TORONTO -- Up by four runs with a chance to sweep the Rangers, the Blue Jays fell just short.
Starter Josh Johnson and the overworked bullpen couldn't fight off the scratch-and-claw Texas offense despite an early lead, surrendering a run in five consecutive innings, as the Blue Jays fell, 6-4, on Sunday at Rogers Centre.
"Ideally, we're looking for more innings, but that didn't happen," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Johnson. "He was cruising right along there, then he ripped a blister on his finger. That didn't help things. But he was still good. They made him work, throw a lot of pitches, and that's what caught up with him."
After a taxing game on the bullpen Saturday, Josh Johnson's brief run on the mound wasn't exactly what the Blue Jays needed. Toronto used every reliever it had Saturday, with the eight-man staff combining for 11 innings of work.
But Johnson wasn't nearly as sharp Sunday as he was in San Francisco a start ago in his return from the disabled list, and could manage only five innings of three-run ball.
"I was kind of all over the place," Johnson said. "I wish I could narrow it down, just get rid of that ... and be able to throw the ball where I want to with my fastball at any time, any location. But it seems like its a little come and go."
The right-hander allowed a season-high four walks and faced five or more batters in three innings. He also allowed five hits, striking out four and throwing 109 pitches.
Although a blister on his middle finger started bothering him after the third inning, Johnson refused to use it as an excuse for his outing.
"I still need to make pitches and get outs," Johnson said. "I'm not going to make that the reason why I was throwing balls or walking people."
It wasn't the start the Johnson was hoping for coming off of his best outing as a Blue Jay, and it was a sampling of clutch two-outs hits that did all the damage.
After battling through a bumpy first, Johnson retired nine straight batters before Nelson Cruz got to him in the fourth. After fouling off four straight pitches, Cruz hit his team-leading 15th home run to right-center field.
The Rangers would strike for one more run in the fourth, before Cruz got his second two-out RBI the following inning. Texas' right fielder found a hole up the middle past a diving Munenori Kawasaki to pull the Rangers within one.
"I don't think it makes it any more frustrating," Johnson said of his two-out runs allowed. "You always know you're one pitch away. Make one quality pitch and you'll get out of it, but just didn't do it."
Despite his inconsistencies, it was the tired bullpen that eventually surrendered the lead and took the loss.
Juan Perez allowed a man to reach third with only one out in the sixth. As Chris Gentry tried to steal second, backup catcher Josh Thole threw the ball past the base and into center field, allowing Leury Garcia to score from third.
Eventually, Neil Wagner, pitching for the third consecutive day, took the loss.
Wagner still consistently threw his fastball at 97 mph, but a sixth straight heater to Adrian Beltre was his undoing. Beltre sent the seventh pitch of his seventh-inning at-bat over the wall in right field for the lead for the winning run.
"We don't quit," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We got some big hits in some situations and that's what it takes."
The big blow by Beltre spoiled another nice game from Adam Lind.
Lind has been on a tear for more than a month now, and he did most of the damage Sunday.
Like Johnson, Rangers starter Justin Grimm found himself in a groove with two men away when the Blue Jays got on the board.
After Edwin Encarnacion singled to left field to score Toronto's first run, Lind hit a three-run home run to center field, to put the Blue Jays ahead, 4-0.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," Gibbons said of the blown lead. "You have a 4-0 lead early. That big inning is that next inning, and then they score two. If we get a shutdown inning there, things could be different."
Toronto, however, had plenty of opportunities to regain the lead, including a ninth-inning rally that had two men in scoring position with one away and Jose Bautista at the plate.
Bautista took a pitch in the lower part of the zone for the first strike from Rangers closer Joe Nathan. Then he tried to check his swing on a ball well out of the zone, before striking out swinging on the very next pitch.
Bautista was furious afterward and was almost immediately ejected after getting into a verbal match with home-plate umpire Gary Darling. He emphatically threw his equipment on the field before retreating to the clubhouse.
Encarnacion popped out to end the threat, and the game.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.