TORONTO - They're sick of talking about it and really, what more is there left to say about an enigmatic offence that can't even bring home the winning run from third base with nobody out?
An out-of-nowhere three-run rally in the ninth gave the Toronto Blue Jays a chance to pull out a game they looked sure to lose Thursday, but instead they were left to once again rue missed opportunities in an eventual 8-3 defeat in 13 innings to the Tampa Bay Rays.
That sent them out for a daunting 10-game road trip through Cleveland, Minnesota and Philadelphia that will most certainly test their mettle, as they wonder what kind of team they'll be at the plate from night to night.
"We tie a ball game late, have our opportunities and don't get it done," Gregg Zaun said in a rare frank assessment of things. "That's the way it's been going for us, we just haven't gotten the job done.
"There's no excuses, we can talk about it until we're blue in the face, I'm pretty sick of talking about it. We need to go out there and start getting those runs home when we need to. ...
"It's pathetic. We're a way better club than this."
The Blue Jays (17-19) should have won the game in the 10th when Alex Rios broke out of a 6-for-30 slide with a leadoff triple against Dan Wheeler. But both Shannon Stewart and Matt Stairs struck out before Rod Barajas also went down swinging with the bases loaded.
The Rays (18-16) showed them how it's done in the 13th. Carl Crawford's sacrifice fly to deep right off Shawn Camp (0-1) brought home Jason Bartlett with the winning run, after he opened the 13th with a single that glanced off Aaron Hill's glove, and advanced to third on Akinori Iwamura's subsequent single.
Then they made sure of it, loading the bases - helped by Marco Scutaro's missed tag of B.J. Upton during a rundown - and clearing them on Dioner Navarro's two-out grand slam.
They didn't get another shot at victory after that as J.P. Howell (1-0) threw three scoreless innings to earn the win before a crowd of 21,118.
"That's a tough one," said manager John Gibbons. "We were down the whole way, got to Troy Percival who hadn't been touched all year, climb back in it, that was a heartbreaker. ...
"We've got to regroup and regroup fast."
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise solid 5-2 homestand that would have been even better after the Blue Jays offence, dormant for eight innings, woke up in the ninth to score the first three runs of the season against Percival and erase a 3-0 deficit.
Vernon Wells got things started with a two-run blast before Lyle Overbay doubled and pinch-runner Joe Inglett scored on Aaron Hill's single. Hill later stole second but Marco Scutaro struck out looking to end it.
While they did undo much of the damage from the disastrous 2-7 road trip that preceded this homestand, Thursday's loss certainly changed their frame of mind.
"We would have a little momentum going on the road, those are things that kind of take an effect the next couple of days," said Overbay. "If we're going to get to the point where we're going to be a playoff team, we're going to have to come through and score some runs and do those little things that championship teams do.
"And we're just not doing it right now."
Their current trip will take them to Cleveland for four games, before three each in Minnesota and Philadelphia, and they'll need to shed this pop-gun production at the plate soon so their pitchers don't feel like they have to throw a shutout each time out.
A hitter from outside the organization is expected to be added in time for Friday's contest to take one of the two roster spots left open when shortstops David Eckstein (right hip) and John McDonald (right ankle) were placed on the disabled list. Inglett was recalled from triple-A Syracuse to fill the other.
Jesse Litsch was good enough to win in this one but paid for a pair of mistakes, a two-run shot by former Blue Jay Gabe Gross in the fifth and a solo blast by Carlos Pena in the seventh.
"He was dealing," said Gibbons. "Justice was served, he got off the hook. He didn't deserve an L."
Tampa starter Edwin Jackson scattered six hits and a walk in his eight innings.
Notes: Overbay continued to hit the ball hard, doubling for the third straight game. ... Rays phenom Evan Longoria was given most of the night off, coming in as a defensive replacement for Eric Hinske in the seventh. He's mired in a 4-for-30 slide. ... Veteran reliever Armando Benitez is set to join triple-A Syracuse on Friday after recovering from a hamstring injury. The Jays signed him during the spring and he pitched in seven games for single-A Dunedin before getting hurt. ... Jason Frasor pitched for the first time since April 25, striking out three in 1 1-3 innings. ... Pena's homer came after an 0-for-14 run with 10 strikeouts.