His poor start, and an offense that could not find its legs until it was too late, set the tone for the Blue Jays as they fell, 4-3, to the Rays at Rogers Centre on Tuesday.
"He didn't have it tonight; his command was off, and that's what he needs," manager John Gibbons said of his starter. "It was up; if it was down, it'd be a little bit different, but it was up. But he has pitched great for us, he really has, it was just one of those nights."
It was evident early that Ortiz did not have the same command as he did last Wednesday, when he allowed only a single earned run in seven innings against the defending-world-champion Giants and picked up his first Major League win as a starter since 2007.
The veteran righty's lack of command was taken advantage of by the Tampa Bay hitters, leading to Gibbons' early hook. Things were turned over to the club's well-rested bullpen, despite Ortiz's having allowed only three earned runs up to that point.
"We were still in the game, [and] our bullpen ended up shutting them down and giving us a chance to win," Gibbons said of Ortiz's early exit.
Things began unraveling quickly for the Blue Jays' starter in the third.
After allowing an RBI groundout and ex-Blue Jay Kelly Johnson's eighth home run of the year in the second, Ortiz gave up a first-pitch home run to Desmond Jennings to lead off the third. He followed that with singles to two of the next three batters before being taken out of the game.
"I missed a couple of pitches up in the zone," Ortiz said. "That's baseball. ... I don't want to think about the game today; I want to think about my next game."
Things could have been worse for the veteran, as he left two runners on when he was relieved by Aaron Loup, who managed to get the lead runner before allowing Evan Longoria to score.
With runners on the corners, James Loney hit a dribbler off Loup up the first-base line that was picked up by Edwin Encarnacion, who threw home to get Ben Zobrist at the plate to limit the damage.
Two pitches later, however, Luke Scott hit a soft liner in front of Colby Rasmus in center field, scoring Longoria and extending the Rays' lead to four.
For the Blue Jays, the game still could have gone their way. They had the bases loaded in the eighth with only one man away and down, 4-2, when J.P. Arencibia stepped to the plate.
Rays manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen to bring out his closer, Fernando Rodney, for the five-out save.
Rodney, who blew a save by allowing a two-run home run to Arencibia on May 6 in Tampa Bay, would not let history repeat.
The Toronto catcher swung at the first pitch, hitting it right at second baseman Ryan Roberts, who easily turned the double play to end the threat.
"Different circumstances," said Maddon of letting Rodney face Arencibia on Tuesday. "The best chance to get a double play was him right there. And if you do, then the save turns into almost a normal save situation. One inning. ... He puts the ball on the ground. ... If you look at all the options available to you at that particular moment, I thought it was the best option."
"I didn't have any problem right there," Gibbons said of Arencibia's swinging at the first pitch. "The closer's coming in, I think he hit a strike; he just hit it right at the guy."
That double play saved Roberts from wearing the goat horn on this evening, as he had botched an almost identical double play to the previous batter.
Roberts mishandled a grounder up the middle that loaded the bases for Toronto and set the stage for Arencibia.
That eighth frame was the greatest chance the Blue Jays had of a big inning, after being stymied all night by Rays starter Alex Cobb.
The biggest threat off the righty came in the bottom of the sixth, when the Blue Jays put two runners on with Adam Lind at the plate.
Lind grounded out to former Blue Jay Yunel Escobar, who made a nice play deep in the hold to throw out the Toronto first baseman and end the rally. It was the only time the Blue Jays had a runner in scoring position against the Rays' starter.
Cobb faced only five batters over the minimum in his 6 1/3 innings, allowing only one earned run on three hits and two walks, with two strikeouts. It was the seventh quality start in nine outings this season for the 25-year-old.
"He's got that split that's pretty good, and he spots up pretty well," said Rasmus, whose deep solo shot in the fifth proved to be the only damage allowed by the Rays righty.
Even with Cobb's dominance and the blown opportunity in the eighth, the Blue Jays had one more chance in the ninth.
Rasmus scored on a wild pitch from Rodney to pull Toronto within one. Then, with a man on first, the Blue Jays' hottest hitter, Melky Cabrera, came to the plate.
Cabrera struck out looking on what appeared to be a questionable call.
"That at the end, that was a pretty tough call," Rasmus said. "Leaves you with a pretty bad taste in the mouth, but that's baseball."