TORONTO — J.A. Happ's two-seam fastball escaped him. And with it, so did the game.
Happ suffered his first loss of the season and was pulled after two-plus innings as the Toronto Blue Jays fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 13-2 on Monday night. He gave up seven hits and eight earned runs, all because his go-to pitch was misbehaving.
"I just don't think it's coming out of my hand the same way," said Happ, who added he felt sharp warming up in the bullpen. "Maybe I'm trying to manipulate it too much instead of letting it work."
Happ started the season hot with five wins over seven starts and a 2.05 earned-run average to lead Toronto in both categories. His 30 strikeouts heading into Monday's game were fifth best on the team, but Happ has always been a groundball specialist. He now has a 3.40 ERA and 32 Ks.
"This game can certainly drive you crazy and in the past it has," said Happ. "Tomorrow I'm going to flush it and I'm going to come in and get my work in like always. We'll keep going.
"I felt good and I'm going to feel good the next time out and we'll do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was more direct.
"He's human, y'know?" said Gibbons. "He's been so good, he's been on such a nice little run. Chuck it out, move on."
Steve Pearce, Tim Beckham, Curt Casali and Desmond Jennings all hit home runs for Tampa Bay (17-19), which scored in each of the first four innings to build an early 11-0 lead. The Rays offence dominated all night, outhitting the Blue Jays 17-8.
"We came to play," said Jennings. "Everybody hit the ball."
Drew Smyly (2-4) struck out six and gave up four hits and an earned run over five innings for the win. Steve Geltz, Ryan Webb, Dana Eveland and Enny Romero allowed only one run over four innings of relief.
Dustin Antolin, Joe Biagini, Drew Storen, Chad Girodo and Jesse Chavez came in from the bullpen as the Blue Jays continued to leak runs and Toronto (19-21) lost its third straight.
Pearce established Tampa's lead early, putting the first pitch he saw clear over the left-field wall, driving in Taylor Motter for a 2-0 lead. It was Motter's major league debut.
The Rays piled on in the second inning, with Kevin Kiermaier's sacrifice fly to deep centre field bringing Jennings home from third. In the next at bat, Beckham hit a home run to right-centre field, scoring Casali as well for a 5-0 lead.
Happ's night ended in the third inning when he gave up an RBI single to Steve Souza Jr. That brought out Antolin, also making his major league debut.
Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson helped Antolin out, making a highlight reel diving stab to get Jennings out.
There was no helping Antolin in the next at bat, as Casali hit a three-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole for a commanding 9-0 Rays lead.
Jennings helped Tampa score for the fourth inning in a row, driving in two runs with a double to make it 11-0.
Gibbons was ejected from the game in the fourth inning after arguing over a called strike that sat down shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. It was Gibbons's second ejection in a row after getting tossed from Toronto's 7-6 loss in Texas on Sunday. Tulowitzki was also ejected.
"Ah, y'know, balls and strikes," said Gibbons when asked what he said to home plate umpire Mike Winters. "That's all."
The Blue Jays finally got on the board when Jose Bautista hit a RBI single to centre field, scoring Darwin Barney and advancing Josh Donaldson to third base. Edwin Encarnacion hit into a double play to end the threat.
Pearce again added to Tampa's lead in the eighth, driving in Motter with a single to left field to make it 12-1.
Ezequiel Carrera, subbing for Bautista in right field, hit a ground-rule double to lead off the eighth. He was driven in by Encarnacion's single to cut in to the Rays' large lead.
Jennings crushed a pitch from Chavez into the second deck of Rogers Centre in the ninth inning, bringing the score up to 13-2.
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