TORONTO — There wasn't the drama of Wednesday night nor the controversy of Thursday afternoon, but the outcome was the same for the Rays, a third straight frustrating loss.
This one, 2-1 to the Blue Jays on Friday, was self-inflicted. Two glaring defensive mistakes undid a tremendous start by Matt Garza, and the Rays had another weak night at the plate.
The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the first but literally threw it away. Second baseman Sean Rodriguez gave the Jays the tying run in the third, throwing unnecessarily and wildly past the bag. Then Garza set up the go-ahead run in the seventh, bouncing a throw to first on a comebacker.
"We normally play really fabulous defense. That's the part that's uncharacteristic; to make those kind of mistakes," manager Joe Maddon said, "We just don't do that. And if we had not done that, we had a chance to win that game 1-0.
"It happens. Our guys work really hard to not do those things. They're not going to be perfect. It just popped up and bit us."
The scar could have been worse, but the Yankees lost to Boston. So the Rays (67-42) remain a half-game out of first in the American League East. Still, three straight tough losses — by a combined margin of four runs and one ball off a catwalk — have made for a rough stretch.
"They were all there for our taking, and we didn't get them," Maddon said. "That's how the baseball season crumbles sometimes."
Garza was pleased with just about all of the 102 pitches he threw over his eight innings, allowing only four hits. But he was extremely distraught over the one poor throw to first.
It's the kind of play pitchers practice from the first day of spring training, and the Rays had a refresher on it earlier this week. But Garza messed up his footwork after gloving the ball, rushed when he saw Jose Bautista hustling down the line and short-armed the throw. Fill-in first baseman Ben Zobrist tried valiantly to hang on.
"It's a routine play. You can't mess that up," Garza said. "He's out, we're out of that inning, and it's 1-1. We're still playing. Basics, that's all it came down to. Fundamentals. And I messed that one up. Guys played hard tonight. They battled. And I let that one slip through my fingers. It's going to be a tough one to swallow."
Bautista went to second on a one-out single, third on a flyout and scored on Lyle Overbay's drive past Gabe Kapler, who was playing left as Carl Crawford got the night off.
"We're not in that situation if I get Bautista out," Garza said. "There's not much else to say."
On the other side of the narrow Rogers Centre clubhouse, Rodriguez felt much the same about his mistake, an ill-advised attempt to double Edwin Encarnacion off second. He snared Jose Molina's liner but sailed his throw past Jason Bartlett.
"At first, I thought we had a shot at him," Rodriguez said. "But literally the minute the ball left my hand, I said, 'Man, there was no play.' And sure enough, the ball ends up in leftfield."
Compounding the rare defensive mistakes — they'd made only seven errors in their previous 39 games, 10 fewer than the next-best AL team — was the much-too-common lack of offense, this time courtesy of Jays lefty Brett Cecil.
"There was no margin for error tonight based on the pitching by both sides," Maddon said.
And definitely not for errors.