Right-hander Brad Lincoln issued a free pass to Tampa Bay's Luke Scott with the bases loaded in the 10th as the Blue Jays walked off the field with a 5-4 loss at Tropicana Field.
"You shouldn't lose games like that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You've got to throw strikes. It's pretty simple. It's not always the easiest thing to do, but you need to throw strikes. Get beat, let 'em hit their way to victory."
The 10th inning started off fine for the Blue Jays bullpen. Left-hander Aaron Loup retired the first two batters he faced before Evan Longoria stepped into the batter's box. The logical assumption was that Loup wasn't going to give Tampa Bay's best hitter anything to hit.
That turned out not to be the case, as Loup fell behind 2-0 but then threw a pitch Longoria could handle. The third baseman doubled to the gap in right-center field to put the winning run in scoring position.
Gibbons then opted to intentionally walk left-handed-hitting James Loney. The first baseman is 10-for-18 against lefties and is second in the American League with a .381 average in 34 games.
That was something Gibbons didn't want any part of, and he instead went with Lincoln to face Ryan Roberts with runners on first and second. Lincoln proceeded to walk Roberts on five pitches before getting ahead of Scott 0-2.
Scott fouled off a tough curveball from Lincoln, but then didn't have to swing again, as he watched the next four pitches miss the zone.
"You never want to see it happen that way," Lincoln said. "Come in, throw strikes and get the job done. But it happened, you have to put it past you and move on.
"In that situation I'm trying to put him away, strike the guy out. And unfortunately he was able to foul a pitch off and then work the count to 3-2. I have to execute right there."
The game featured a matchup of last year's Cy Young Award winners, as American League champ David Price took the mound for Tampa Bay and National League winner R.A. Dickey -- then with the Mets -- got the call for Toronto.
It was only the third time since the Cy Young was awarded to both leagues in 1967 that the reigning winners faced off against each other the following season. Despite the impressive matchup, neither ended up factoring into the decision.
Dickey allowed three runs -- two earned -- on five hits with five strikeouts in six innings. He allowed a one-out triple to Ben Zobrist in the third, but didn't surrender another hit the rest of the way.
The 38-year-old was cruising but still had to come out after six because he'd thrown 110 pitches. He tied a season high with five walks and doesn't like the trend he has seen starting to develop in recent outings.
"I'm falling into the pattern of a traditional knuckleballer where there's less than a hit per inning but you have a lot of walks and you have some strikeouts," Dickey said. "That's really not my personality with the pitch normally. I'm much more efficient usually.
"I've got to try and figure out a way to repeat my delivery in a way that will allow me to throw more strikes, because that's who I am as a knuckleballer, and I need to get back to that and stick my face in there and try to figure it out."
Price allowed one run in the second on an RBI single by Brett Lawrie, and a pair of runs in the third on an RBI double by Jose Bautista and bloop single by Edwin Encarnacion. A throwing error by Longoria contributed to the rally.
The Blue Jays scored the go-ahead run in the fifth after Rajai Davis began the frame with a leadoff single. Davis then stole second and third base during the next at-bat, and later came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Bautista.
Price was charged with two earned runs on seven hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings. He still has only one win this season, but saw his ERA drop to 4.78.
"I didn't think about it," Price said of matching up against the reigning NL Cy Young winner. "If this was the National League or something where I had to face him or had to pitch against him, then it's a little bit different.
"But we were probably the only two people on the field that don't have too much to do with each other. You know you have to come out there with good stuff, especially whenever you're facing somebody like R.A."
The Blue Jays were forced to settle for a series split versus the Rays despite winning the first two games. That's a bitterly disappointing outcome, but still ensured that the club avoided losing a road series against the Rays for the first time since 2007.
The downside is that Toronto still only has one series win this season and is now 10 games below .500 at 13-23. The Blue Jays are also 4-8 in games decided by one run, and continue to suffer incredibly tough losses that have left some in the clubhouse at a loss.
"It's just sad, because you pour your heart and soul into the game and it doesn't always end up in a win," Dickey said. "You know we're playing hard. We're not maybe playing the smartest baseball, but we're playing hard as crud.
"You can't fault a guy in this room for not giving his all. Normally, you can put your finger on that. But not here. We've got to kind of tighten up some things."