CLEVELAND -- The Blue Jays ran out of extra lives on Sunday afternoon as their attempt at a third consecutive come-from-behind victory came up just short.
Jose Bautista popped up with the bases loaded and the tying run on third base to send Toronto to its first loss of the season.
Despite leading for just two innings out of the 37 that were played in Cleveland, the Blue Jays still head home with a series victory following the 4-3 loss on Sunday at Progressive Field.
"Coming out of Spring Training, I'm very pleased with how this first series went," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Any time you have Jose Bautista at the plate and the tying run at third, we'll sign up for that opportunity each and every game."
The Blue Jays entered the eighth inning trailing, 4-2, but a one-out rally was sparked with three consecutive singles by Kelly Johnson, Bautista and Adam Lind. Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie both struck out to end the threat, but not before the Blue Jays cut the deficit to one with another chance looming in the ninth.
Indians closer Chris Perez, who blew a save on Thursday night, entered the game and loaded the bases with two out for Bautista. That's a situation any pitcher would be loathe to find himself in and it got even worse for the right-hander after falling behind, 2-1.
Bautista then saw an elevated fastball coming his way but got under it and hit a sky-high popup to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for the final out.
With that the Blue Jays missed out on an opportunity to pick up their first three-game series sweep in a season opener since 1992 at Detroit. It also marked the first time in six games that Toronto lost to the Indians dating to last season.
"It was very hittable," Bautista said of the pitch from Perez. "I was just a little early on it. It was a couple of miles per hour slower than his other fastballs, I was just a tad bit ahead of it."
Rookie right-hander Joel Carreno made his first career start in the Major Leagues and put Toronto in an early hole with a rough second inning. Carreno surrendered a solo home run to catcher Carlos Santana and an RBI single to Jason Kipnis en route to a 39-pitch inning that resulted in two runs.
Carreno then settled down and kept the game within reach for most of his start until Santana gave him more difficulty in the sixth.
Santana, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Sunday, hooked a deep shot down the right-field line into the Blue Jays' bullpen. Santana's second homer put the Indians in front, 4-2, and came on the heels of a season in which he hit 27 home runs.
Carreno finished the inning, but didn't come back out to start the seventh. He was charged with all four runs on six hits and four walks while throwing 57 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
"I think I did a good job except to Santana," Carreno said. "I was behind in the count. In the first at-bat I threw a fastball right in the middle. In the second home run he was looking for a slider and it was hanging out in the strike zone. I just tried to keep my team in the game and do my best."
Following the game, Carreno was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room on the 25-man roster for lefty Aaron Laffey. The move didn't come as a major surprise because the Blue Jays do not need a fifth starter until April 21 and Laffey can provide more depth to a bullpen that is already taxed following a grueling series against the Indians.
Even with Sunday's roster decision, Farrell indicated Carreno left another strong impression with the coaching staff and if it wasn't for a couple of mistakes to Santana, Toronto would have been in line for a potential sweep.
"I think his overall poise," Farrell said when asked what he liked the most about Carreno's outing. "He ran into a little bit of an issue in the second inning, but didn't let things unravel, which is consistent with what he showed a year ago when he was with us.
"He threw a few changeups in the role as a starter than he did out of the bullpen of a year ago. But when he's right, he puts the ball on the ground, and you know what, a good hitter in Santana got into a couple of fastball counts."
Toronto's offense rallied late but once again it had difficulty producing against an Indians starter. The lone bright spot occurred in the fourth inning when Encarnacion recorded an RBI double and Lawrie followed with a sacrifice fly.
That was all the damage the Blue Jays could muster against Derek Lowe, who went seven innings and allowed two runs -- both unearned -- with one walk and strikeout. The lack of production against the Indians starters was an ongoing storyline this weekend as Toronto managed to score just two earned runs in 22 innings.
The Blue Jays head home to get ready for their opener at Rogers Centre and a nine-game homestand. The plane ride heading north would have been a lot more pleasant with a three-game sweep, but the club can still take solace in the fact that it escaped with a series victory on the first road trip of the year.
"Ideally you'd like to win all three and I think our offense, as a group, we'd like to score more runs than we have been doing," Bautista said. "We'll take two but we should have won all three games.
"It's going to be a lot of energy [Monday], so we're excited about that."