TORONTO — The Rays were obviously disappointed with the final result on the Rogers Centre scoreboard after Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Jays, as well as the AL East standings as their lead was cut to one game.
But they were relatively pleased with the work of starter Wade Davis, as the 25-year-old showed signs of rediscovering the aggressive approach and blazing fastball that made him a success.
"It was better," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Much better."
The problem for the Rays (25-19) was Toronto's Ricky Romero was even sharper. And as a result, the margin between victory and defeat was slim. And somewhat swift, with the game lasting just 2 hours, 16 minutes.
Juan Rivera hit a solo homer in the second and J.P. Arencibia a two-run shot in the seventh to provide the Jays' three runs.
B.J. Upton homered, his seventh of the season, in the fifth, and Kelly Shoppach, using Evan Longoria's bat, went deep in the eighth to deliver the Rays' two.
"Just a really well-played, quick, snappy, 1950s-60s circa baseball game that they won by a point," Maddon said.
Davis' ineffectiveness has been something of a mystery and of tempered concern since he had still posted a 4-3 record and 3.37 ERA through his first eight starts.
He said a series of slight adjustments he worked on with pitching coach Jim Hickey between starts had him confident he would have better command of and increased velocity on his fastball Thursday. And for most of his season-high 7? innings, he did, along with a sharper slider and curve. An overly aggressive approach by the Toronto hitters worked to his advantage as well.
"Everything felt a lot better today," Davis said. "I was much more aggressive, especially early on; I was throwing more strikes, throwing the ball over the plate, attacking guys."
Shoppach said, in essence, it was about time.
Davis' strikeouts had been down and his walks up, his best fastball missing at times and his priority seemingly more on pitching than throwing. It wasn't an effective combination, and since health was not an issue, it was something Davis needed to change.
"He had to; you can't keep walking the tight wire with all the walks he's had and being behind hitters," Shoppach said. "I'm not real clear with what was going on with him, but the way threw the ball tonight is where he should be every night. I know we talked before the game and he talked about how he just physically felt better.
"I'm not sure why it took him nine starts to get there. You just can't pitch at this level behind hitters, and you have to pitch with your fastball. If you don't pitch with that pitch, it just doesn't work. … I hope's he turned the corner and realized this is the way he should be and the way we expect him to be."
There were still rough spots, including the fairly well-located 3-and-1 fastball that Rivera, who had been 0-for-his-last-12, knocked over the leftfield fence, and the first-pitch slider to Arencibia, after a one-out walk to Rivera in the seventh, that didn't slide.
But overall, better.
"Hopefully," Davis said, "it's just an up hill from here."