Anthony Gose lost a routine flyball in the sun before Nelson Cruz hit a two-run homer that gave Texas all the run support it would need in a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon.
Villanueva didn't fault the rookie right-fielder for the game-turning play. Toronto was ahead 1-0 when Gose allowed Adrian Beltre to reach base on a ground-rule double to lead off the fifth inning.
"The sun was right there," said Villanueva. "You can't really say that much. He's trying his best out there. I know he feels bad enough."
Cruz hit his 19th homer on the very next pitch — essentially the only mistake made by Villanueva (6-3) as he continued a strong run since being elevated from the bullpen at the end of June.
Called the team's "most consistent starter" by manager John Farrell prior to the game, Villanueva allowed two runs on four hits over 6 1-3 innings of work against the American League's highest-scoring team. He's been tagged with three losses in his last four starts, but received just seven total runs of support in those outings.
A loss to the AL West-leading Rangers seemed like another unjust result for the 28-year-old.
"A first-pitch changeup to Cruz is the difference in the game," said Farrell. "But you can't say enough about the way Carlos continues to pitch."
Reliever Michael Kirkman (1-2) picked up the victory for Texas and Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth to set a team record with his 22nd successful save attempt in a row. He has 24 total saves on the season.
Roy Oswalt made his first start for the Rangers since July 30 and allowed one run on two hits with five strikeouts. He also had a hit batter and two balks — and didn't seem too thrilled at being lifted from the game after just 62 pitches.
However, the veteran acknowledged that fatigue set in during a surprise start that came after Canadian Ryan Dempster left the Rangers for "personal reasons."
"I haven't started in a month so I was getting a bit gassed at the end," said Oswalt.
The Rangers starter looked to be in total control while retiring Toronto's first seven batters until coming up against Gose in the bottom of the third. After walking the Blue Jays rookie, he watched him steal second before committing a balk to move him over to third.
Adeiny Hechavarria promptly picked up his first career RBI by driving in Gose with a single to make it 1-0. That was the only offence Toronto would be able to muster.
Texas countered in the top of the fifth with a little help from the bright sunshine splashed across the outfield. After Beltre reached base on a play that should have been an out, Cruz came to the plate with an offspeed pitch in mind.
He drove it into the left-field seats.
"It was a changeup," said Cruz. "I was looking for something up, something I could drive. I think it was one of the few mistakes (Villanueva) made. He was throwing the ball really well, everything was down and on the corners."
Villanueva steadied himself from there, retiring seven of the next nine before getting lifted for Aaron Loup with one out in the seventh. The Rangers managed just five hits in the game.
The Blue Jays had their chances to tie the game. Gose had an excellent 10-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded in the sixth before striking out to end the inning. Toronto then got its first two runners on in the seventh and ended up loading the bases, but again came away with nothing.
"Tough ball game," said Farrell.
Notes: Toronto's record in August dropped to 5-12 ... Toronto's Yunel Escobar was tossed from the game by umpire Jeff Nelson in the seventh for arguing balls and strikes ... The Jays hope to get Brett Lawrie (rib cage) and Jose Bautista (left wrist) back in the lineup over the next week ... Henderson Alvarez (7-10) is expected to close out the three-game series for Toronto on Sunday against Matt Harrison (13-7) ... Announced attendance was 30,033.