ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The Toronto Blue Jays can't shake their struggles at Tropicana Field.
Toronto allowed four homers in an 11-5 loss to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
The Blue Jays have lost five in a row, including the first two of the weekend set against the Rays to make it 17 consecutive losing series at Tampa Bay - two short of the AL record. The New York Yankees won 19 consecutive home series against the St. Louis Browns from 1946-51.
``I can only speak to the last two years,' Toronto manager John Farrell said. ``It's an outstanding pitching staff, it's consistent. We've been in some close games here late in games where they've hit a ball out of the ballpark or scored some runs late. They're a good team.'
The Rays have struggled on offense at times, but they have managed 23 runs and 31 hits, including six home runs, in the first two games of the series.
B.J. Upton and Jose Molina homered during a six-run fifth inning and the Rays won their fourth straight.
Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings also connected for the Rays, who moved within 3 1/2 games of Oakland for the second AL wild card.
Adam Lind drove in three runs for Toronto, and Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis had two hits apiece.
Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was back in the starting lineup two days after he served a three-game suspension for wearing eye-black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish and went 0 for 4.
Longoria put the Rays ahead 4-2 with a three-run homer in the second against Brandon Morrow (8-7), who gave up five runs and five hits in four innings. He walked three in the first inning and a walk preceded Longoria's home run.
``Obviously the four walks hurt,' Morrow said, ``but I can't remember a pitch out of the zone that they swung at and I think they only swung at four offspeed pitches total.
I think I only missed with two over the plate and they hit `em out both times.'
Jennings added a solo drive in the fourth for his fourth home run in 13 at_bats against Morrow.
Toronto took a 2-0 lead in the first on Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Lind off Matt Moore, who was pulled in the third inning.
Burke Badenhop (3-2) replaced Moore and retired all four batters he faced, and then the Rays had their big fifth, marking the third straight game the Blue Jays have given up 10 runs or more.
``Starting pitching is where it starts and for a third consecutive night we've had to go to the bullpen early,' Farrell said. ``The tone is set right from the outset of the game, and it's been a rough stretch.'
The Rays have scored 43 runs on their four-game winning streak.
``We seem loose,' Longoria said. ``It's really all about the belief that you can score runs. We did not have that for a while. It seems like it's back now.'
Escobar, who was out during a three-game series against the New York Yankees, had a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning of the Blue Jays' 12-1 loss to the Rays on Friday night.
``It's time to get back in there,' Farrell said. ``Whether he's completely over what has taken place, I would venture to say that he's not. These are the things that he has to deal with.'
Escobar apologized and said he meant it to be a joke.
NOTES: Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said a key offseason goal will be to add depth to the rotation. ``We'll try and be aggressive,' Anthopoulos said. ... Jennings reached five times on three hits and two walks. He scored four runs in the first five innings. ... Upton has 25 homers this season, including seven in his past 13 games.
The Associated Press News Service
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