TORONTO — The rugged road trip started well for the Rays. Everyone remembered their passports, they got through Canadian customs hassle-free, and when they arrived at the Westin hotel around 4 Wednesday morning, there were free bottles of water waiting.
Then when they showed up at the Rogers Centre later that night, the Jays handed them a victory.
The Rays obviously had a hand in the 6-5 win, with a two-run homer and a key running catch by rightfielder Matt Joyce, three RBIs from Elliot Johnson, a good-enough start by Jeremy Hellickson and another impressive showing by the bullpen.
But it was just as much a product of all the Jays did wrong: five errors (and at least two other misplays), five walks, two hit batters, a wild pitch and a 2-for-12 night with runners in scoring position.
"There's no such thing," Rays manager Joe Maddon insisted, "as an ugly win."
But playing off one of his go-to lines that not every night produces an oil painting, he conceded, "It was more like a finger-painting."
In part, that's because in mid game the script flipped, and the Rays, suddenly gracious guests, started giving away pieces of what had been a 6-0 third-inning lead.
"You take any win you can get," Joyce said. "We made some mistakes, but fortunately it didn't come back to bite us in the butt."
And as they headed back to the hotel so they could get up this morning and pack for another 4 a.m. arrival in South Florida, the Rays were more relieved than anything. They extended their MLB-best road mark to 14-5, maintained their two-game margin in the AL East by improving to 25-18 overall and stopped the Jays' six-game winning streak.
"I wouldn't call it an ugly win," Johnson said. "It's finding a way to win."
The Rays built the 6-0 lead off Jays starter Jesse Litsch, the Dixie Hollins High grad and former Rays batboy, quickly, with plenty of help.
They got three in the second on one hit, benefitting from two walks, a hit batter, two throwing errors on Johnson's two-run single, and a squeeze bunt by Sam Fuld. They added three runs in the third, two on Joyce's seventh homer, the other when B.J. Upton singled, went to third on Litsch's errant pickoff throw and scored on a sac fly.
But the Rays let the Jays back in, Hellickson appearing to tire coming off his career-high 120-pitch outing and Ben Zobrist making a costly error at second.
The crucial moment came in the seventh, the lead down to 6-4 and the Rays in what Maddon politely called "a bind."
Juan Cruz just walked Yunel Escobar with one out, and Maddon summoned Cesar Ramos to face Corey Patterson, having already decided he was intentionally walking the next batter, the other-worldly Jose Bautista (hitting .700 vs. Rays this year), no matter what, even if it meant loading the bases.
But Ramos struck out Patterson — "He eased my burden," Maddon said — and after Bautista was walked (putting the tying run on first), Joel Peralta got Aaron Hill to hit a fly ball down the rightfield line. The problem was that bench coach Dave Martinez had just shifted Joyce to right-center, but Joyce came running hard and got it, saving two runs.
"I don't know how that works out that way," Joyce said. "It was a long run, but I made the catch."
There was one last challenge in the ninth when Kyle Farnsworth allowed a run, but he ended it, and logged his ninth save, striking out Patterson with Bautista on deck.