Jackson hit hard in rare home loss

Jackson hit hard in rare home loss

ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays fans looking to digest Sunday's 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays should remember Friday and Saturday night's results and that Tampa Bay returned to first place in the American League East over the weekend.

Otherwise, Sunday's defeat in front of a crowd of 21,037 at Tropicana Field didn't taste so good.

Overcoming three errors, Toronto pounded out nine runs on 11 hits to dodge becoming Tampa Bay's ninth sweep victim of the season. Fortunately for the Rays, everything went their way until Sunday.

On Friday night, Tampa Bay got a solid pitching performance by James Shields, and Ben Zobrist managed a two-run homer off A.J. Burnett for a 2-1 win. On Saturday night, the Rays nickel-and-dimed Roy Halladay to death before Evan Longoria hit a grand slam to lead a 6-4 Rays win.

The much-needed victories came after seven consecutive losses prior to the All-Star break. A sweep of the Jays would have been nice, but taking two out of three was a good first step for the Rays in overcoming the mental anguish caused by how they finished the first half.

"Believe me, we just beat Burnett and Halladay two out of the last three days, and when you meatloaf them under those circumstances, that's a good thing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I like the fact that people are disappointed. We want to win every night also, but that's not the way this whole thing works. When you win two out of three in a series like this, you come away a little bit disappointed that you could have swept, but you're content in that you beat really good pitchers."

Fueled by back-to-back home runs by Longoria and Carlos Pena, the Rays scored three in the third to take a 4-3 lead. They appeared to add a fifth run in the fourth when Jonny Gomes tried to score on Zobrist's fly out to center. Alex Rios' throw to the plate arrived late and the sliding Gomes appeared to bust through Gregg Zaun's blockade at home. But Damien Beal called Gomes out, much to the chagrin of Maddon, who registered a complaint with the home-plate umpire.

"I felt some give [in Zaun's leg], but [Beal] had the angle," Gomes said. "Bang-bang play -- you get some, you lose some. He said he blocked the plate. I thought I got in there."

That play felt huge at the time, but given how the Rays pitched on Sunday, earning a sweep would have been difficult even if the run had scored.

"We did not pitch like we normally do today, and that's why they beat us," Maddon said.

Edwin Jackson gave up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings to take his seventh loss of the season. He allowed a two-run homer to Rios and -- the big one -- a three-run blast to Marco Scutaro.

"Just one of those days where it wasn't my day," Jackson said. "The mistakes were balls pretty much down the middle. That's just one of those things you have to focus a little bit more. But that's the way this game is: They get paid to hit mistakes, and they did their job today."

The Rays fell to 0-7 on the season when Jackson does not last six innings; they are 8-3 when he goes six or more frames.

Tampa Bay didn't get much relief from its relievers. Jason Hammel allowed two runs in 1 2/3 innings and Trever Miller allowed a run in one-third of an inning.

Meanwhile, the Jays used six relievers after starter John Parrish left the game after three innings. Toronto's bullpen threw six scoreless innings, with former Tampa Bay right-hander Shawn Camp getting his third win of the season.

With Sunday's game in the rearview mirror, the Rays can feel good about the weekend.

"We took two out of three from a good team in the AL East, so we're OK with that," Gomes said.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.