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Tampa Bay Rays open road trip with loss to Toronto Blue Jays

TORONTO — The offense has been anemic. The pitching has become erratic. And now the Rays' perception may be skewed.

They had every right Monday night to talk proudly of the effort they put forth, rallying and battling their way back to the final pitch of their 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays that still left them with an MLB-best 34-18 record.

"We made it a manageable game in the ninth, which should be a little bit of a momentum boost for us," said Evan Longoria, who as the tying run ended up thrown out at the plate.

But what about the effort that got them in position to lose for the sixth time in the past eight games?

At the plate, the already stagnant offense was even worse, held hitless into the sixth inning — and without a hit that reached the outfield until the seventh — by Toronto's Brandon Morrow.

But manager Joe Maddon said it was more a matter of circumstance than performance.

"We hit some balls hard early in the game, and it didn't happen," Maddon said. "We just kept making outs. It wasn't like he was pitching outstanding. … He pitched fine. He didn't have, for me, no-hit stuff going into the sixth inning. We just weren't fortunate."

And on the mound, Matt Garza staggered through a fifth straight winless start, putting the Rays in an early hole by allowing a two-run homer and getting tagged for a season-high 10 hits without getting through the seventh.

Maddon again claimed it was circumstance, that Garza (5-4) did his part by allowing only the three runs.

"He pitched well enough to win," Maddon said. "I think it's a lot of what you saw last year, where we did not score enough runs for him and all of a sudden his record is not what people would expect of him. He got off to the great start wins-wise; we just haven't been scoring him enough runs lately."

Garza took the blame for putting the Rays behind early but said Adam Lind "hit a great pitch," a fastball that was down and away, and that the rest of the night wasn't really his bad.

"Their hits kept finding holes," Garza said. "That's all I can say."

There also was some complaining about the umpiring. Maddon said controversial home-plate umpire Joe West made a "questionable" first-pitch strike call on John Jaso that changed the framework of his at-bat in the most crucial situation, Longoria — who laced a double to right-center but hustled it into a triple — on third and Carlos Peña on first with one out in the ninth.

"It kind of put me in a funk there," Jaso said.

Concerned about falling being 0-and-2, Jaso swung at the next pitch and hit a sharp grounder to short, and Longoria — under orders to go on contact so the Jays, even with their infield playing halfway in, didn't instead opt to complete a game-ending double play — was thrown out easily at the plate.

Longoria knew he was out — "kind of a do-or-die play" — and tried to knock the ball from catcher Jose Molina's glove.

Maddon, who eschewed his favored safety squeeze bunt play with Jaso the hitter, said the theory of having Longoria run was to "buy another out."

They did, but Gabe Kapler also grounded to short, and they had come up short again.

"It was kind of one of those nights where things were falling for them and things weren't falling for us," Jaso said.

"There seems to be a lot of those as of late for us," Longoria said. "We're still looking for that one game or that one hit or whatever it is to get us going again."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Blue Jays 3

Rays 2

Tampa Bay Rays open road trip with loss to Toronto Blue Jays 05/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 10:24am]
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