North of the border, short on runs, Rays lose 6-4 in Toronto

Hellickson posted a 1-2-3 inning in the second and third frames but allowed a run in the fourth. Bautista—who led MLB in home runs by a healthy 12-dinger margin in 2010—led off with a triple, making it simply a matter of time before he scored; Ben Zobrist sold out on the do-or-dive in right field, turning a base hit into three bags. Lind’s first-pitch double to left brought the heavy-handed right fielder home to knot it at 2 and give Lind his second RBI of the night.

Hellickson got in some hot water later in the frame; he issued a two-out walk a-piece to Travis Snider and Juan Rivera to load the bases. John McDonald flied out to center to end the threat in a 30-plus pitch inning.

Rays C Kelly Shoppach led off the fifth inning with a base hit; he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by SS Elliot Johnson. Fuld stepped to the plate next—who wants to bet something good happened? The Legendary One paid dividends, taking an aggressive triple into the right-field corner, picking up the RBI and making him 3-for-3 on the evening. Damon doubled on the first pitch he saw to score Fuld and give the Rays a two-run margin heading into the bottom half of the fifth frame.

Toronto got one back in the home half of the fifth in what was quickly turning into a battle of team leaders. Bautista jacked a solo homer to left, setting him up as a single short of hitting for the cycle with at least two at-bats remaining in the game. He scored all three of the Blue Jays’ runs thus far.

Rodriguez may or may not have gotten his comeuppance for his earlier slide into second; the breaking ball he took on his lead leg might to lead off the sixth have been a plunking or simply sloppy pitching by the erratic Reyes. Jury=still out.

The Jays tied it up in the bottom of the eighth; Rays reliever Joel Peralta came on for Hellickson at the onset. Bautista—seriously, who else—led off with a walk; sure it seems better than a leadoff long ball but when the eventually guy scores later, it still counts… Edwin Encarnacion cracked a one-out double to score Bautista and tie it up heading into the final inning of regulation play.

That was all she wrote; well, all she wrote before deadline, that is. This one went to extras, with neither team doing anything in the first frame of free baseball.

Toronto finally sealed the deal in the bottom of the 11th. With one out, Adam Russell came on to pitch for the Rays. He allowed a one-out single to Rivera; Russell then gave up a walk-off home run to McDonald—only in because of the Rodriguez slide in the second frame, mind you—to left field on the 1-0 offering.

All she frickin’ wrote. For real this time…

- Hellickson is getting it done in defeat; while not looking incredibly sound, he yielded only 3 runs on 6 hits, walking 2 batters while striking out 6 in 7 innings pitched. You can’t ask for much more from a rookie pitcher.
- Sam Fuld is still a legend.
- Johnny Damon is a tough son of a bitch. It was earlier revealed that the shot he took on his ring finger cracked a bone. The veteran decided he could act as designated hitter until it properly heals.

Game two of three in Toronto is scheduled for Saturday at 1:07 p.m. Canadians don’t like round numbers, apparently…Know what I’m talkin’ a-boot? Rays' lefty David Price scheduled to start.

click to enlarge Stock photo - Kevin Tall
Kevin Tall
Stock photo

Jeremy Hellickson; stock photo

A loss is a loss, so any of them is tough to take. Playing well in defeat is a concept seemingly lost—see what I did there?—on some fans, so while people around baseball might not fault the Tampa Bay Rays for their 11th-inning setback Friday night at the home of the Toronto Blue Jays, the fan jury is till out...

The Rays got right down to it Friday night in Toronto, putting a run on the board in the top of the first inning. Sam Fuld led off with a base hit and promptly picked up his eighth stolen base of the year— tying him for the most in the majors—moving into second. Fuld advanced to third on Johnny Damon’s ground out to second and scored on a sacrifice fly by B.J. Upton, giving Tampa Bay an early one-run lead.

In addition to being early, that lead was also short-lived. Rays’ starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson started his evening by striking out Yunel Escobar with three pitches but gave up a two-out double to Toronto’s hard-hitting Jose Bautista; Bautista scored on a base hit by Adam Lind to tie it up.

Sean Rodriguez led off the top of the second with a walk and was involved in an ugly collision sliding into second on a double play attempt by Toronto’s Jayson Nix. Rodriguez was thrown out on the play and nix was taken out after getting clipped by Rodriguez’s errant leg on the slide. It would be premature to call the play bush-league or dirty but “clean” the last word anyone would use. Here’s hoping it was an unfortunate accident and just part of the game; Nix left the game with a day-to-day knee injury.

Fuld picked up another single, this one a one-out base hit to center that buzzed Toronto starting pitcher Jo Jo Reyes. He moved into second on Damon’s ground out and stole third base to sit alone atop Major League Baseball with nine stolen bases (Michael Bourn of the Houston Astros now has nine as well). Upton singled him home to give the Rays a 2-1 lead in what was clearly set to be a tight, back-and-forth game.

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