ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon managed a smile after the Rays' 4-2 loss-- their first of the season -- at the hands of the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
A day earlier, the Rays took a 9-2 win in their season opener, and from many accounts and opinions, had just 161 games separating them from a division title and a run through the postseason.
Alas, that's just not reality …
"For all of those fans who were coronating us after [Monday]," Maddon said. "You can see how this thing works and we understand that. But I'm really pleased, we kept coming back, kept coming back. They pitched well. Hutchison was really good."
Hutchison was Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison, and he hadn't pitched in a Major League game since June 15, 2012. Tommy John surgery to his right elbow followed, then the corresponding rehab. On Tuesday night, he had blue-ribbon results.
Hutchison "was really good," Maddon said. "A lot of great carry on his pitches. Threw some nice sliders. He pitched really well."
Added Wil Myers: "His fastball just got on you so quick. It was hard to really judge the speed. It said 91, but it looked mid-90s. Fastball had a good ride to it. And he didn't make many mistakes. Really kept his pitches down and made some good pitches."
Hutchison allowed three hits and three walks while striking out four en route to his first win since his last start, June 15, 2012, when he defeated the Red Sox.
"I just got into a rhythm and I got there," Hutchison said. "On nights like that you keep grinding and you find it. [Catcher Dioner Navarro] did a good job in getting me there and I was able to throw some good off-speed stuff. I threw some good sliders, too, when I was struggling to get the double-play ball and some other ones so it was a good night."
Meanwhile, Rays starter Alex Cobb struggled in his first outing of the season, surrendering a three-run homer to Adam Lind in the first that cleared the center-field wall.
"Alex had his typically good stuff, but his command was off and he gives up a first-inning three-run home run, otherwise it's a different night," Maddon said. "So he settled in in a sense, but he just could not get the command of everything going on tonight. But stuff-wise it was still there."
Cobb battled the Blue Jays through five innings, allowing only an RBI single to Jonathan Diaz in his final four innings.
"Pretty much the whole game, fastball location was almost non-existent," Cobb said. "I was able to get by for a few innings. But that's definitely going to make your pitch count go way through the roof and knock you out of the game early."
Cobb's final line showed four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three. Of the 104 pitches the right-hander threw, just 60 were strikes.
"You try to make adjustments and at the same time, get through what you can get through," Cobb said. "Try to eat up as many innings as you can and make adjustments on the fly. It's not the easiest thing. You really try to really mentally go through what's going on in between innings and make the adjustments and I just wasn't able to figure that out tonight."
Heath Bell, Josh Lueke, Cesar Ramos and Jake McGee followed Cobb with four scoreless frames, helping keep alive the Rays' hopes for stealing a win.
Myers got his club on the board in the eighth with an RBI double off Steve Delabar. Evan Longoria then got into the action.
First came his fielding gem in the ninth when he dove to stop Melky Cabrera's shot then threw a strike to first to complete the bang-bang play for the last out of the inning -- after an instant-replay review.
Longoria then led off the Rays' ninth and came up big with a hustling double off the glove of third baseman Brett Lawrie. That manifested itself into the Rays' second run one out later when Desmond Jennings doubled to center off Sergio Santos to make it 4-2. However, with runners on second and third and two outs in the ninth, Yunel Escobar was caught looking at a third strike from Santos.
"You saw what [Longoria's effort] did, we almost had a chance to win that game right there," Maddon said. "I think the way that started out, off the third baseman's glove. Sometimes you're looking for those little moments to swing things back in your favor. But it was a great hustle play on his part. … I really liked our fight."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.