Damon powers Rays past Jays

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays. (REUTERS/Fred...

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista hits a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:46 PM ET

The Toronto Blue Jays had some good things happen Saturday.

Unfortunately, winning a baseball game wasn't one of them.

First the good news: Starter Brandon Morrow came off the disabled list to make an impressive season debut and Jose Bautista hit two more home runs. He has now reached base 10 consecutive times.

But, back to cold reality: It wasn't enough to hold off the Tampa Rays, who roughed up the Jays' bullpen for a 6-4 win.

Morrow and Tampa starter David Price are on the cusp of becoming two of baseball's brightest young pitching stars and didn't disappoint. They locked in a pitching duel into the sixth inning when Morrow hit 93 pitches and -- recovering from a forearm strain -- had to bid farewell. By then he'd fanned 10, allowing three hits.

It couldn't have come at a better time for manager John Farrell after having to demote two starters the past week for sub-par results. "He was outstanding. He maintained his stuff through the game. There was a pitch up in the zone that (Johnny Damon) hooked down the line for the two (-run homer to open the first inning)," said Farrell. "Other than that, he was dominating."

There had been uncertainty about how well Morrow would come back after some suspect numbers in his Florida rehab assignment. But he struck out the side in the first after Damon's homer and set down 15 of the next 16 Rays, handing a 2-2 game to reliever Carlos Villanueva.

"I would've liked to finish the inning but you can't push it too far," said Morrow, after watching a bullpen that ranks fourth in the AL fail to shut the door in what evolved into a three-run Tampa sixth. "It's tough. But I understand. You can't throw 25-30 more pitches than you have the last time out." Morrow threw 80 pitches in his final rehab start in Florida and Farrell didn't want to push him beyond 90 against the Rays.

Morrow's fastball consistently hit in the low 90s and by the fifth inning he had upped the heat, Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac swinging through 97 and 96 m.p.h. pitches.

Bautista was a wrecking crew, homering in the first and fourth against Price, who otherwise held the Jays' hitless, until Jose Molina's seventh-inning single. "I was trying to look at the video to see what (Price) was doing inning to inning," said Bautista. "In the first inning he had two outs with three pitches. I gave him a pitch and was looking fastball and I got it in a good spot."

Home run No. 6.

"After that I saw him throwing a lot of sliders. In that (second) at-bat he threw me all offspeed and ... he left the pitch up in the zone." The line drive cleared the Toronto bullpen wall.

A walk, as so often happens, turned into Morrow's undoing. He left Sam Fuld aboard when he departed after fanning Johnny Damon.

Villanueva walked Matt Joyce on four pitches, and Ben Zobrist sent his 1-1 offering so deep to right Bautista didn't even bother giving chase. They'd add another run against Casey Janssen.

Defeat hurt; for a seventh time in the last 11 games. But equally, nobody could discount the silver lining provided by Morrow's return. "You continue to increase that over six, seven, eight innings and that's the guy who was very effective much of last year," said Farrell. "It was very good to see him walk to the mound and have that kind of stuff."

NOTHING DOING

The Rays are renowned for defence and pitching, both of which sealed Toronto's fate. Price made outstanding plays on a John McDonald bunt and Yunel Escobar's dart back to the box.

B.J. Upton probably saved two runs with a diving catch in centre in the seventh on Corey Snider. In the eighth, Corey Patterson hit into a double play with runners at the corners. It left Bautista stranded in the on-deck circle. That might've been the most crucial out of the game for Price considering the mayhem Bautista had previously inflicted.

NEVER SAY DIE

Toronto has seven come-from-behind wins and had the tying run 180 feet from home again in a hectic ninth. Actually, if not for a close call that went against Snider, they might still be playing. Bautista (who else) opened with a single and both he and Adam Lind scored to cut the lead to 6-4. With two aboard against reliever Kyle Farnsworth, Snider dropped a great sacrifice bunt. He might've beat it out, which would've loaded the bases with nobody out, but umpire Chris Guccione said "No."

Farrell begged to disagree. "It was a bang-bang play. Obviously the replay shows otherwise. That would've set up a further inning ... it was not a good call." Farnsworth retired Toronto's eight and nine hitters to collect his fifth save.

AT HIT AT LAST

Edwin Encarnacion is day to day with a sore left wrist. That had Juan Rivera, batting .128, at DH for a second consecutive game and until a ninth-inning single he was hearing boos. "I'm not making excuses, but some players adapt to that position more quickly than others," said Farrell. "He's been a regular player for the vast majority of his career in terms of playing in the outfield, staying in the flow of the game. He's battling. His work ethic, his approach, his attitude is very consistent. Yet you can see inside there's some frustration going on."

An outfielder, Rivera's been working out at first. "If something unforeseen were to happen to (Adam) Lind and if Edwin's in a DH slot, we've got to have somebody to go over there."


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