ST. PETERSBURG — Jo-Jo Reyes just can’t win. And, last night, neither could the Blue Jays.
B.J Upton cracked a two-run walkoff homer in the ninth to give the Tampa Rays a 3-2 win.
The loss went to Jon Rauch.
Ben Zobrist opened the ninth slicing a single over shortstop. That snapped a 11 1/3 inning hitless stretch by Toronto’s bullpen. Upton then followed with his first career walkoff homer.
It came at a most inopportune time for the Jo-Jo Reyes, who now has not won in 24 starts, dating back to June 13, 2008.
He deserved better last night.
And it looked as if he’d get it with Toronto carrying a 2-1 lead into the ninth.
Shawn Camp and Marc Rzepczynski each threw two scoreless innings in relief of Reyes. Adam Lind drove in a run and scored another taking over the offence from the injured Jose Bautista.
Reyes left after the sixth, surrendering four hits, one run and led 2-1. That kind of effective performance quite possibly saved his spot in the rotation. But it wasn’t enough to get a win. Again.
With pitchers such as Brad Mills raising eyebrows in the minors, Reyes needed this to give himself a confidence boost and manager John Farrell a reason to continue believing in him.
In his previous five starts he had alternately been ineffective and unlucky — not a recipe for success. He’d given up 33 hits and nine walks in 23 innings. Two starts ago he went seven innings and deserved better than a no-decision. In his last outing he was gone in the third inning after six unearned runs that were set up after Edwin Encarnacion’s throwing error.
This time Encarnacion drove home the Jays second run.
Adam Lind’s RBI single gave him a 1-0 lead in the first.
Then it got interesting again for Reyes.
“Everything starts and ends with fastball command,” Farrell said before the game. “When a pticher commands the bottom of the strike zone he has a chance to pitch quality innings. A couple times a play or a pitch has resulted in a crooked number on the board. Having the ability to shut it off at that point has been a little elusive ... yet, at times, he’s run off seven complete innings.”
Which Reyes would show up was possibly even a mystery to the man himself.
Circumstance — and the Rays — conspired to tie the score 1-1 in the second. John McDonald couldn’t corral Sean Rodriguez infield single. A stolen base later, Kelly Shoppach (who hadn’t had a hit in 17 at-bats) blooped a ball to right. Normally, Jose Bautista is there to catch that. But he’s out with a stiff neck and Rajai Davis, playing in unfamiliar ground, seemed to get a late start; then pulled up as it dropped for an RBI single.
Encarnacion, with a man aboard in the third, couldn’t handle a hot shot from Evan Longoria and if Reyes wasn’t thinking about unintentional saboteurs aiding and abetting his downfall, others might. Officially called a hit, this time no foul also turned to no harm, when Reyes got Ben Zobrist to loft a 91 mph fastball to centre for the third out.
And, in the fourth Encarnacion found reprieve; his double scoring Lind, who continued his torrid .336 pace of the previous 10 games. Reyes punched out Dan Johnson to end the home fourth.
Perhaps, finally, fortune would shine. He escaped a fifth with the Rays putting a man at third. He did it the difficult way, fanning Evan Longoria on a 3-2 slider.
Then, it was up to what has been a bullpen beyond reproach. Even that, for Reyes, wasn’t enough.