Tampa Bay Rays lose 5-1 to Toronto Blue Jays, fall further behind Boston Red Sox in AL wild-card race

ST. PETERSBURG — Though the odds are stacked against them in their playoff push, the Rays had a few things to feel good about heading into Friday's game.

They entered a season-ending six-game homestand knowing they would likely have to win out to catch the reeling Red Sox for the American League wild-card spot. They had All-Star left-hander David Price on the mound, closer Kyle Farnsworth back in the bullpen and the Yankees saying they were not going to let up against Boston this weekend in the Bronx.

But a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays in front of 18,093 at Tropicana Field gave the Rays' playoff hopes a huge hit, putting them behind by 21/2 games — three in the loss column — with five to play.

"It's a pretty big blow," Price said.

The only positive was that the Red Sox didn't win — their game in New York was rained out, with a doubleheader set for Sunday.

But now, DH Johnny Damon said, the Rays have to win all five of their remaining games to have a chance.

"We're running out of time quickly," manager Joe Maddon said. "But there's time."

Said Price: "We're not going to stop. We're still in it; we know that. We've just got to win."

The Rays (86-71) gave fans free parking, hoping to help fill the Trop. Price gave away free bases, making two defensive miscues in the Blue Jays' three-run third.

"Those two plays pretty much undid us," Maddon said.

With one out and one on, Price tried to force J.P. Arencibia out at second on a David Cooper grounder but committed a throwing error. Mike McCoy followed with a single to right to load the bases.

Price then made a nice play, jumping off the mound to his left to snag a slow chopper by Eric Thames. But while on the run, Price's throw sailed high of catcher Kelly Shoppach, bouncing off his glove to the backstop, allowing a run to score. And since Price was out of position, nobody was covering home, and Cooper scored.

"I've got to make those plays in the third," said Price, who allowed five runs over six innings. "Those are both plays that I make. That's tough."

That was more than enough for Jays right-hander Brandon Morrow, who allowed two hits through seven scoreless innings. Maddon said Morrow was a "different cat" from the pitcher the Rays tagged for five runs in late August, pointing out he has added a cutter and had better velocity on his fastball.

"He was really, really good," Maddon said.

The Rays had 10 strikeouts, four times with a runner in scoring position. They didn't have a good night on the bases, either, with B.J. Upton getting caught stealing second with one out in the eighth before getting ejected for arguing the call.

"We did not play well (Friday night)," Maddon said. "We didn't hit well; we didn't do anything well (Friday night)."

After taking three of four from the Red Sox in Boston last weekend, the Rays have lost four of their past five, admittedly blowing golden opportunities. Only two teams in major-league history have advanced to the postseason after trailing by 21/2 games with five or fewer games to play (the 2009 Twins and 1951 Giants).

"The last couple days have really put a big damper on the way we think," Damon said. "But we know, mathematically, we're still in it, and we have to keep pushing."

Tampa Bay Rays lose 5-1 to Toronto Blue Jays, fall further behind Boston Red Sox in AL wild-card race 09/24/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 24, 2011 1:35am]

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