Blue Jays' late lead falls by wayside

Jays' late lead falls by wayside

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- B.J. Ryan hadn't had a blown save in a long time. More than eight months, actually. So it was understandable, then, when he asked for a little extra time to sit and think before speaking with the media Friday night.

So sit Ryan did, silent and red-faced, staring at his locker for a bit before leaving the room, only to return moments later to deliver a harsh oratory of what went wrong during Toronto's 6-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

"The bullpen came in and did their job, and I coughed it up," he said. "There's no excuse for the way I went out there and pitched tonight."

Toronto had opened up a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning. Ryan, the oft-dependable closer who's racked up 74 saves over the last two years, induced a popup for the first out. The trouble was short but swift, with Ty Wigginton lining a single to center, and Delmon Young following up with a game-tying homer to right.

"It was a fastball," Ryan lamented afterward. "[I] pulled a little bit, got too much of the plate and he hit it out of the ballpark."

A bunt single followed, as did a popout and an outfield single, before Jays shortstop John McDonald fumbled a line drive by B.J. Upton and couldn't wing it to first in time, allowing the winning run to score from third.

"[The Rays] have got talent over there, they're on the right track. They've got a ton of speed, and they've got guys who can hit the ball out of the park," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "It's never easy playing these guys. They're all tough."

Also tough was Jays starter Gustavo Chacin, who'd been tinkering with his tempo throughout the preseason in an effort to make his pitch count more efficient and thereby extend his outings. The left-hander breezed through the six innings of his season-opening outing by using 82 pitches in less than 90 minutes, but worked to a no-decision after three bad pitches doomed him.

Chacin served up a home run to Wigginton in the second inning, and another to Upton in the third. Chacin surrendered yet another solo shot two innings later, this time to third baseman Akinori Iwamura.

Between the few slips, however, were 10 groundouts and 60 strikes, something Toronto had hoped it'd see as Chacin upped his throwing tempo. It seemed the only time he fell out of rhythm was during the fourth inning as he labored through an 11-pitch at-bat to Rocco Baldelli before the designated hitter grounded out to third for the first out.

"I saw Gus good all night, I really did," Gibbons said. "I liked his pace. He kept us in the ballgame, that's all we want from anybody. They've got some good hitters."

In contrast, Chacin had little run support early from his teammates, who scraped together just three hits off Tampa Bay starter James Shields through 6 2/3 innings before cracking the young righty's code in the seventh.

Catcher Gregg Zaun tripled in the Jays' first run when his fast-falling hit escaped right fielder Young and allowed Alex Rios to score from third. Zaun would score a moment later thanks to a ground-rule double from Aaron Hill, who would, in turn, score during the next at-bat, on Reed Johnson's outfield single, to tie the game.

An inning later, Troy Glaus chose a 2-0 pitch from Shawn Camp and sent it sailing over the wall in left field to drive in what should have been the winning runs had Tampa Bay not taken its revenge against Ryan.

"You want to get out there and make some pitches and give the guys behind you a chance to make some plays; I didn't do that today," said a visibly frustrated Ryan.

It was the lefty's first blown save since July 30, 2006, when he served up a three-run, walkoff homer to Milton Bradley during a 6-5 loss to Oakland.

"I was just wild," he said, of Friday. "I was just not making very many good pitches out there. I didn't do my job."

Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.