Archer solid, but Rays felled by error in ninth
Tampa Bay falls to Toronto on walk-off bunt
TORONTO -- Wednesday's series finale between the Rays and Blue Jays came down to the bottom of the ninth, and ended under unfortunate circumstances for Tampa Bay.
The game turned and ended on a bunt down the first-base line by Anthony Gose with a runner on first and no one out. As the speedy Gose darted down the line, Rays reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo fielded the ball and threw to first, only to send the ball into right field.
Kevin Pillar raced around the bases and beat a throw from Wil Myers with a headfirst slide into home plate as the Blue Jays topped the Rays, 3-2, to win their ninth straight game.
It's a tough play to lose a game on, but at the end of the day, the Rays weren't about to point any fingers.
"No fault on anybody," said Rays starter Chris Archer, who threw his fifth quality start of the season but did not enter into a decision. "We're just trying to make a play on a fast runner. They did all they could."
"Just trying to get an out," added Rays manager Joe Maddon.
The loss marked the third time the Rays have been swept this season, and even though they carried a Major League-best 9-4 record in one-run games into the contest, they were edged by the hottest team in baseball.
After being beaten by a superior offense the past two nights, the Blue Jays did it with the gloves on Wednesday.
James Loney particularly experienced Toronto's defensive prowess. The Rays' No. 3 batter had hits taken away from him on multiple occasions, the first of which came in the third inning.
With Sean Rodriguez on first, Loney took a 1-1 changeup deep to the center-field wall. It had extra bases written all over it, but Gose made a leaping catch at the warning track to bail out Toronto starter Liam Hendriks.
Then in the sixth, Loney pounded a hard grounder toward right field. It too looked like a sure thing, but Blue Jays second baseman Brett Lawrie -- playing deep in the hole -- made a diving stop and threw to first from his knees to get Loney by a step.
"Brett, that's a huge play," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "We played all sorts of defense out there. They were hitting some rockets, they were barreling some balls up and we just made some great plays all around to keep that game at 2."
It's worth mentioning that on the preceding play, Melky Cabrera made a jumping catch at the wall to rob Evan Longoria of a double.
Needless to say, Hendriks flirted with disaster all night, but his defense bailed him out.
"It's pretty much how this season has gone to this point," Maddon said. "We're gonna change it. All these weird, awkward breaks. But they caught them tonight. They really caught them."
Toronto got on the board quickly, notching a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning.
After Jose Reyes led off the inning with a sharp liner to center field, Jose Bautista singled to right. Reyes went first to third on the hit, and the Blue Jays had runners on the corners with one out.
After Archer walked Adam Lind, No. 5 hitter Edwin Encarnacion singled to center, allowing Reyes to score easily. Hot on his tail was Bautista, who beat the tag by Jose Molina with a slick hook slide to make it 2-0.
There was some question as to whether Bautista had actually touched home plate, and it was thought Maddon might issue a manager's challenge to review the play.
But from his angle, at that time, Maddon said he thought Bautista had touched.
"I thought he got the plate, and I didn't get solid confirmation that he missed it," Maddon said. "Even when Molina went back and tagged him, he was still called safe again. From my angle, I thought he got the plate with his hand."
Despite going down early, Tampa Bay, like it had several times before in the series, responded quickly.
Matt Joyce doubled -- his first of two on the night -- before Myers sent his fifth homer of the season to left, and with one swing it was tied.
The game remained that way as both teams cycled through relief pitching. Aaron Loup was the eventual winner, while Oviedo was saddled with the loss. The run in the ninth snapped a 12 2/3 scoreless innings streak for Oviedo.
Molina took a foul ball off the mask in the eighth, and he appeared fazed by it. Time was called and a team doctor, Maddon and home-plate umpire Brian O'Nora conferred about Molina's ability to continue. He insisted on staying in the game, but was removed when the inning ended.
"We're not heavily concerned right now. He got hit pretty well. He was getting a little nauseous," Maddon said. "We just wanted to double and triple check."