ST. PETERSBURG — Jeremy Hellickson entered Monday having not lost a regular-season start in more than eight months, a near record roll for the reigning AL rookie of the year.
The right-hander pitched well enough to win Monday night, but three errors proved costly as the Rays lost 6-2 to the Blue Jays in front of 10,844 at Tropicana Field.
The inability of the Rays (25-18) to convert potential double-play attempts led to four Toronto runs, resulting in their fourth loss in their past five games.
"We made uncharacteristic mistakes on defense," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's another one of those weird adventures that we've been going through."
While Hellickson (4-1) deserved a better fate, Jays right-hander Kyle Drabek caught a break, becoming the first American League starter since then-Ranger Juan Guzman on July 15, 1994, to walk at least six, throw at least three wild pitches and still earn the win. The Rays stranded eight baserunners, going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"We've been leaving a lot of people on base," Maddon said. "We've got to drive them in."
But the game was still close until the seventh. With one out and the Rays down 3-2, Hellickson allowed a double and intentional walk.
Maddon brought in sinkerballer Burke Badenhop, who did his job, inducing three consecutive ground balls. But two resulted in errors and the other a miscue. Badenhop said he should have gotten the first one, a grounder toward the mound, but it got under his glove, loading the bases for home run champ Jose Bautista.
Bautista hit a chopper to typically sure-handed third baseman Sean Rodriguez, but his throw to second sailed wide of Will Rhymes into rightfield, allowing two runs to score.
"There was no shot," Rhymes said. "It was really wide."
The two tried again when Edwin Encarnacion hit a grounder to third, but this time Bautista's hard slide forced Rhymes' throw to go awry.
"He got me right as I was throwing it," Rhymes said. "That's just good, hard baseball. I tried to stand in there and get a throw off, but there's only so much you can do."
That's how Badenhop felt.
"There's probably not too many times I get four ground balls with guys on base and we come out smelling like garbage," Badenhop said. "It didn't roll for us in that inning."
The Rays had got a break early when centerfielder B.J. Upton was awarded a solo homer in the first inning. Initially ruled a double, Upton argued for instant replay, and home plate umpire Joe West said the ball hit a suspended object beyond the B-ring catwalk, which ground rules say is a homer. "I know the rules in here, been playing long enough," Upton said, smiling.
But the Rays mustered just five hits, and Hellickson was saddled with his first regular-season loss since Sept. 4, 2011, spanning 13 starts.
"He really, really pitched well enough to win on any given day," Maddon said. "It's just unfortunate we didn't come through."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.