Doc can't end Jays' slide vs. Rays
Halladay's quality start wasted as bats go cold
ST. PETERSBURG -- Things are clearly not going the Blue Jays' way when the good doctor is unable to bail the struggling ballclub out. Amidst trade rumors and an upcoming All-Star appearance, Roy Halladay took the mound at Tropicana Field on Thursday with designs on righting Toronto's ship.
On this afternoon, Doc Halladay could not deliver.
Halladay turned in a solid performance -- his best in three starts since returning from the disabled list -- but the Blue Jays' bats offered little support in a 3-2 loss to the Rays. That completed a three-game sweep at the hands of Tampa Bay and resulted in the 11th loss in the past 14 games for Toronto's reeling squad.
The last nine losses for the Blue Jays have been by three runs or fewer. Through seven games on the current 10-game road trip, which began with Toronto dropping three of four to the Yankees in New York, each contest has had a score separated by two or fewer runs. That includes four losses in walk-off fashion, and three each by one run and two runs.
"They could've easily went the other way, but they didn't," said Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, referring to the recent string of tight games. "That's a little frustrating, but there's nothing you can do -- just put them behind you and keep moving."
For the most part, with the exception of Thursday's showing, the Blue Jays' have been putting up runs, amassing 34 in the road trip's first seven games. The issue has been that the pitching staff has allowed 39 runners to cross the plate. Dating back to June 25, the only three wins Toronto has managed came on days that rookie Ricky Romero started.
In the latest setback, which dropped the Blue Jays (43-44) below the .500 mark for the first time this season, Halladay did what he could to halt the recent skid. Halladay, who is likely to start for the American League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, logged seven innings and finished with eight strikeouts and no walks.
Pitching in front of Rays manager Joe Maddon -- who will also manage the AL at the Midsummer Classic -- Halladay surrendered three runs on nine hits, giving Toronto a performance that would likely net a win on most nights. Instead, Halladay wound up with a hard-luck loss, dropping his season record to 10-3, with two defeats coming against Tampa Bay.
"In order to beat Roy Halladay, you have to pitch well, period," Maddon said. "There's no secret. You don't beat him up. You don't hit a bunch of homers. You don't get a lot of hits. There's not a lot of things you can do against him. He just permits so much to happen out there."
Halladay said losses like Thursday's are bound to happen throughout the course of a season.
"You get run support and it makes you look good," said Halladay, whose season ERA rose to 2.85. "There were games [earlier this year] where I didn't necessarily pitch great, but we came up with big hits and it makes you look good. You know, it's not always going to go that way and it kind of comes up in spurts. Hopefully, we can get over this."
The only offense managed by the Blue Jays came via an RBI double from shortstop John McDonald in the fifth inning and a run-scoring single off the bat of left fielder Adam Lind in the seventh. Beyond that, Toronto finished 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine runners, including a missed opportunity with the bases loaded after Lind's hit.
Rays rookie David Price (3-3) earned the victory behind six innings in which he struck out seven and allowed one run. The combination of the young left-hander's performance and the lack of situational hitting by the Jays' lineup put a little more pressure on Halladay to execute his pitches perfectly. As a result, Halladay's few mistakes proved costly.
"Doc pitched a great game again as usual," Gaston said. "We just couldn't get that key hit."
The Rays (47-39) did not have the same problem.
In the fifth inning, with the game caught in a 1-1 tie, Halladay allowed a broken-bat single to Rays catcher Michel Hernadez to get things rolling. Halladay surrendered two more base hits to load the bases with one out, bringing slugger Carlos Pena to the plate for Tampa Bay.
Pena sliced a 1-2 curveball from Halladay down the left-field line, where it fell just inside the chalk for a two-run double that put the Blue Jays behind for good, 3-1. Pena's double was symbolic of the way things have been going lately for the Jays lately.
"Two strikes on him, makes a good pitch on him and he just puts it right on the line," Gaston said. "When things are going bad, things like that happen."
Following Pena's hit, Halladay retired the next eight hitters he faced in order, including setting down the side in the seventh after a power outage delayed the game for 20 minutes. Reliever Jeremy Accardo held the Rays in check in the eighth inning, but the damage had already been done.
"The double down the line, really, that's what cost me the game," Halladay said. "It's tough. A couple inches, it's foul and you get another chance. I didn't think it was a bad pitch -- probably a little more up than I wanted to. It was a tough spot. You get in a spot like that and they're pitching well, it makes it hard.
"I thought we made a good pitch to Hernandez -- broke his bat for the first hit -- and after that, a couple base hits on not great pitches. I caused that trouble myself. It comes down to the one pitch, but some of the hits leading up to it are frustrating."
Adding to the club's recent woes on the field has been some drama away from the diamond.
On Wednesday, Toronto released former closer B.J. Ryan -- signed to a five-year contract worth $47 million four winters ago -- in light of his persistent struggles. A day earlier, word quickly spread that Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi is willing to entertain trade offers for Halladay.
Right now, Halladay is trying to focus on getting the Blue Jays back on track. As far as the trade rumors go, he wants no part of it until something substantial potentially comes along.
"That's nothing that I can control," Halladay said. "I'm not going to worry about it."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.