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TB@TOR: Hill knocks in a run on a fielder's choice

TORONTO -- There was an unspoken sense of missed opportunities in Toronto's clubhouse on Wednesday night following a disappointing performance against the Rays.

The Blue Jays had a golden chance to gain a game in the standings against the American League East leaders, but instead found a way to beat themselves.

Right-hander Jesse Litsch struggled early, and the Blue Jays' defense committed five errors in a 6-5 loss to the Rays in front of 14,415 fans at Rogers Centre.

"It's somewhat inexplicable; we have been playing very good baseball," said Blue Jays manager John Farrell, whose club had its winning streak snapped at six games.

"I think the miscues, the hole we dug ourselves, were too much to come back from tonight."

Litsch's early control problems and the lack of support he received in the field led directly to Toronto falling behind, 6-0, in the first three innings of the game.

Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Litsch each committed an error in the second inning. Litsch also added a third-inning miscue, while Encarnacion made another error in the field in the eighth inning in the sloppy affair.

The five costly miscues were the most the club has committed in one game since May 21, 2000, against the Chicago White Sox.

"You have to remain positive," Farrell said. "These guys know what happened out there; they don't need reminders. We've got to continue to find opportunities to overcome them and continue to build innings to do just that.

"What's done is done in that situation. You can't go back, you can't replay it; you continue to take a positive slant and continue to forge ahead."

The Blue Jays' woes began with Litsch on the mound in the top of the second inning. The Florida native got himself into an early jam by walking and then hitting, respectively, the first two batters he faced. Litsch then surrendered a two-run single to right field by Elliot Johnson.

Bautista fielded the ball in right, but his throw to second bounced off the bag and was redirected towards the middle of the field.

Johnson took off for second base and managed to get all the way to third after Litsch threw the ball away to center field. Errors were charged to Litsch and Bautista on the play, which contributed to Tampa's three-run inning.

Litsch's struggles continued in the following frame. The 26-year-old hit Evan Longoria to open the inning before serving up a home run to No. 5 hitter Matt Joyce. Joyce's seventh home run of the season gave Tampa an early 5-0 lead.

"He threw me a lot of fastballs [and] cutters, [as well as] changeups in the first at-bat," said Joyce, who went 1-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. "I saw all his pitches and figured I'd be aggressive in the second at-bat, and it paid off."

Litsch (4-3) settled down after the first three frames and didn't allow a run for the rest of his outing. He was taken out after the fifth inning, having been charged with six runs, five earned, on seven hits and three walks.

It was only the second time in seven starts that Litsch had allowed more than three runs against Tampa. It also marked the first time he has lost a game at home this season.

"It was one of those games," said Litsch, who threw 68 of his 111 pitches for strikes. "You can't have your best stuff every game, and you have to go out there and battle with it.

"These are the games that make you a better pitcher. I gave up two three-run innings, and [when you] put your team down early, you have to battle back from there."

The Blue Jays had opportunities to climb back into the game but were never able to even the contest. They scored one in the fourth and one in the fifth before making a real mark in the sixth inning.

Corey Patterson led off the inning with his 10th double of the season and would eventually come around to score on a double by Aaron Hill.

Top prospect Eric Thames, who was making his Major League debut, then stepped to the plate and lined an RBI single up the middle to cut Tampa Bay's lead to two. It was the first hit and RBI of Thames' career.

"The whole day, it was kind of nerve-wracking," said Thames, whose mother and father will arrive in Toronto on Thursday for the series finale. "I was trying to keep my heart rate slowed down and take bad pitches, [which] I didn't really do tonight.

"It was good to get the first [hit] out of the way, and I'm glad it happened in a timely situation for the team."

Toronto would add one more run in the ninth inning off Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth, but that was as close as it would get.

The club drops to 9-9 at Rogers Centre this season, following a year in which they finished 12 games above .500 at home. They also have lost four of their past six games in Toronto.

"It's always on to the next one," Litsch said. "You have to have a short memory in this game. Tomorrow is a new day; [the] next game is a new game. You have to go out there with that mentality all the time." Comments