or battling through a high number of pitches. Manager Kevin Cash said Odorizzi was "trying to be too fine" with his pitches.
"It's just a team playing with confidence right now,'' Odorizzi said. "We all see how good they are. It's just different playing a team that's playing with confidence as opposed to a team that's not. I really had to work tonight.''
The Rays took the early lead after loading the bases in the first, scoring on a wild pitch by Dickey and an Asdrubal Cabrera sac fly. But that was all they could get as Dickey settled in and got his knuckleball under control, and changing speeds with it.
The loss halted the Rays' three-game win streak and dropped them to 75-79, meaning they have to win six of their remaining eight games to avoid a losing record.
NO JAKING: LHP Jake McGee rejoins the bullpen today, saying it will be good for him and for the Rays to get back into action over the final eight games of the season after spending the past 5½ weeks sidelined following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
"I just want to be back out there for me, and I'm sure, for the team," he said. "It'll ease their minds a little bit going into the offseason knowing I'm healthy and I went out and was pitching well. That's a big thing for me mentally in the offseason. I don't want to end the year on the DL."
McGee, who also missed the first month recovering from arthroscopic elbow surgery, is 1-2, 2.57 with six saves in 36 appearances.
McGee said he was targeting today all along after going through an extensive workout Wednesday and doing some fielding drills Thursday. Manager Kevin Cash acknowledged during his pregame media session that it was just wishful thinking when he said McGee would be back Friday: "I think I got too excited knowing that he was getting real close to coming back."
NO TV: Today's Chris Archer-David Price matchup will be not be televised in the Tampa Bay area. Sun Sports did not have it in its 150-game package.
POWER BALL: Former Jays C J.P. Arencibia homered for the Rays in the eighth, drawing boos from the crowd. "It wasn't really too special,'' he said. "Obviously it wasn't enough to get us back in the game. All that matters is winning, and we didn't win.'' It was the team-record-tying 20th homer of the season by Rays catchers — 10 by still-injured Curt Casali, six by Arencibia, four by Rene Rivera.
MISCELLANY: The Rays allowed three or more homers for the 19th time. … Cash praised the work of rookie LHP Enny Romero, who retired Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during his 11/3-inning outing. … The Rays are 52-24 when scoring first.