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Odorizzi solid in debut, but Rays fall to Blue Jays

Rookie goes five, but Lueke's costly seventh gives Toronto edge

TORONTO -- Opportunities can be earned on the Rays. Josh Lueke had pitched well enough leading into Monday's game to merit such an opportunity when it mattered most Monday afternoon. The moment did not end well.

The Rays right-hander took the loss in the Blue Jays' 7-5 win at Rogers Centre in front of 29,885.

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The Rays saw their winning streak end at three, and they fell to 23-21 on the season.

Since Lueke's recall from Triple-A Durham on May 10, the right-hander had allowed just one hit in four appearances over 3 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, Joel Peralta has been the bullpen's workhorse in high-leverage moments. But he was not available Monday. Thus, manager Joe Maddon had to decide whom to use after Jake McGee pitched a scoreless sixth.

Lueke has what Maddon called a "Bugs Bunny" splitter for the cartoonish way it breaks, and Maddon likes the rest of Lueke's stuff, too. So the Rays' manager figured the time had come to see if Lueke's performance could match his stuff.

Maddon summoned Lueke from the bullpen to start the seventh inning in a 3-3 game to face the bottom of the Blue Jays' order.

"There's two things you can't do," Maddon said. "You can't kill Joel Peralta -- this is not a kill Joel Peralta year. And other guys have to get it done. For us to be really successful, other guys in the bullpen have to do what they're supposed to do. Lueke's been doing great. And I'm looking at that particular moment as a wonderful growth moment for him. To be able to get through that inning and walk back to the dugout successful could really catapult him in a good way."

Lueke struggled with his control, loading the bases on walks with two outs for Edwin Encarnacion. He got ahead 0-1 in the count before the Blue Jays' slugger connected with an 80-mph splitter, blistering a drive off the left-field wall that emptied the bases to give the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead.

"I felt like I've pitched pretty good so far, and [Maddon] gave me the respect to put me out there in the close game, the close situation, and basically I didn't show up with my A game and bring my best stuff to go out there and compete," Lueke said.

Where Rays pitching was concerned, Monday's game featured a high note as well in the form of Jake Odorizzi's pitching debut for the team.

Odorizzi, who came to the Rays in the trade that sent James Shields to the Royals, was recalled from Triple-A Durham to fill the rotation spot of injured David Price. The 23-year-old right-hander had two Major League starts under his belt with the Royals, though that did little to settle his nerves at the beginning. But after experiencing a couple of early hiccups, Odorizzi settled into a nice groove.

"It was all right," Odorizzi said of his outing. "I started off and couldn't get in the groove. And once I did it felt good. ... After the first, I think it went really well."

The Blue Jays scored twice in the first on a sacrifice fly by Adam Lind and a triple by Brett Lawrie. Melky Cabrera added an RBI double in the second that put the Blue Jays up, 3-1.

Odorizzi finished his five-inning outing with three scoreless frames, having allowed three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out six en route to a no decision.

Odorizzi allowed that he was a little keyed up in the first.

"I was excited," Odorizzi said. "I think anybody in my situation would have been excited. But it's not about throwing hard. You have to hit your spots early on."

Both managers were complimentary toward the youngster.

"We scored early on him, and then he did a nice job after that," Toronto manager John Gibbons said, adding, "he's got the chance to be really good. He can throw four pitches at you. But we took advantage of him early, and then he shut us down."

Said Maddon: "He threw some really nice curveballs. I thought he kept challenging. His fastball got up to 93. I did not see that in Spring Training. So that was nice to see, too. I saw the typical good composure, some nice stuff and a real ability to compete."

R.A. Dickey silenced the Rays' bats for the most part, pitching eight innings and allowing two earned runs on four hits while striking out five to pick up his fourth win of the season.

"Man, that's probably as good as we've seen him," Matt Joyce said. "Shoot, the last time I remember him throwing like that was when he threw that one-hitter against us. Even then, that was controversial. He had great stuff, man. His ball was all over the place. For us to score what runs we did, I thought we did a pretty good job."

Trailing, 7-3, heading into the ninth, the Rays managed to make things interesting. Yunel Escobar hit a two-run homer, and the tying run came to the plate in the form of Ben Zobrist. But Casey Janssen struck him out swinging with a runner aboard to end the game.

"Don't you love our guys?" Maddon said. "If you're watching back home, don't you love our guys? The way they keep fighting back under those circumstances.

"Got in last night after a tough game in Baltimore. Had to play a day game here, settle into your hotel room, get some breakfast, run to the ballpark, etc., etc., and we keep fighting through nine innings. And I love it."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria, Josh Lueke, Jake Odorizzi