Blue Jays watch unwanted repeat
Toronto falls to Tampa Bay in walk-off fashion ... again
ST. PETERSBURG -- The scene was all too familiar on Wednesday night: a game-winning hit leading to a mob of players celebrating around home plate while the Blue Jays made their way off the field and into a quiet clubhouse.
It's happened four times on Toronto's current road trip -- the latest walk-off loss for the Jays coming via a run-scoring single off the bat of Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the ninth inning. That ended a lengthy contest that included plenty of offense from the Jays, but not enough pitching to avoid a 10-9 defeat at Tropicana Field.
"I'm tired of seeing everybody jumping up and down at home plate," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We've scored a lot of runs on this road trip, and we've won one game. It hasn't been run support. We just haven't pitched as well as we'd like to."
On this evening, neither club had much going in terms of pitching. Both starters -- Brian Tallet for the Jays and Scott Kazmir for the Rays -- labored, resulting in a slugfest that lasted more than four hours and included 370 pitches combined from the 11 pitchers used in the contest. Tallet surrendered eight runs in three-plus innings, while Kazmir gave up seven in 6 1/3 frames.
"I don't know who was pitching worse, [Tallet] or the kid across the way," Gaston said. "Both of them were lighting it up, that's for sure. It was kind of a race of who was going to get run out of there first."
The last reliever to take the mound was left-hander Scott Downs, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. With Carl Crawford standing on third base with two outs, Zobrist sent a 2-1 pitch from the left-hander into the gap in right-center field for the game's decisive blow.
"It was away a little bit," Zobrist said of the fastball from Downs. "I just put a good swing on it and was able to drive it over the second baseman's head."
The loss was the 10th in the past 13 games for the Jays (43-43), who slipped to a .500 record for the first time this season. Toronto opened this 10-game trip with a four-game set in New York, where the Yankees dealt the Jays three losses -- a pair in walk-off fashion. Then, on Tuesday night, the Rays used a game-winning homer from Pat Burrell to steal a 3-1 win over the Jays in 11 innings.
Following the latest loss, Tallet shouldered the blame.
"That's kind of been the story of this year," Tallet said. "When I'm bad, it just seems like I'm really bad. Tonight, I was horrible -- command wasn't there, balls over the plate. A couple good pitches I did make, they end up getting hits on them anyway. It was just one of those things where nothing went right for me."
That was right from the get-go, too.
In the first inning, Tallet issued a leadoff walk to B.J. Upton and a single to Carl Crawford. Later in the frame, with runners on the corners, Tallet threw to first base to hold Crawford close to the bag. On the play, Upton broke from third base and stole home, pulling the game into a 1-1 tie. That erased the solo homer launched in the top half of the inning by Toronto's Adam Lind.
Gaston said the Jays have a no-throw policy in that situation with Upton and Crawford.
"Tallet kind of threw over there on his own," Gaston said. "That's my fault that we didn't go out there and tell him, really. That's one of those plays that I think they have a designed play over there to do that. That was kind of my fault."
Tallet said it was merely more evidence of how off he was against the Rays (46-39).
"To be quite honest, I didn't see him," said Tallet, referring to Upton. "That's a mental error by me. That just goes to show you, when I say I was horrible today, I was horrible in every single aspect -- from that play to the pitch location."
From there, the Jays and Rays exchanged offensive blows.
Toronto's Vernon Wells belted a solo homer in the second. Tampa Bay plated two runs in each of the second and third innings. In the fourth, each club scored three times. The Jays' outburst was highlighted by a two-run single by Marco Scutaro. For the Rays, Zobrist hit a three-run homer.
In the seventh inning, with the Rays holding a 9-6 lead, the Blue Jays rallied for three runs to move the contest into a 9-9 deadlock. Against reliever Grant Balfour, Jays third baseman Scott Rolen -- now riding a career-best 25-game hitting streak -- singled to center to get things started. Kevin Millar added an RBI double, and Alex Rios hit a game-tying RBI single.
"We scored some runs," Gaston said. "We just couldn't hold them."
And they couldn't stop the party at home plate.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.