TORONTO - It all set up nicely for the Tampa Bay Rays early Wednesday evening at Rogers Centre. The Longoria/Loney Show produced the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning. All that remained was for Fernando Rodney to get the final three outs.
The lead lasted six pitches.
In a scene that is happening all too frequently this season, Rodney couldn't finish the job.
Instead of closing the door, Rodney once again opened it and the Toronto Blue Jays walked through it, rallying for a 4-3, 10-inning victory.
Jose Bautista, who drove in the Jays first two runs of the game, drove in the final two when he homered off Rodney in the ninth inning to tie the score and then singled off Kyle Farnsworth in the bottom of the 10th to give the Jays their first walk-off win of the season.
“It's very tough,” Rodney said. Jeremy “Hellickson throw good, eight innings. We come back. I try to close the game, but I can't. They got me.”
It was the fourth time in 13 save opportunities this season Rodney has given up the lead. He blew only two saves in 50 chances in 2012.
But as Rays fans have already learned, this ain't 2012.
“The whole season has been a little bit upside down,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays are hitting and scoring runs and given the pitching staff plenty of leads.
And the leads are disappearing.
Through 46 games the Rays have given up 28 leads. They gave up only 18 leads through the same amount of games in 2012.
They have lost nine leads in the seventh inning or later, including four in the ninth inning.
“It's just that the pitching is, where it normally makes sense, right now is not making whole lot of sense,” Maddon said. “We got to keep putting the guys out there at the appropriate times and wait for it to work, but there is no other way to do it. There's no other options. This is the way it has to work and you got stay with it and show support.”
Hellickson, who has struggled holding big leads in his last four starts heading into Wednesday's game, gave up only one. That came on Bautista's first home run of the game – a towering blast in the fourth inning that landed in the second deck in left field and made it a 2-2 game.
Jays starter Mark Buerhle, who allowed two runs in the third inning, retired the last 11 Rays he faced, and Steve Delabar retired the three batters he faced in the eighth inning.
Evan Longoria, serving as the designated hitter to give his legs a break, doubled with one out in the ninth inning to extend his career-best hitting streak to 15 games. James Loney singled him home to give the Rays a 3-2 lead.
Hellickson went eight innings, retiring 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
Rodney, who recorded his first five-out save of the season in Tuesday's win, came on in the ninth looking for his 10th save. The first batter he faced was Bautista, who worked the count full before driving the ball over the left field fence.
“I think I made a good pitch, and he hit a good pitch, then you have a type of hitter like that, like Bautista, and you make a good pitch and they hit your best pitch, there's nothing you can do,” Rodney said. “That's how I think.”
Joel Peralta, who struggled Tuesday, eventually finished the inning for Rodney by recording the final two outs.
Cesar Ramos came on for the 10th. Cody Rasmus reached on an infield single after dribbling the ball out in front of the plate. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and crossed to third on a grounder to second. Ramos walked pinch-hitter Mark DeRosa, which brought Bautista to the plate.
Maddon called for Farnsworth, who allowed three hits in the six times he faced Bautista. Maddon said he told catcher Jose Molina not to give in to Bautista because there was a base open.
Farnsworth got ahead 0-2, threw a fastball down and away and Bautista lined it to right field, scoring Rasmus with the winning run.
“It wasn't a strike, it was a ball,” Farnsworth said. “He just stuck his bat out there and hit it. It's one of those days. Made good pitches and they hit them. It (stinks).”
There have been a lot of “one of those days” for Rodney and the bullpen.
“We're going to continue fighting,” Rodney said. “We have a good team. We have to pull everything together. Sometimes we fall, sometimes the starters fall. I think the pieces we have were going to put it together. We're going to continue fighting.”