Despite the rugged travel itinerary, the road trip started out pretty 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 a.m., there were free bottles of water waiting.
Then when they showed up at the Rogers Centre on Wednesday night, the Blue Jays handed them a victory.
The 6-5 victory was as much the result of what the Rays did well as 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 the Rays, proving to be gracious guests, nearly gave it back, allowing the Jays back into the game in a sloppy fifth and sixth, then facing threats again in the seventh and the ninth.
But by the end, the Rays extended their MLB-best road mark to 14-5 and kept their two-game margin in the AL East in improving to 25-18 overall.
Matt Joyce had a two-run homer, Elliot Johnson had two hits and three RBIs and Jeremy Hellickson went 52/3 innings for his fifth win. Kyle Farnsworth finished, without having to face Jose Bautista, for his ninth save in 10 chances.
The Rays looked good through the first three innings, taking a 6-0 lead, primarily because the Jays, who had won their last six in a row, looked so bad.
Starter Jesse Litsch, the Dixie Hollins High grad and former Rays batboy, didn't pitch well, and the Toronto defense was just short of atrocious, with four errors charged, a fifth that certainly could have been and a potential double play aborted by a sixth misplay.
The Rays scored three in the second inning 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 relatively cleanly as Joyce homered after Evan Longoria was hit by a pitch. The other came with help: B.J. Upton singled, went to third on Litsch's errant pickoff throw and, after an infield single and a wild pitch, scored on a sac fly.
Hellickson, coming off his first complete-game shutout, played along, allowing only a single through the first three innings.
And then the script flipped.
The Rays started making the mistakes, on the mound and in the field, and the Jays took advantage.
The 6-0 lead was sliced to 6-4 by the sixth, with an error by second baseman Ben Zobrist and a trio of well-struck balls off Hellickson factoring in.
The Jays threatened again in the seventh, forcing Rays manager Joe Maddon into one of his bolder, though far from boldest, decisions.
With Yunel Escobar on first and two outs after lefty reliever Cesar Ramos got Corey Patterson swinging, Maddon intentionally walked MLB home run and AL batting leader Jose Bautista, putting the tying run aboard.
The strategy worked, as Joel Peralta got Aaron Hill to hit a fly ball and Joyce ran a long way to catch it.
Hellickson didn't have much of an encore for his complete-game shutout in which he threw a career-high 120 pitches. On Wednesday he lasted just 52/3, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks while throwing 89 pitches.
The bullpen did a good job overall in support, though Juan Cruz didn't appear too happy to be pulled. Peralta again got the key outs, and Farnsworth the last three.