Blue Jays shut down after early offensive fireworks
Toronto hits three homers in first three innings against Rays ace Price
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' second half of the season started the same way the first half began: with a loss.
On Friday at Rogers Centre it was a rare hiccup by the team's bullpen that sealed Toronto's fate.
The usually dominant duo of Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar allowed a pair of two-out clutch hits, scoring two runs as the Blue Jays fell to the Rays, 8-5.
"Can't be perfect all year long," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Of course, they get the leadoff hit and then a couple of hits off Delabar, you don't see that too often."
The decisive runs for Tampa Bay came in the eighth. Cecil allowed a leadoff single to ex-Jay Kelly Johnson. Delabar came in and got two quick outs, including a sacrifice bunt that moved Johnson to second.
However, Rays second baseman Ryan Roberts hit the first pitch he saw into left field, scoring Johnson and giving Tampa Bay its first lead of the game, 5-4.
"The ball was up, and he just came out swinging," Delabar said. "It was right over the middle, and he just came out, first pitch, hacking, and got on top of it."
"I saw that he was throwing a lot of strikes, throwing a lot of fastballs, so I just tried to prepare to jump on the first one instead of trying to see one," Roberts said.
Delabar then allowed a double to Desmond Jennings, scoring Roberts in what proved to be the decisive run.
It was only the second earned run the All-Star reliever has surrendered since May 28, a stretch that included a streak of 13 games without allowing a run.
"We know we're not going to be perfect every time," Delabar said. "You're going to have nights like tonight."
The runs allowed by the bullpen capped a Rays comeback. Tampa Bay trailed by three runs early, but launched four solo home runs against Toronto starter Esmil Rogers.
Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Evan Longoria, and Johnson all cleared the fences against Rogers, who has now given up seven home runs in 11 2/3 innings against the Rays this season. Two of those long balls came in the sixth, tying the game at 4.
"He never really got into trouble, it was just the solo home runs," Gibbons said. "That was kind of a funny game for him. When he was on, he was dominating."
Despite it all, Rogers walked away with a no-decision, allowing four earned runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, with four strikeouts.
"Any count I can throw anything I want, but just a couple of mistakes," said Rogers, whose four home runs allowed were the most by any Blue Jays starter this season. "Every one of my pitches today was good.
"Guys are too comfortable at the plate. People like that, you have to throw something to move their feet. I'm going to work on that and be ready for the next start."
The Rays' comeback spoiled a night that the Blue Jays also had a comfortable grasp on the long ball. Toronto hit four home runs of its own, the most that it's posted since May 12 against Boston, and more than it had over the previous six games.
Edwin Encarnacion started it off with a bang, hitting a solo shot into the second deck in left field to give his club a 1-0 lead in the first.
After Zobrist tied things at one in the third, the Blue Jays responded with a pair of home runs in the bottom half of the frame. J.P. Arencibia got the lead right back, hitting an 0-2 cutter over the wall in straightaway center field. Then, Jose Bautista hit a two-run home run three batters later, giving Toronto a three-run lead.
Brett Lawrie accounted for the final margin with a solo homer in the ninth.
With the loss, the Blue Jays are 7-14 since the Rays snapped their 11-game winning streak on June 24 in Tampa Bay.
"We have to put the foot on the gas pedal and make something happen, or else everybody's going to run by us and we're going to stay where we are," Delabar said. "We just got to do something, and got to make it happen. You can't look too far ahead. You can only play one game in a day. We played today's game. It didn't end up on our side. Come tomorrow. Play tomorrow's game and move forward from there."