TORONTO — The last thing the Tampa Bay Rays wanted to see Wednesday night, besides the Toronto Blue Jays celebrating a walk-off win, was another catcher leaving with an injury.
The Rays saw both.
The Jays completed the three-game sweep with a 3-2 victory that ended when pinch-runner Kevin Pillar scored all the way from first base on a throwing error by Juan Carlos Oviedo. Oviedo was trying to get an out at first on a bunt by Anthony Gose.
Jose Molina left the game earlier that inning after taking a foul-tip off his face mask during the previous inning. The timing couldn’t have been worse, since Ryan Hanigan was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier in the day with right hamstring tightness.
“I’m good. I’m good,” Molina said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said it was his decision to pull Molina. Maddon also said he was not concerned.
“I’m really not yet,” Maddon said. “He was actually pretty good.”
Maddon said Molina would likely undergo a concussion test, but Molina said he had yet to take one. Maddon also said he decided to remove Molina from the game because Molina was feeling nauseous.
“No, not even that,” Molina said when Maddon’s comment was relayed to him. “When you get hit in the head, it could be anything. He just took me out. He said he’d already made the decision. I said ‘I’m good, but you already made the decision.’ ”
Jake McGee was pitching in the eighth inning and throwing his high-90s fastball. He even blew one past Edwin Encarnacion for strike three that registered 100 mph on the Rodgers Centre scoreboard.
One of those fastballs was tipped in Molina’s mask. Maddon and assistant athletic trainer Mark Vinson went to the plate to check on Molina and Molina remained in the game. After a couple of pitches, home plate umpire Brian O’Nora called time and allowed Molina to visit McGee on the mound so Molina could clear his head.
“I told (O’Nora) I was good, just give me a little second to talk to McGee, just to make sure, but I’m good,” Molina said.
Maddon and Vinson went out to see Molina for a second time, and Molina talked his way into staying in the game.
“I’m good, I’m 100 percent good,” Molina said when asked if he feels he’ll be able play Friday when this road trip resumes in Boston.
Wednesday’s loss finished a rough three games in Toronto for the Rays. The momentum gained from the four-game winning streak is history, and the Rays fell back into last place in the AL East and now sit nine games behind the first-place Blue Jays.
But Wednesday’s loss was a lot different from the first two.
Starting pitcher Chris Archer was able to tame the Jays bats, and the Rays offense, which scored 11 runs during the first two nights, managed only four hits, yet hit the ball harder than they had in the previous two games.
“That was kind of a different form of a four-hitter,” Maddon said. “We swung the bats extremely well. You got to give their defense all the credit. Their defense kind of won the game for them.”
Erik Bedard allowed a career-high 13 hits Monday and Alex Cobb allowed a season-high nine hits Tuesday. The 22 combined hits were the most allowed by Rays starters in back-to-back games since May 24-25, 2007 when Jae Seo (13) and James Shields (10) combined to allow 23.
The way the game began, it appeared the Rays PR staff would be scrambling to find the record for hits allowed by starting pitchers over a three-game span.
Archer allowed three hits in the first inning. The scored two runs in the first inning on a bases-loaded single by Encarnacion.
But Archer settled down. He pitched six innings, allowing six hits and just those two runs.
“Archer was outstanding,” Maddon said. “He got stronger as the game went on.”
The Rays tied the score in the second inning when Matt Joyce doubled and Wil Myers hit a laser into the Blue Jays bullpen in left field. It was the fifth home run of the season for Myers, and his first in 21 games.
It would also the last well-struck ball hit by the Rays that wasn’t caught.
James Loney drove a ball to the center field wall in the third inning and was robbed of an extra-base hit when Gose jumped made the catch with his glove at the top of the wall. With Evan Longoria on first base, Gose’s catch might have saved a run.
Desmond Jennings nearly put his team in front the next inning with a towering drive down the left field line that just missed hitting the foul net (the foul pole is a net at Rogers Centre). The umps took a second look and determined it was foul.
Jennings then put a charge into another pitch and sent Gose back to the center field wall, where Gose made a more pedestrian catch.
“We had a lot of bad timing,” Maddon said. “We’re due for some good timing. We’re going to time it up.”
It was Melky Cabrera’s turn to turn an extra base hit into an out when he robbed Longoria with a leaping catch in left field for the first out in the sixth inning.
Second baseman Brett Lawrie then robbed Loney of a hit with a diving stab of a hard grounder. Lawrie’s throw to first was not the best, but Encarnacion was able to keep his foot on the bag for the out.
David DeJesus was robbed of extra-bases in the eighth when Juan Francisco made a diving stop at third base.
“We were smashing balls, and they were playing outstanding defense,” Archer said.
The most impressive form of power on the night came from McGee, who retired all four batters he faced on three strikeouts and a fly ball to right.
McGee entered in the seventh with two-on and two-out and got Adam Lind to look at a 97 mph fastball for strike three. McGee then struck out Encarnacion on a 100 mph fastball to start the eighth, then fanned Steve Tolleson on a 99 mph fastball.
“Outstanding,” Maddon said of McGee. “He had had a couple of days off, so he was frisky. That was pretty impressive what he did.”
Jays starter Liam Hendrick, making only his second start of the season, was helped out by his defense. So were the three relievers who followed. The Jays loaded the bases in the first inning, had Archer on the ropes but could manage only two runs.
Good pitching, good defense, timely hitting … sound familiar?
“We got beat with our own stick,” Maddon said.