ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. â€” Toronto newcomer Casey Lawrence took the longest walk of all.
Lawrence became the first Blue Jays reliever to wind up as the losing pitcher in his major league debut, issuing a bases-loaded walk to Brad Miller with two outs in the 11th inning that sent the Tampa Bay Rays to a 3-2 victory Saturday night.
Mallex Smith opened the 11th with a double, the fifth straight time he reached base. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and after a pair of intentional walks, Lawrence (0-1) struck out Evan Longoria.
Then Lawrence walked Miller, and headed to the dugout.
“I put myself in a hole giving up the double to Smith. It’s a situation where you’re trying to get out of a jam,” Lawrence said. “Made a couple pitches to Longoria. Just didn’t get it done with Miller.”
Toronto manager John Gibbons acknowledged that loading the bases to pitch to Longoria was unconventional.
“You’re really in dire straits there with a leadoff double,” Gibbons said. “In that situation you need a force play, especially with Smith running. The chance of getting him on a tag-type play, the way he runs (is unlikely).”
Erasmo Ramirez (1-0) got the win, pitching 1 2/3 shutout innings.
Smith singled early and walked three straight times before his leadoff double, the only extra-base hit of the game.
“I kept my approach very simple through the whole game â€” I generally just wanted to get on base,” he said. “That (reaching base five times) doesn’t happen every day, so days like this you’ve got to relish for the rest of the night.”
Josh Donaldson’s single with two outs in the eighth off Chris Archer gave the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead. Steven Souza Jr. tied it in the bottom half with a two-out single off reliever Joe Biagini.
Troy Tulowitzki singled home Donaldson in the seventh.
Archer was perfect with six strikeouts through four innings before Kendrys Morales led off the fifth with a sharp single.
Archer, who beat the New York Yankees in the major league opener last weekend, has not won two straight starts within a season since June 2015.
Aaron Sanchez gave up one run on four hits in seven innings in his first start of the season for Toronto. He was the AL ERA leader last year.
Corey Dickerson drove in Tampa Bay’s run off Sanchez with a two-out single in the fifth.
The Blue Jays purchased the contract of Lawrence from Triple-A Buffalo, optioned RHP Dominic Leone to the International League club and transferred RHP Bo Schultz (Tommy John surgery) from the 15- to the 60-day disabled list. The moves came after LHP Francisco Liriano got just one out before being pulled from his start Friday night.
Blue Jays: Closer Roberto Osuna (neck spasms) threw a 24-pitch simulated game that Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker called “very encouraging.” Osuna expects be ready for Toronto’s home opener Tuesday night against Milwaukee. “Definitely no more pain in my neck or back,” Osuna said.
Rays: OF Colby Rasmus (hip surgery) missed a second straight game on his rehab assignment with Class A Charlotte after a collision in the outfield Thursday night.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada, Sunday’s scheduled starter, went 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in three starts against Tampa Bay last season.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (3-2, 3.26 ERA in 11 starts against Toronto) will pitch the final game of a seven-game homestand.
Dick Scanlon, The Associated Press