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Jays drop late battle of bullpens

Jays drop late battle of bullpens

TORONTO -- Blue Jays fans inside Rogers Centre shifted out of their seats and offered Brian Tallet a standing ovation in the seventh inning on Monday night, praising the left-hander for his flirtation with history.

With one out in the frame, Tallet lost his bid for an unlikely no-hitter, surrendering a single to Cleveland's Ryan Garko that flew just beyond the pitcher's reach and into center field. When the crowd sat back down, it had no way of knowing the dramatic turn the contest was about to take.

Toronto and Cleveland went on to fight through a 12-inning affair, one that the Blue Jays eventually conceded in the form of a 9-7 loss. The Jays staged a handful of rallies, showing the resolve they have displayed all season long, but the club's bullpen -- without the services of two of its top arms -- suffered a pair of damaging meltdowns.

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Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston could only smile and shrug his shoulders after witnessing how the game unfolded.

"Baseball is always an interesting game," Gaston said. "You go from a guy pitching a no-hitter, to a one-hitter, to a tie ballgame, to one out to win a game. ... They end up coming out ahead, but the guys kept battling back and that's all they've been doing all year."

When it was all said and done, that was what the Blue Jays (18-10) took out of their latest effort. Trailing, 3-2, in the seventh inning, Toronto came up with two runs on a base hit by Vernon Wells to grab the lead. Down again in the ninth -- this time, 6-4 -- Jose Bautista delivered a two-run single to pull the game into a deadlock.

In the home half of the 12th inning, after Toronto reliever Shawn Camp yielded three runs to Cleveland in the top of the frame, Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas plated Scott Rolen with a single to cut the Tribe's lead down to 9-7. Toronto then put runners on the corners with two outs, bringing the winning run to the plate.

The situation stacked up in the Jays' favor, but Aaron Hill struck out to end the game.

Two games earlier, Hill had contributed a game-tying home run in the 10th inning against Baltimore, and then played hero with a run-scoring single in the 11th to send Toronto to its fourth walk-off win of the season. A fifth such victory wasn't meant to be this time around, but the Jays could at least head to the clubhouse knowing they didn't go down without a fight.

"I don't see any other way to look at it," Bautista said. "It's a tough loss, but we battled and battled and we didn't quit. That's a very big positive out of the game."

Another was the stellar performance by Tallet.

The Indians (10-16) finished the evening with nine runs and 15 hits, but the team had zeroes occupying each of those categories for the first six frames. The lanky Toronto left-hander wasn't perfect -- he ended with three walks, one hit batter and a wild pitch -- but he was more than effective for much of the night against Cleveland's lineup.

Tallet was also well aware that he had a no-hitter heading into the seventh.

"Everybody knows that," Tallet said. "There's what, 15-16,000 people in the stands? I'm sure every single person knew I was throwing a no-hitter. You hate to lose it, you'd love to throw one, but that's not the goal. The goal is to win the ballgame and we just didn't do it tonight."

After striking out Jhonny Peralta to open the seventh, Tallet watched a 1-0 offering to Garko rocket off the first baseman's bat. Tallet made a stab at the ball as it sailed past the mound, but it fell into center for a single. That prompted a warm response from the crowd, while Tallet kicked himself for not making the play.

"Believe it or not, I was mad because I thought I should have caught it," Tallet said. "I kind of smiled and thought, 'You've got to be kidding me,' because I really thought I should have caught it. If I get in better fielding position, maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't. But after that, we've got to get back to work."

Tallet -- a reliever by trade who had never worked more than six innings in his career as a spot starter -- watched Indians rookie Matt LaPorta turn the next pitch into a two-run home run that pulled the game into a 2-2 deadlock. By the time the inning was over, the Tribe had plated another run to grab a 3-2 lead.

Even so, it was an impressive performance from Tallet, who allowed 10 runs on 11 hits over four innings in his last start -- a loss to the Royals on Wednesday. Tallet, filling in as a starter while the Jays await the return of a few injured arms, looked much sharper in his seven-inning showing against the Indians.

"That goes without saying," Gaston said with a smile.

After Toronto regained the lead in the seventh, Gaston turned to reliever Brandon League. With Scott Downs and Jesse Carlson unavailable due to their recent work load, League was asked to close out the final two innings. In the ninth, the right-hander surrendered three runs, resulting in a blown save and a two-run deficit for the Jays.

Toronto rallied to tie the game, sending the contest into extra innings, but Camp allowed another three in the 12th -- his second inning on the hill -- to give Cleveland a 9-6 lead. The Jays, who finished with 16 hits, had a chance to overcome the bullpen's collapse.

On this night, though, there was a limit to the club's magic.

"Tonight, we we weren't able to do it," Tallet said. "But, pretty much all year we've done that and I can't say enough to the hitters -- they battled their tails off and just came up a little short at the end."

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

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