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TOR@TB: Jennings liner hits J.A. Happ in the head

ST. PETERSBURG -- Late troubles continued to haunt the Rays on Tuesday night. A night after blowing a seven-run lead, they let a three-run lead get away in a 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

The Rays' second consecutive loss to the Blue Jays dropped their record to 14-18 on the season. More to the point, the loss was the team's 13th in which they held the lead in the game at some point.

The game was overshadowed by a scary injury to Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, who was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings in the second inning and was taken off the field on a stretcher and transported to Bayfront Medical Center. A nursing supervisor at the hospital told the Associated Press that Happ was listed in stable condition.

Maicer Izturis provided the winning margin when he homered off Joel Peralta with one out in the top of the ninth, completing the Blue Jays' comeback from a 4-1 deficit -- their second comeback win in as many nights.

"I was aggressive going into that at-bat," Izturis said. "I needed to be aggressive with that guy. And I was lucky I got a fastball and put a good swing on it. I feel like sometimes when I'm aggressive and put a good swing on it, the ball jumps off my bat and that's what happened tonight. I wasn't looking to hit a home run."

Peralta blamed the location of the pitch for the outcome.

"It was supposed to be down and away. I missed middle up and he got it," Peralta said. "Straight fastball."

Peralta was hardly the lone offender in the bullpen.

Roberto Hernandez started and had his best outing to date for the Rays, allowing one run on five hits while striking out seven over six innings before giving way to Jake McGee, who started the seventh with a 4-1 lead. The struggling McGee allowed a leadoff double to Adam Lind and Cody Rasmus followed with a home run to make it a one-run game.

Melky Cabrera doubled off Kyle Farnsworth to lead off the eighth inning. After he moved to third on catcher Jose Molina's passed ball, Jose Bautista doubled him home to tie the score at 4-4.

Tampa Bay's bullpen allowed five runs, sending the collective ERA of the group soaring to 5.19, which is the highest in the American League, despite throwing only 78 innings, the second fewest in the Major Leagues. Last year's bullpen pitched to a 2.88 ERA, the best in the AL.

"It's a bad stretch for almost everyone in the bullpen right now," Peralta said. "We're probably trying too hard. And sometimes the harder you try, the worse it goes. Right now, we just need to try and make the pitch in the right spot at the right time. We know how to do that. We've done that before. And I think everything is going to be alright if we do that."

Despite the recent collapses, Rays manager Joe Maddon still believes in the group.

"By the end of the season, that's going to be one of the best bullpens in the American League," said Maddon, who got ejected for a second-inning argument with homeplate umpire Marty Foster. "I have that much faith in these guys. This is one of those anomaly moments. I'm watching it from inside like from the third inning on ... there's all this crazy stuff happening. I don't know where the moon is right now. I don't know exactly what's going on, but I have that much faith."

Trailing 1-0 after Lind's first home run of the season with one out in the second, Tampa Bay got busy in the bottom half when Sean Rodriguez led off with a double to left off Happ. James Loney followed with a single to center that moved Rodriguez to third. Jose Molina then put down a bunt on the first-base side and Rodriguez attempted to score.

First baseman Edwin Encarnacion fielded the ball cleanly and went home with the ball. Catcher J.P. Arencibia tried a sweeping tag and appeared to miss Rodriguez, but Foster called Rodriguez out. That led to Maddon's ejection, but it did not end the rally.

A wild pitch by Happ allowed Loney to score and Molina to move to second. Yunel Escobar then singled and moved to second on a throw to the plate, while Molina went to third. Jennings then silenced the ballpark with a line drive off Happ's head.

The ball ricocheted into the right-field corner. Both runners scored as a visibly troubled Jennings advanced to third with a triple, while keeping an eye on Happ, who was sprawled on the mound.

An 11-minute delay ensued while Happ was being attended to on the field. The Blue Jays' left-hander was strapped to a stretcher and taken to the hospital for treatment.

Happ's condition remained a major concern for everyone inside the Rays' clubhouse. As for the way the Rays have been playing, Maddon was adamant about his belief that his bullpen is simply experiencing a bump in the road.

"Moving forward, I know it's frustrating right now for the fans to watch this stuff," Maddon said. "It's frustrating in the clubhouse. But it's an accountable group with great stuff, and they're going to be back."

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