TORONTO (AP) - Jesse Litsch's adjustment to the bullpen hit its first big bump Saturday.
Litsch surrendered a game-changing, three-run homer to B.J. Upton in the seventh inning and a late Toronto comeback fell short as Tampa Bay beat the Blue Jays 6-5.
A former starter who was moved to the bullpen in late July, Litsch was pitching for the third time in four days, the busiest he's been since leaving the rotation.
But the right-hander denied the heavy workload had led to fatigue.
``I wouldn't say that,' Litsch said. ``It's something you get used to. Three out of four games, it's something different, for sure. I was just down in the zone. I wasn't up in the zone.
``With fatigue, you're usually up in the zone, but I was down in the zone. I was missing low. That's a sign of I'm strong, I'm just over top of the ball too much,' he said.
Filling in for manager John Farrell, who missed his second straight game because of pneumonia, bench coach Don Wakamatsu said Litsch wasn't as sharp as he'd been in scoreless outings against Kansas City on Wednesday and Thursday.
``You look at his stuff today and I just think it's a little bit of the usage,' Wakamatsu said. ``Last three out of four days and it's been an inconsistent, up and down year.'
Litsch, who has allowed seven earned runs over 16 1-3 innings in 11 relief appearances, called the home run ball was the worst pitch of his outing.
``I left the one ball up that Upton hit,' he said. ``It just cut right back over the middle of the plate. It was a heater and I pulled it.'
In Upton's previous at-bat, he led off with a long drive to left field that landed just a few feet foul. Upton and Rays manager Joe Maddon questioned the call with home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Tschida.
``(Tschida) said, 'I'll talk to the boys,' and I guess none of them were absolutely certain so they did the right thing,' Maddon said.
Even Upton wasn't sure where his drive had ended up.
``It looked fair from where I was, although it hooked very hard late,' he said. ``I don't think it hurt to check it out.'
After huddling near the mound, three umpires left the field to review the video. They returned two minutes later and confirmed the original call, leaving the score at 2-all.
Upton reached the painful way when Shawn Camp's next pitch hit him on the leg. Sean Rodriguez singled and Kelly Shoppach tried to bunt the runners along.
But Camp (1-3) fielded the ball and threw to Brett Lawrie for a forceout, and the third baseman's throw across the diamond completed a double play. The Blue Jays almost turned a triple play, too, but Rodriguez slid into third just ahead of the return throw. Elliot Johnson followed with a go-ahead single.
There was no doubt about Upton's drive the next inning. The shot into the second deck in left field scored Sam Fuld and Evan Longoria after they both walked.
``In that situation I'm not trying to do too much, just take what he gives me,' Upton said. ``He left something out over the plate for me and I got extended on it.'
Rodriguez and Johnson each had three hits for the Rays.
Jeff Niemann (9-5) won for the fifth time in six starts. He came in 0-2 with an 8.36 ERA in his last three matchups with Toronto, failing to work more than five innings in any of them.
Niemann reversed that trend, allowing three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.
The right-hander improved to 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 starts since returning from the disabled list on June 20 after missing 39 games with a strained lower back.
J.P. Howell replaced Niemann after J.P. Arencibia's RBI grounder in the seventh, ending Tampa Bay's streak of 11 consecutive games in which its starter worked at least seven innings.
Rays left-hander Jake McGee gave up a leadoff homer to Eric Thames in the eighth, the ninth of the season for the rookie outfielder. McGee got two outs before Juan Cruz came on and surrendered a solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion, his 14th. Kelly Johnson followed with a walk but Brett Lawrie fouled out.
Joel Peralta finished for his second save in four chances.
Making his second start of the season after 29 relief appearances, Blue Jays left-hander Luis Perez kept the Rays off the board through the first three innings, allowing just one hit.
Perez gave up two runs and five hits in five innings. He struck out four.
NOTES: Arencibia threw out three potential basestealers, getting Upton at second in the second, Rodriguez at third in the fourth and Johnson at second in the eighth. ... Toronto OF Dewayne Wise made his debut in center after being claimed on waivers from Florida. Blue Jays OF Colby Rasmus (right wrist) was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Aug. 24. ... Farrell came to his office and was checked by team doctors before returning home to rest. His status remains day-to-day.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved