LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It was a situation Roy Halladay normally thrives in.
Give the Toronto ace a three-run lead entering the late innings, and he'll usually find a way to keep the Blue Jays on top. "It is difficult to come from behind against him," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon conceded after his Rays did just that Wednesday night, rallying for a 5-3 victory at Disney World. "We're very fortunate to be able to do it."
Jason Hammel allowed four hits in six innings and Evan Longoria drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single, as Tampa Bay improved to 5-0 in games they've played here the past two seasons in home-away-home series designed to bolster fan support in the Orlando area.
Longoria's hit was the big blow in a four-run sixth against Halladay (2-3), who carried a 3-0 lead into the inning, thanks to a pair of homers and three RBIs by Fredericton's Matt Stairs. Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske also had run-scoring singles off the right-hander, who suffered his second straight complete-game loss.
"It's frustrating. It's disappointing. It's a number of things," Halladay said. "If you get a three-run lead late in the game, you can't afford to let it get away. There's no telling how many times you're going to get that chance."
Hammel (2-1) allowed three runs, struck out two and walked four before being replaced by Dan Wheeler at the start of the seventh inning. Closer Troy Percival worked a perfect ninth for the second straight night, earning his third save in as many opportunities.
"It was just good enough," Hammel said of his performance. "It was a battle all night."
Halladay pitched his third straight complete game, allowing five runs and nine hits in eight innings. He went nine innings in a 4-1 loss to Texas last Thursday and had a complete-game victory over the Rangers on April 12.
Stairs' homers were his first since April 4 and extended his hitting streak to 11 games - one shy of his career best with Oakland in 1998. He is hitting .405 during the stretch, and his three RBIs Wednesday night doubled his season total to six.
The Blue Jays had men on base every inning except the ninth, but they hurt themselves by going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"We haven't done a very good job of driving in that big run. We have a chance to bury a team and we haven't done it," Stairs said. "The biggest thing now is keeping a positive attitude, knowing it's going to come around."
The Rays were limited to singles by Carlos Pena, Jonny Gomes and Akinori Iwamura before finally breaking through against Halladay with five hits and a walk during the four-run sixth that put them ahead 4-3.
The 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner looked like he might escape the inning with minimal damage when he struck out Pena with the bases loaded to bring up Longoria, who hit into a double play and grounded to third in his first two at-bats.
But the Rays rookie lined a 1-0 pitch to the opposite field to drive in two, making it 3-all. Hinske, a single shy of hitting for the cycle in Tuesday night's series-opening win, followed with another hit to right to break the tie.
Crawford, who has a 10-game hitting streak, tripled and scored on B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly in the eighth.
"You just can't let it get away from you," Halladay repeated. "It's a matter of making quality pitches when you have to. There's two (to Longoria and Hinske) I want back because I didn't make quality pitches."
Notes: OF Gabe Gross, obtained from Milwaukee in a trade on Tuesday, joined the Rays but did not play. ... Blue Jays OF Alex Rios was not in the lineup for the second straight night. He was rested Tuesday and sat out Wednesday with flulike symptoms. ... Toronto 1B Lyle Overbay was held out with a sore foot and ankle after limping away from a slide at home plate Tuesday. ... Rays LHP Scott Kazmir (elbow strain) pitched 4 2-3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits, including two homers, in his second rehab start for class-A Vero Beach. He's scheduled to make an appearance for triple-A Durham on Monday. He could rejoin Tampa Bay's rotation on May 3 or 4. ... Toronto 3B Scott Rolen (broken finger) may be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday.
Evan Longoria has 2-run single to help Rays beat Blue Jays 5-3
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It was a situation Roy Halladay normally thrives in. Give the Toronto ace a three-run lead entering the late innings, and he'll usually find a way to keep the Blue Jays on top.