Jays' loss to Rays indicative of disappointing '13
ST. PETERSBURG -- By the time Rays third baseman Evan Longoria walked home with the winning run on Thursday night, the celebrated pitching match between last year's American League and National League Cy Young Award winners was almost forgotten.
Toronto's R.A. Dickey and Tampa Bay's David Price were long gone when Luke Scott worked a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning to squeeze out the Rays' 5-4 triumph.
It was the first walk-off walk in the Major Leagues this season.
The struggling Blue Jays, who had so much hope and anticipation before the season opened, have been baseball's biggest disappointment. Thursday's excruciating loss is typical of how their underachieving season has gone.
"In a lot of ways, that's correct," manager John Gibbons said after the loss. "It's pretty simple. We haven't played good enough. We play just good enough to lose."
The Blue Jays, at 13-23, are buried in the basement of the AL East, and there are few signs they'll be able to turn around their season. Only the Astros have a worse record in the league.
Toronto hasn't been to the postseason since the second of its back-to-back World Series championships, in 1993, and despite all the predictions that the team would take over the rugged East this season, it doesn't appear likely.
The Blue Jays headed for Boston late Thursday night and a weekend series with the first-place Red Sox.
"We're overdue [to turn it around]," sighed Gibbons. "The law of averages has to be on our side."
Toronto rallied against Tampa Bay's bullpen to win the first two games of this series but was blown away on Wednesday night and stunned before leaving Florida.
On Thursday night, after the Blue Jays had given knuckleballer Dickey a one-run lead, reliever Steve Delabar coughed it up when Yunel Escobar -- the Rays' ninth-place hitter, who's batting just .177 -- homered to left-center on a 3-1 pitch.
And then in the 10th, after two quick outs, Longoria doubled, and the sizzling James Loney was intentionally walked. It was the perfect strategy for the situation, except reliever Aaron Loup walked Ryan Roberts on a 3-1 pitch, and Brad Lincoln sent everyone in the sparse crowd home when his 3-2 pitch to Scott was out of the zone.
Lincoln had gotten two quick strikes, then he threw four consecutive balls.
"From 0-2 to 4-2 is nice under those circumstances," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "The third ball almost hit Scott in the foot. We were hoping that it had, actually, at that point, without hurting him."
"In that case, a walk is as good as a hit," said Scott. "You're playing chess out there. [Lincoln's] first few moves, he beat me, and I just had to go into battle mode and fight off a tough breaking ball and lay off some other tough pitches. I was fortunate to work a walk."
Said Gibbons: "You shouldn't lose games like that."
Dickey, who won the NL Cy Young Award as a member of the Mets last year, repeatedly worked out of deep counts. After Ben Zobrist doubled with one out in the third and scored on a passed ball to tie the score at 3, Dickey did not allow another hit before leaving after six innings. He did, however, allow four walks in his final three frames.
"Normally, I'm much more efficient than that," Dickey said. "I've just got to figure out a way to just repeat my delivery in a way that will allow me to throw more strikes. That's who I am as a knuckleballer. I need to get back to that and stick my face in there and try to figure it out."
Only three times since 1969, when Cy Young Awards were first given out in each league, have the two reigning winners faced each other in the same game.
It hadn't happened since Tom Glavine of the Braves faced Roger Clemens of the Yankees on July 15, 1999. Glavine won.
The first occurrence was on Aug. 18, 1989, when Frank Viola of the Mets opposed Orel Hershiser of the Dodgers. Viola prevailed.
Both Dickey and Price won 20 games last season, but they entered Thursday night's game with a combined 3-8 record and 5.81 ERA.
Price has not won at Tropicana Field since July 19, 2012, vs. Cleveland, a span of seven home starts. Twenty-two of his 33 runs allowed this season have come with two outs, and he's given up the lead eight times over his last four losses.
On Thursday night, Price pitched eight innings and allowed four runs.
"That's probably the way it's supposed to end up," said Gibbons. "You get two Cy Young Award winners, and they get no-decisions. Maybe that's the baseball gods or something."
With the Blue Jays having recast their roster with two of the offseason's biggest blockbuster trades, an expensive free-agent signing and bringing back Gibbons as manager, to say they have stumbled is an understatement.
Toronto traded for shortstop Jose Reyes, plus pitchers Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Dickey, and signed free-agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, the MVP of the 2012 All-Star Game.
Those moves are a key reason why the Blue Jays were picked by many to win the AL East. It certainly hasn't gone as planned.
Reyes and Johnson are on the disabled list, and Buehrle has been ineffective, with a 1-2 record and a 7.02 ERA.
Cabrera is batting .267, though Gibbons says "he's holding his own." On Thursday night, Cabrera grounded out twice, hit into a force and struck out twice.
Left-hander J.A. Happ is expected to be out for the next four to six weeks after being struck in the head by a line drive during Tuesday night's game. Happ sustained a minor fracture on the left side of his skull and a laceration on his left ear. He also sprained his right knee on the play, twisting it on his way to the ground.
It's been that kind of season for Toronto.
But nothing could be worse than an opponent winning in extra innings -- with a walk.
Hal Bodley is the senior correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.