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Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during first inning AL action in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 12, 2014.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Jose Bautista hit the deck to avoid the inside pitch hurled by Tampa Bay Rays reliever Jake McGee in the bottom of the eighth inning.

The next pitch was a called strike by home plate umpire Chris Guccione that further infuriated the Toronto Blue Jays slugger, who obviously felt it was a ball.

Bautista took a rip at the third offering but popped out to Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria to end the inning and the demonstrative Blue Jay player hurled his bat into the ground, his exasperation now complete.

It was a rough Friday night, not only for Bautista but for the entire Blue Jays (76-70) offence that was snuffed out 1-0 by Tampa Bay (71-77) before 19,909 at Rogers Centre in the first of a three-game weekend set against the Rays.

After blowing out the Chicago Cubs by a margin of 28-3 in their three-game sweep that concluded on Wednesday, the Blue Jays were looking for even just a smidgen of that offensive pizzazz against the Rays.

But the tank was mostly empty as the Blue Jays, who were riding a four-game win streak, could manage just two hits in a loss that further diminishes Toronto's hopes of making a late charge for the post-season.

The Rays were also held to just two hits – but one of them was a solo home run shot off the bat of Ryan Hanigan in the third inning that was enough to carry the night for Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay was backed by a strong starting performance by Nathan Karns (1-0), making his season debut after getting called up earlier in the day from Triple-A.

Karns appeared right at home in the big league setting, striking out eight Toronto batters over seven innings to pick up the win.

Toronto countered with J.A. Happ (9-10) and he deserved a better fate, departing the game after seven innings after he limited the Rays to just one run off two hits to go along with seven strikeouts.

"If you love good pitching you saw it," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.

Hanigan pounded Happ's first offering, a fat fastball, over the wall in left field to provide the Rays with all the offence they would require.

"You guys are probably going to say that it's a mistake," Happ said of the ill-fated pitch. "If being aggressive, throwing to the glove and trying to get ahead is a mistake, then it was a mistake.

"I think he [Hanigan] just kind of guessed right and ambushed it and got enough of it."

Happ was attempting to become the fifth Blue Jays pitcher this season to reach 10 wins on the season with Mark Buehrle (12-9), R.A. Dickey (12-12), Drew Hutchison (10-11) and rookie Marcus Stroman (10-5) having already reached the plateau.

The Blue Jays started the day tied for fourth place with the Cleveland Indians in the American League wildcard playoff race, 3.5-games back of the Detroit Tigers who were holding on to the second wildcard placing.

That doesn't sound like a whole heck of a lot of real estate to have to make up for the Blue Jays, who now have 16 games left in the regular-season schedule.

But with the Seattle Mariners also in the wildcard hunt, Toronto's mathematical chance on Friday of getting to the hallowed land of the post-season was an implausible 5.2 percent.

"It's not that many games," Toronto reliever Dustin McGowan offered before Friday's game. "I know we don't have a lot of games left. We have to go on a pretty good run here to the end of the season. This team, I think, knows what to do."

After the three games against the Rays, the Blue Jays will head out on the road for their final road trip of the year, beginning on Monday with the start of a three-game set in Baltimore against the Orioles, the runaway leaders in the A.L. East.

After that, the Blue Jays will head to New York to play a four-game set against the Yankees before heading back to Toronto to finish up against the Seattle Mariners and the Orioles.

With six of their remaining 16 games against the first-placed Orioles, the Blue Jays will have their work cut out for them.

But they might be catching Baltimore at the right time with the news on Friday that Major League Baseball has announced a 25-game suspension of Orioles slugger Chris Davis for amphetamine use.

John Gibbons confirmed on Friday that he is altering his starting pitching schedule.

For Sunday's finale against the Rays, the Blue Jays will now start Mark Buehrle in place of Marcus Stroman, who has been bumped back one day and will now start the first game in Baltimore.

Gibbons said he wants to give Stroman, who is winding up his rookie season, just an added day of rest.