Frustrating sixth haunts Halladay, Jays

Frustrating sixth haunts Halladay

ST. PETERSBURG -- It was an obvious sign of frustration from a typically stoic Roy Halladay. As the Blue Jays' ace headed off the field in the sixth inning on Saturday, he retrieved a baseball from his glove and whipped it to the ground, sending it skipping toward the home dugout.

Halladay's reaction stemmed from the chain of events that led to a five-run outburst for Tampa Bay in the sixth, sending Toronto on its way to a 6-4 loss at Tropicana Field. The decisive frame was aided by a disputed call by the home-plate umpire and sealed with a towering grand slam from Rays rookie Evan Longoria.

It certainly didn't help that the Jays' hitters were helpless at the plate until the game's waning moments. A four-run rally in the ninth inning was hardly enough to overcome their early shortcomings against Rays starter Matt Garza or to erase the damage from that ill-fated sixth.

Halladay focused his regret on one misplaced fastball -- one that Longoria launched into the left-field stands. That blast essentially ensured the loss, but it was a slow rolling ground ball that set the defeat in motion.

"It comes down to one pitch, and it really changes the game," Halladay said. "It was the one pitch that really cost me. That's tough, any time you make a mistake like that and it costs you four runs."

Halladay (11-7) could've easily steered the blame in the direction of home-plate umpire Mike DiMuro, who had plenty of interaction with Toronto on Saturday. DiMuro engaged in on-field arguments with Halladay and manager Cito Gaston and also ejected pitching coach Brad Arnsberg and reliever Brandon League.

The source of the shouting came with runners on first and second and no outs in the sixth, when Rays left fielder Carl Crawford chopped a Halladay offering down the first-base line. As the ball bounced slowly along the chalk, Halladay backpedaled toward first, waiting for the baseball to cross into foul territory.

The ball nearly came to a stop when Halladay bent down and picked it up. DiMuro signaled that the ball was still fair, causing an angry eruption from Halladay, who ran over to the umpire to plead his case while the crowd roared inside the domed stadium.

"I thought it was foul," said Halladay, who exited after six innings. "It was just rolling on the line and I was just basically going to wait for it to go foul. I'm not going to pick it up if it's fair, especially while it's still rolling. I was just waiting for it and I thought it rolled foul."

While Halladay continued to argue, Gaston bolted from the visitors dugout and also questioned DiMuro's ruling. The play stood, loading the bases for the heart of the Rays' lineup. Gaston was adamant that DiMuro made the wrong call.

"It's a different ballgame if that's a foul ball," Gaston said. "Who knows what's going to happen? At least give us a chance. I mean, the ball's right there. It's not like it's down the line where you can't see it -- it's right in front of you. He just missed it.

"We came back a little bit, but it goes back to that ball being fair or foul, too. I'd love to have seen it be called foul. Who knows? Crawford might've hit the ball out of the ballpark on the next pitch, but I'd rather lose that way than lose on a bad call."

Carlos Pena followed by hitting a blooper into shallow center field to plate the game's first run. Two batters later, Halladay and Longoria entered into a 10-pitch confrontation that ended with the ball in the seats. In the wake of the loss, Halladay kept coming back to that play.

"After [Crawford's roller] happens, there's nothing you can do about it," Halladay said. "You've got to try to get back to your job. Really, that doesn't change the game. The one pitch -- the mistake -- that's what changes it."

That was the extent of the damage produced by the Rays in that inning, but a two-out bunt single by catcher Dioner Navarro stirred up some controversy. In the eighth inning, two batters after Cliff Floyd belted a solo homer off League, the Jays reliever hit Navarro with a pitch.

An inning after Arnsberg was tossed for arguing with the home-plate ump during a mound visit, DiMuro promptly ejected League, believing that the pitcher had thrown at Navarro intentionally. Rays manager Joe Maddon also took exception to the inside offering, citing the catcher's sixth-inning bunt.

"I really disagree with what they did," Maddon said when asked about League hitting Navarro. "We will stop trying to score runs when they stop trying."

League, who has walked 10 batters and hit two more in eight innings for the Jays this season, said he was surprised that he was thrown out of the game.

"That kind of caught me off guard," League said. "I was just trying to go inside -- throw a sinker down and in -- and it just got away from me. I don't know what the umpire was thinking."

When asked if he took exception to Navarro opting to bunt after the Rays' five-run outburst, Halladay said: "It's not my place to decide what's right or wrong. I just make pitches. That's got to be my job. That's for somebody else to decide."

It wasn't Halladay's place to decide if the slow roller was fair or foul, either, which Gaston repeated was the game's turning point.

"It was frustrating," Gaston said. "Doc once again pitched a good ballgame and we had a bad call -- a fair ball on the line that opened up everything. It was a good game on both sides up until that point."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.