ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays overall lack of command on the mound has become an ongoing storyline in recent weeks, but on Monday night it wasn't the number of walks that proved to the club's undoing, it was the overall location.
Right-hander Drew Hutchison didn't walk a batter for just the second time this season, but some poorly located fastballs ultimately led to his downfall on Tuesday night.
Hutchison had the shortest outing of his career, and the Blue Jays offense was unable to overcome an early deficit en route to an 8-5 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"I just didn't make good pitches tonight," said Hutchison, who was charged with six runs in four innings. "Obviously struggled, never got into a rhythm, just didn't give us a chance to win tonight and put us down in too big of a hole to come back from."
Hutchison, who was making his seventh career start, entered the game having walked eight batters over the past two starts. That was something he wanted to cut down on against Tampa Bay and while he managed to do just that, things didn't go exactly as planned.
Toronto's rookie hurler matched a season high by allowing the six runs on seven hits while striking out two in his first loss since May 6. It was also the shortest outing for a Blue Jays starter this season.
"I made about as many bad pitches," Hutchison said of this start compared to his previous two. "It's just that they were hit, not balls.
"I wasn't executing quality pitches down in the zone. Just didn't give us a chance to win."
The problems for Hutchison began in the bottom of the second inning as Luke Scott led off the frame with a solo homer, but it wasn't until the fourth that things really started to fall apart.
Hutchison surrendered back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning to increase Tampa Bay's lead to 2-0. Drew Sutton later scored on a fielder's choice, which set the table for Carlos Pena with two on and one out.
Toronto's right-hander quickly fell behind 2-0 and then served up a poorly located fastball that Pena crushed to deep center field. Pena's sixth homer of the season traveled an estimated 452 feet and hit above the facing of a structure in straight-away center.
"Every time you drive the ball to center field, the big part of the field like that, you know you put a pretty good swing on the ball," Pena said. "It's pretty gratifying. Obviously, the fact that we got three runs on that didn't hurt, it just feels good. That's why we love to hit -- we love to square balls up."
The Blue Jays began to battle back in the top half of the fifth off Rays rookie lefty Matt Moore. They loaded the bases for Jose Bautista, who came through with a line-drive single to left field past the outstretched glove of Elliot Johnson to tally the club's first two runs of the game.
Two more would later come around to score on an error by Sean Rodriguez as Toronto climbed to within two. That was the end for Moore, who surrendered four runs -- two earned -- on three hits and four walks while striking out six.
The clubs then exchanged runs as Rays outfielder B.J. Upton homered and Chris Gimenez added an RBI single while the Blue Jays countered with a solo home run by rookie utility man Yan Gomes.
Toronto had one last opportunity to come back in the top of the eighth inning when Brett Lawrie led off the inning with a single. Colby Rasmus then struck out while Gomes lifted a high fly ball to center field.
Lawrie was running on the play and slid into second base as the ball was caught in the outfield. Toronto's infielder got up and made a quick jab step toward third base before returning to first. The Rays appealed the play and umpire Rob Drake ruled that since Lawrie made a motion to third base, he needed to re-touch second on his way back.
Drake called Lawrie out on the play to end the inning without any damage while Fernando Rodney eventually closed things out with a perfect ninth inning.
"What I saw was Brett's popup slide straight into the bag," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "When he picked up the ball and saw it was caught, he returned straight back to first base. The interpretation of the play was that his momentum continued to take him past toward third base.
"If, in fact, that was the case -- without seeing the video -- he has to re-touch second base on his way back to first. The second-base umpire saw his momentum take him past the bag and he cut through the middle of the infield, as he explained."
Regardless of the call, the end result is the Blue Jays failed to win their first series at Tampa Bay since April 2007. They will have one final opportunity to do so when the two sides wrap up their series with an afternoon affair on Wednesday.