TORONTO — Seven pitches into Monday's game, when Johnny Damon hit the first of his two homers, the Rays seemed like they could well have been headed to the repeat of Sunday's powerful performance manager Joe Maddon wanted so much that he made the unusual move — for him, anyway — of starting the same lineup.
But with a struggling Wade Davis on the mound instead of David Price, the result was nothing like the same, an ugly 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays that was not much of an encore to Sunday's 12-0 victory. "We just didn't pitch well," Maddon said.
The outcome wasn't pretty, either, as with the Yankees winning in Baltimore, the Rays (73-60) — after winning three straight over the Jays — dropped back to 7½ games from the wild-card pace with 29 games left.
"It's rough," Davis said. "It's tough on the team; it's tough on me. We're in a tough spot; we're trying to battle uphill. We've just got to keep going."
"Every game is big," Damon said. "We just need to keep winning, keep winning series, and hopefully we'll still be in good position come late September."
Davis — winless for the month — was off from the start and lasted only 41/3 innings, the shortest start by a Ray since Jeremy Hellickson went 41/3 on Aug. 13 at New York. He allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks, throwing 108 pitches.
Staked to a 2-0 lead, he walked leadoff man Yunel Escobar then, after a fielder's choice grounder, threw two wild pitches to No. 3 hitter Jose Bautista and ended up walking him, though a double play saved him from worse.
"Wade just had a hard time command-wise," Maddon said. "The whole game he just could not find a rhythm with anything. Physically good stuff — high velocity number, decent break on the breaking ball — but overall just didn't have command of what he was doing. And that pretty much hurt."
What made it more frustrating, Davis said, was how strong he felt warming up: "I felt really good; I don't know if that works against you. It's just one of those things where you're either going to dominate or you're going to have a tough time."
That 2-0 Rays lead was a 5-2 deficit by the time Damon hit his second homer in the fifth — his first multihomer game since Sept. 9, 2008, giving the Rays a team-record 10 for a series.
But — with the same lineup in consecutive games for just the eighth time all season — they couldn't do much else offensively, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. There were their usual wasted opportunities, but the lack of production wasn't all their own doing as three times — in the fifth, sixth and seventh — they hit, sharply, into double plays, Ben Zobrist twice and Sean Rodriguez once.
"They were all well-struck," Maddon said. "That is just bad baseball luck right there."
The defense wasn't on, either, though again, the breaks didn't go their way, such as the J.P. Arencibia fly to right that bounced over Matt Joyce's head for a triple, an example, Maddon said, of flawed Astroturf.
"That's the old-school, '70s-Afro-blowing-in-the-wind bounce over the outfielder's hair — and over his head, too," Maddon said.
Just something else awry.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.