Rays 4 Blue Jays 1
TORONTO — Cito Gaston wasn’t too concerned with Roy Halladay’s performance Monday. Despite losing 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays manager was just happy to have his ace back in the lineup.
“He’s good, that’s the good news,” said Gaston. “I think maybe his location wasn’t quite as good as he would like it to be . . . He got one pitch up but if a guy goes out there and gives up a couple of runs you’d take that every night.”
Halladay (10-2) pitched well enough over six innings in his first start in 17 days but took the loss and Jeff Niemann (7-4) allowed four hits, two walks and one run through 7 1/3 innings to earn the win as the Rays won their sixth in a row.
Randy Choate took over from Dan Wheeler to get the final out to pick up his fourth save.
The game played before 15,665 at the Rogers Centre was the first of the year between the teams as the Blue Jays return to playing within the American League East following interleague play.
Halladay used 88 pitches in giving up five hits and left for Jeremy Accardo with the Blue Jays trailing 2-0 on Carl Crawford’s seventh home run of the season on an elevated 1-1 curveball in the third inning.
Halladay struck out seven and walked two his first start since June 12 against the Florida Marlins when he suffered a mild groin strain on his first batter of the fourth inning and had to come out of the game.
Halladay said he had no problems from the injury or from the layoff.
“Throwing in the bullpen everything was fine,” Halladay said. “I didn’t feel like I hadn’t thrown in a long time. It’s just a matter of consistency sometimes.”
Halladay lamented the walk to B.J. Upton that preceded Crawford’s homer and the pitch that the Rays’ left fielder knocked over the fence.
“I just made a poor pitch,” Halladay said. “Curveball kind of middle-in, up. It just has to be down more really. But as far as stuff (was concerned) I felt it was good and felt everything was where it needed to be. I just have to pitch ahead a little bit better.”
Accardo gave up two runs in the seventh, one on Pat Burrell’s third homer of the season on a 1-1 slider to lead off the inning and the other on Upton’s sacrifice fly. Two of Accardo’s outs in the inning were on steal attempts at second.
Niemann, a 26-year-old rookie, was making his 15th start of the season and the 17th of his major-league career and reduced his earned-run average to 3.95 in pitching past the fifth inning for only the second time in his past six starts.